Although Adolf Hitler had the support of certain sections of the German population he never gained an elected majority. The best the National Socialist German Workers Party (NSDAP) could do in a election was 37.3 per cent of the vote they gained in July 1932. When Hitler became chancellor in January 1933, the Nazis only had a third of the seats in the Reichstag.
Soon after Adolf Hitler became chancellor he announced new elections. Hermann Goering called a meeting of important industrialists where he told them that the 1933 General Election could be the last in Germany for a very long time. Goering added that the NSDAP would need a considerable amount of of money to ensure victory. Those present responded by donating 3 million Reichmarks. As Joseph Goebbels wrote in his diary after the meeting: "Radio and press are at our disposal. Even money is not lacking this time."
Behind the scenes Goering, who was minister of the interior in Hitler's government, was busily sacking senior police officers and replacing them with Nazi supporters. These men were later to become known as the Gestapo. Goering also recruited 50,000 members of the Sturm Abteilung (SA) to work as police auxiliaries.
Hermann Goering then raided the headquarters of the Communist Party (KPD) in Berlin and claimed that he had uncovered a plot to overthrow the government. Leaders of the KPD were arrested but no evidence was ever produced to support Goering's accusations. He also announced he had discovered a communist plot to poison German milk supplies.
Just before the election was due to take place someone set fire to the Reichstag. A young man from the Netherlands, Marianus van der Lubbe, was arrested and eventually executed for the crime. As a teenager Lubbe had been a communist and Goering used this information to claim that the Reichstag Fire was part of a KPD plot to overthrow the government.
Hitler gave orders that all leaders of the German Communist Party should "be hanged that very night." Paul von Hindenburg vetoed this decision but did agree that Hitler should take "dictatorial powers". KPD candidates in the election were arrested and Hermann Goering announced that the Nazi Party planned "to exterminate" German communists.
Thousands of members of the Social Democrat Party and Communist Party were arrested and sent to recently opened to concentration camp. They were called this because they "concentrated" the enemy into a restricted area. Hitler named these camps after those used by the British during the Boer War.
Left-wing election meetings were broken up by the Sturm Abteilung (SA) and several candidates were murdered. Newspapers that supported these political parties were closed down during the 1933 General Election.
Although it was extremely difficult for the opposition parties to campaign properly, Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party still failed to win an overall victory in the election on 5th March, 1933. The NSDAP received 43.9% of the vote and only 288 seats out of the available 647. The increase in the Nazi vote had mainly come from the Catholic rural areas who feared the possibility of an atheistic Communist government.
Voting in the midst of Nazi terror
In March 1933, Germans voted for a new parliament - their last free election before all but the Nazi party was banned. Such extraordinary measures of terror preceded the election that there was little "free" about it.
In February 1933, Germany found itself in the midst of a parliamentary election campaign. By the time voters went to the ballots one month later, on March 5, 1933, one single issue was on their minds.
The burning of the Reichstag, home to the parliament, was alleged to have been carried out by communists in an attempted coup. Chancellor Adolf Hitler and other National Socialist leaders latched on to the "coup attempt" in order to stoke fears of a communist revolution amongst the German populace. Thereafter, Hitler and his allies unleashed an unprecedented wave of terror throughout the country.
State of emergency
Since the burning of the Reichstag on February 27, 1933, Germany was officially in a state of emergency. Heavily armed security forces patrolled public buildings. In trains, police officers regularly strode by, searching for "suspicious" persons. On the streets, "brown shirt" officers of the Sturmabteilung (SA), the paramilitary wing of the Nazi party, were on the lookout for any opponents of National Socialism.
Adolf Hitler places his vote in a Königsberg voting booth on March 5, 1933
Their unfettered attacks on German citizens had recently received legal grounding. On February 28, 1933, one day after the fire, the ageing German president, Paul Von Hindenburg, had signed "Reichstag Fire Ordinance," a piece of legislation that rendered the guarantees of the German constitution void.
