Throughout the pre-Second World War years, from 1933-1934, the Nazi Party, led by Adolf Hitler, used a variety of oppression tactics in order to gain and consolidate supreme power over all of Germany.
After their defeat in World War I, Germany was struggling to rise out of poverty with the combination of both unfair war tax required after the Treaty of Versailles and the global depression which hit in 1929. The whole of Europe was affected and German became increasingly unstable. The need for a new leader was growing and the current Weimar Republic, under the rule of Chancellor Bruning, failed to put policies in place in order to deal with rising unemployment levels and increasing poverty. The Nazi Party used the unstable conditions to further weaken the reputation of the Weimar Government and encourage the idea of the Nazi Party as the most favourable party to lead Germany. Hitler made economic promises such as increasing employment in order to increase his popularity. Hitler’s strong, decisive and charismatic leadership looked favourable in the time of great hardship as he projected grand ideals for future Germany, one with a stable and strong economy and government. After Bruning resigned, different political parties fought for control of the Reichstag (the parliament) and the Nazi Party won overall in a landslide victory. After the landslide victory, Hitler demanded the job of chancellor but Hindenburg refused saying that ‘he could not risk transferring the power of government… which was intolerant, noisy and undisciplined.’ However, after failed attempts at stating Papen and then General Schleicher to the position, the placement fell onto Hitler, even though he showed obvious ideals to rule supreme.
One of Hitler’s oppression tactics in order to gain supreme power was his use of propaganda, playing on the despair caused by the Great Depression. As a political tactic in order to appeal to a great audience, Hitler’s propaganda projects portrayed him as Germany’s saviour, with slogans often promising ‘Jobs and Bread.’ If elected he promised to order Germany to create more jobs and squash the communist threat. He showed this latter promise from the Reichstag fire on the 27th February 1933. Reichstag was the name for both the parliament but also the building that the parliament used and on this night the physical building went up in flames. Hitler, Goebbels and Goering (chief of police) rushed to the scene of the fire, screaming ‘This is a Communist crime against the new government!’ There was no real explanation for who or what caused the fire but it was used as evidence by Hitler for his first legislation as Chancellor. The Law for the Protection of the People and the State stated that there would be ‘restrictions on personal liberty, on the right of free expression of opinion.’ The law completely oppressed Germany public on every level of expression- in media, rights of assembly and association and allowed violations of the privacy of postal, telegraphic and communication services. Overall, it was the first building block in consolidating the Nazi Party’s overall reign over Germany- in all aspects of life, everywhere. This law allowed Hitler to legally oppression expression of freedom and limit the amount of public opposition he could face in the future. The consequences of this law meant that the SA now had legal reason to arrest over 4,000 communists, the start of their ‘brown terror’ campaign. The SA were a private armed group of the Nazi Party that acted as an unruly street gang to create urban terror and increase Nazi Party overall power. During this time, Goebbels acted as the minister of propaganda, creating poster and film masterpieces enforcing the idea of Hitler as supreme ruler over Germany. The Nazi Party was prominent everywhere, swastikas lined the streets, and, consequentially, the Nazis won the 1933 March Elections with 288 seats, twice as much as the second most popular party the Social Democrats, who gained 120 seats.
It was a vital necessity for Hitler to make sure that ultimate and complete control was given to him and taken entirely away from the German public, as shown through the Law for the Protection of the People and State. It was the first real reveal of Hitler’s desire to be the soul dictator of Germany, eliminating any public of government potential criticism. Combined with this law was the Enabling Law, passed on 23rd March 1933, which changed the Constitution in order to give Hitler the ability to make laws without Reichstag approval, lasting for four years. This removed any official parliamentary opposition and dismantled the Weimar Republic. Hitler aimed to create a single, united Germany, disciplined in worshipping a single government party- the Nazis and in order to do this he had to dominate the political system in order to implement his ideas. One of his ideas was the concept of Gleichschaltung, meaning ‘co-ordination’ in German. The Gleichschaltung was an accumulation of legislation which affected different groups and institutions in all aspects of life- government, economy, civil liberties and institutions. In the government, Hitler has the position of President absorbed into his Chancellor positions in August 1934 so he was the soul ruler of the political sector. And from February 1938, the cabinet never officially met to discuss the political changes in Germany which left Hitler, for the entire duration of World War 2 to meet with as few people as he liked in order to control the consolidation of all power. Civil liberties were stripped under the Gleichschaltung regime, as the Law for the Protection of the People alluded towards. Germany was becoming increasingly restricted on its ability to politically criticize the actions of the Nazi Parties and Hitler was intent on squashing any possible opposition from minority groups. Concentration camps were opened in March 1933, the first of many horrific sights for the massacring of millions of German’s who didn’t traditional nuclear German mould. Homosexuals, devout Christians and foreigners were targeted. However, the Jews were the heavily effects minority group targeted in these concentration camps, with over 6 million being killed in concentration camps around the country. The Nurembery Laws in September 1935 enforced the ideas of anti-Semitism and made these actions legally acceptable and although there were many people who disagreed with Hitler’s actions, there expressional oppression disallowed them to rebel. Other examples of Hitler’s alterations in order to consolidate Supreme Power were the special political courts were created in March 1933, secret police were considered above the law in February 1936 and a unified Nazi police force was formed in June 1936. The economy was also effected, with 6 months labour service being made compulsory, and the October 1933 construction of the Labour Force gave them the ability to control wages and assign labour. In industries, compulsory cartels were introduced in July 1933, business and trade associations were made under state control by February 1934 and corporations with capital less than US $40,000 were dissolved. All these initiatives gave Hitler full control over the economy and the policies he wanted to be funded. And finally, Gleichschaltung effected institutions as well, such as education and the Armed Forces. In May 1933, there was a burning of all ‘un-German books.’ This was symbolic in showing the destruction to the education system and highlighted Hitler’s want for censorship towards foreign concepts and cultures. Education was Nazified in 1934 and the Hitler Youth (an organisation shaping the minds of the younger generation) became compulsory by late 1936. The armed forces became controlled by Hitler and all members were made to give and oath of allegiance, binding their loyalty to him. Hitler now had control over every sector of German daily life. The Nazi State utterly dominated every single aspect of German life, oppressing every possible threat to Hitler’s ultimate consolidation of supreme power.