It was communism - and communists - that the Nazi party had in its crosshairs. The assets of the German Communist Party (KPD) were seized and communist newspapers were banned. Thousands of KPD members were arrested or forced to flee the country. Hermann Göring, who at the time was chief of the Prussian police, famously said, "Here I don't have to practice justice, here I just destroy and exterminate."
Simultaneously, the gears of the Nazi propaganda machine were beginning to turn. Joseph Goebbels deemed the March 5 election "the day of national awakening." Fears of a communist takeover were continually fanned, all while Hitler was simultaneously stylized as the national savior. The tactic was hugely successful.
A 1933 Berlin ballot, with the Nazi party on top, then the Social Democrats
"You now have to support his cause by any and all means," said one of Hitler's contemporaries in Hamburg.
Hitler was portrayed, whether through radio, film or even via airplane trips across Germany, as an omnipresent figure. On the day prior to the vote, the chancellor delivered a speech in the eastern Prussian city of Königsberg.
As he rallied his supporters, opponents of the Nazi party, such as the Social Democratic Party, were prevented from campaigning effectively and were even threatened with violence. Hitler's SA officers raided the Social Democratic Party's political events and attacked participants - all while the police looked on passively. Opposition newspapers were destroyed and closed down and in total 69 Germans died as a result of the terror.
It was within that environment that on Sunday, March 5, 1933 Germans flooded into election booths. Participation was high, with nearly 89 percent of able voters taking part. Hitler calculated that his own party would walk away the winner - yet Germans would disappoint him.
Only 43.9 percent of the votes, which translated into 288 parliamentary seats out of 647, went to the Nazi party. Though it represented an increase of 11 percent on previous elections, it was not enough to rule alone. A coalition partner was necessary. The Social Democratic Party had taken 18.3 percent of the vote, and, in spite of the wave of terror, the communist KPD walked away with 12.3 percent.
"If you stay united and loyal the Reich will never be destroyed"
As for having a say in parliament, however, those opposition parties had none. The Nazi party, together with smaller coalition partners, ruled as the dominant part of a stable majority. Hitler took pride in the fact that people from all strata and classes had elected his party to govern. The Nazi party declared itself a "people's party."
A symbolic election
The results of the last partially "free" election - one that was precipitated by extraordinary coercion measures - ultimately had little more than a symbolic meaning for the governance of Germany. Shortly thereafter, members of the communist party were forced out of parliament. The Social Democratic Party was then banned.
The National Socialists increased terror measures throughout Germany, and Jews were soon targeted. In his diary, German-Jewish professor Victor Klemperer wrote with resignation of the plummet in morality and freedom amongst Germans: "Amazing how quickly it collapses."
Still, in the March 5 elections Germans had, at the very least, been able to vote amongst various parties. In the next round of elections in November 1933, only the National Socialist party remained.
1933 May Be Closer than We Think
Frank Domurad is an historian of modern Germany and author of Hometown Hamburg: Artisans and the Political Struggle for Social Order in Weimar Germany. He was formerly Budget Director for the New York City Council President Carol Bellamy, New York City Deputy Auditor General under Mayor Ed Koch and Deputy Commissioner in the New York City Department of Probation. He can be reached at [email protected]
On January 30, 1933, Adolf Hitler was appointed Chancellor of Germany, effectively ending the Weimar Republic, the nation&rsquos second attempt at democracy. On January 20, 2017 Donald Trump was inaugurated President of the United States effectively ending&hellip.well, what exactly?
Immediately after Trump&rsquos ascension to office many political commentators sought to fill in this blank with comparisons to the ill-fated Weimar Republic. Historians and other academics rejected the analogy as too facile. They pointed out that, unlike the United States, Germany had little experience with democracy. It had lost a major war and suffered a draconian peace settlement. Its economy had also been buffeted by rampant inflation, high unemployment and finally a Great Depression. Moreover a large share of its population believed in conspiracy theories, including the infamous &ldquostab in the back&rdquo legend that blamed the nation&rsquos defeat in World War I on internal enemies such as Socialists, Communists and Jews.