A way in which Hitler was able to use this accumulation of power to rid any contradiction was through his elimination of any enemies. This was most evidently shown through The Night of the Long Knives, where Hitler had over 400 opposing opinions killed. The night was yet another example of terror used to eliminate members of their own party, most importantly- the SA. This was the final stage in Hitler’s consolidation for ultimate power because if he was able to oppress his own parliamentary opponents, he could gain supreme control. The SA had become a powerful group, with over 4 million members by 1934 and led by Rohm. Rohm has very different views about Germany and he considered a socialist revolution by combined the army and the SA together, which he would lead himself and Hitler would be second in command. Hitler began to view the SA as an increasing threat to his own power and also an embarrassment to the Nazi Party. In order to diminish the possibility of a culmination of the Army and the SA, Hitler readily sacrificed the SA and other political enemies on the 30th July 1934. With the excuse that the SA was on the verge of an uprising, Hitler ordered the purge of executing 180 Nazi officers and other political opponents and arrest Rohm, who was shot two days later. The Night of the Long Knives was an essential step in Hitler’s consolidation of power and in order to reduce public outcry, a law was put together by Wilhelm Frick which declared Hitler’s actions legal and Hindenberg issued statements praising Hitler for his decisive action. Hitler himself justified the murder as a preventive action against revolutionaries and also stressed Rohm and several others to be homosexuals, in order to diminish their reputations. The fact that Hitler was able to get away with the Night of the Long Knives showed Hitler’s complete power over Germany and the oppression of not just the public but the politicians as well. After this night, it was evident to Hitler that he had gained supreme power and that there was no longer any contradiction to stand in the way between his ideals and their success. Upon the peaceful death of President Hindenburg, Hitler abolished the position of President and assumed all powers for himself, becoming the Fuhrer (denote leader) of the German state, including the Commander-in-Chief over the armed forces. After the Night of the Long Knives, there was a closer alliance between the Nazi state and the army and after Hitler became Fuhrer, all officers in the army gave an oath of loyalty which was important in securing dictatorship and power. These actions was necessary to seize complete power and make sure the cabinet was completely dominated by conservatives- a group which agreed with Hitler’s idea of a returning to a traditional Germany society. Consequentially, his power increased and the aftermath of the Night of the Long Knives levitated him from a power politician to an uncontrollable dictator.
Throughout the post-WW2 years of 1933-1945, Adolf Hitler rose through the ranks of the German Nazi State, ultimately collecting supreme power from the use of numerous oppression tactics on both the German public and political cabinet. From the despair of the Depression, Hitler used propaganda to increase the idea of inferior minority groups and increase Nazi pride. He used the Reichstag fire to consolidate his political promises against communism and consequentially limit every avenue of public expression. Through the Law of the Protection of the People Hitler completely oppressing their ability to revolt and cause mass contradictions. Hitler changed the constitutions in order to give him solitary control over parliamentary decision, later passing copious amounts of restrictions on German life under his ideas of mass coordination ‘Gleichschaltung.’ The final stage in order to consolidate complete power was the elimination of all political enemies, including ones within his own state, which he did complete through the Night of the Long Knives, in which 400 people were killed. It was during that aftermath where Hitler became the denote leader of the German state and gain complete power over the whole of Germany. His innumerable domination tactics were devices in order to manipulate the political system to his advantage in order to oppress the whole nation of Germany to remain the ultimate dictator without any formal opposition, giving way for generationally destructive consequences.
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