While contingent events leading to the rise of Adolf Hitler and the election of Donald Trump might seem to differ beyond the point of comparison, two and a half years of the latter&rsquos presidency now force us to look deeper below the surface. Increasing cultural, social and political continuities between Weimar and America should give us serious concern in assessing the fate of these two democracies as part of an analogous historical phenomenon.
The sociologists Rainer Baum and Frank J. Lechner characterized pre-Hitler Germany as a &ldquonation of moral strangers.&rdquo It was a country whose people could neither agree about the nature of a good society nor the social relations and community that that social order entailed. Germans generally divided into three closely bounded and often incompatible social and cultural milieu: liberal, social democratic and authoritarian corporatist.
From an American perspective the seemingly most unique of these milieu was the authoritarian corporatist, or what the historian Mack Walker characterized as the German mentality of hometowns. Hometowns, according to him, were communities of webs and walls that could be both physical and cognitive in character. The webs consisted of integrated and hierarchical social status groups or corporations, such as craftsmen, merchants, financiers and local government officials in cities and towns, and peasants and small farmers in the countryside. These groups earned their legitimate place in society through extensive training and socialization. They shared solidary, often in-bred and exclusionary values in opposition to liberal individualism and socialist collectivism and were considered &ldquorooted&rdquo like no others in the nation&rsquos social fabric. The walls, in contrast, protected against those elements of society who were &ldquorootless&rdquo and &ldquodisturbers&rdquo of the hometown community. They consisted primarily of the working class and the Jews, but also included immigrants, criminals and social deviants.
Hometown mentalities in the United States historically flourished in the ante-bellum South, with its belief in the principles of social honor and white superiority, its exclusion of millions of non-white slaves and its staunch opposition to Northern economic and political liberalism. The Civil War and Reconstruction were supposed to have brought an end to such particularistic and racist visions of the good society. But notions of the glorious lost cause of southern independence, underlying today&rsquos overt and covert white nationalism and nativism, have proven that American webs and walls continue to flourish in our collective psyche. They exist literally in terms of building a physical barrier along our border with Mexico designed to keep out &ldquorootless&rdquo and therefore dangerous immigrants. They also continue to exist mentally in the recent words of a President who can, without apparent penalty among his supporters, blithely tell women of color elected to the House of Representatives to &ldquogo back and help fix the totally broken and crime-infested places from which they came.&rdquo
The Weimar Republic tried to reconcile the values of liberalism, socialism and hometown corporatism in a single constitution. It proved to be a spectacular failure. In the words of Otto Kirchheimer, a contemporary jurist and political scientist, the effort resulted in a &ldquoconstitution without decision,&rdquo one that did not contain &ldquoany values in whose name the German people can be in agreement.&rdquo By its very nature, it did not encourage true democratic compromise and reconciliation among interested parties, but only winning and losing based on the political strength of competing social milieu, each seeking to impose its own worldview and material interests on its opponents.
In the United States our own revered Constitution is showing similar signs of cultural and ideological strain and conflict. Although it did not include socialist values, it did try to reconcile liberal and hometown visions of a good society in a great compromise over the existence of slavery. Its very federal foundations were designed to protect the hometown aspirations of a white nationalist South, by giving each state in the Union two senators regardless of population, creating an electoral college to elect the President and preserving the right of individual states to oppose federal authority through the so-called reserved powers clause of the Tenth Amendment. The result has been a thwarting of a democratic interpretation of the popular will of the people, most recently through the election of two Republican presidents receiving fewer votes than their opponents and the prospect of it happening again in 2020.
In fact, the supporters of hometown values in the United States&mdashbe they Donald Trump, the Republican Party or right-wing media commentators&mdashhave come to the same conclusion that their predecessors in the Weimar Republic reached. Under a liberal constitution they can neither win nor maintain political power. Even in the Reichstag parliamentary elections of March 1933, with National Socialists in power and the full force of the state&rsquos coercive powers behind their campaign, Hitler could only garner 44% of the national vote.
Two factors in particular enabled the victory of hometown values and the destruction of liberal and social democratic ones in the Weimar Republic, and may yet do so in the United States. The first was the power and prejudices of the courts. Despite the socialist-democratic revolutions of 1918/19, very few judges from the German Empire were replaced. Educated in a hometown milieu and usually staunch opponents of parliamentary democracy, they exploited the process of legal and constitutional review to undermine democratic practices and procedures at both the national and state levels of government. They defined endemic domestic terrorism as the stepchild of the left and ignored radical right-wing terrorism against the Republic as the legitimate outrage of national patriots. Even when Adolf Hitler staged a violent uprising in Munich in November 1923 against the Republic and was convicted of treason, he spent a mere 264 days of a five year sentence in the relative comfort of Landsberg prison, where he composed Mein Kampf.
No one understands more fully the lesson of the judiciary in the Weimar Republic in preserving hometown political power than the Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell. He has made it his primary mission to eradicate the &ldquoliberal bias&rdquo of the federal court system. He spectacularly violated accepted Senatorial practices by refusing to even meet with, let alone hold a hearing on, Justice Merrick Garland, President Barack Obama&rsquos nominee for the Supreme Court. Since then he has been assiduously pursuing the appointment of extremely conservative, mostly white and male judges to the federal bench. According to a recent review in The Nation, Mitch McConnell has been able to confirm to date 123 federal judges, including 41 to the federal court of appeals, compared to only 19 circuit-court judges during a similar period under President Obama. These appointments were 78 percent male and 81 percent white, with an &ldquounsettling number of them&rdquo having &ldquoearned their stripes as partisan think-tank writers, op-ed columnists, or even bloggers.&rdquo The vetting for most of these nominations has been through the ultra-conservative Federalist Society, while in March 2017 the more professional liberal American Bar Association was denied by White House Counsel Donald F. McGahn II its previous special access to background information on judicial candidates prior to their nomination. Right-wing critics of the ABA have always chastised it for its &ldquoliberal&rdquo biases.
The second factor contributing to the victory of hometown values in the Weimar Republic, which eventually morphed into the &ldquoblood and soil&rdquo and Volksgemeinschaftof the Third Reich, was the expansion and use of the office of the President. Nothing enables an untrammeled misuse of executive power more than a compliant court system and an impotent legislature. Article 48 of the Weimar Constitution granted the President the right to take emergency measures in times of crisis and national emergency. While the Reichstag could rescind an emergency decree, it never did so. By the time of the economic Depression of the early 1930s its impotence as a legislative body had become a stark reflection of a German nation of &ldquomoral strangers.&rdquo It proved virtually incapable of agreeing on anything and ultimately consisted of a majority of elected parties staunchly opposed to the continued existence of democracy. As a political force it became totally irrelevant in the face of the expanding executive rule by the President and the Chancellor he appointed. In 1932 the Reichstag met for only 13 days in total, passing only five laws in the entire year.
Donald Trump, in his more than two years in office, has been busy crafting an American version of Article 48. He has discovered the possibility of governing without legislative approval. His tools have been the executive order, the declaration of a national emergency and the extension of executive privilege. He has steadfastly ignored subpoenas for members of his staff and government to testify before the House of Representatives. Legislative efforts to reign in his executive proclivities have proven futile in a badly fractured Congress, with the Republican led Senate determined to deflect all efforts to hold the President and his staff publicly accountable. While Democrats have been able to seek succor in the courts to some degree, that opportunity is withering and dying as Mitch McConnell perfects his reshaping of the Federal judiciary in a hometown image.
On February 27, 1933, the Germany Reichstag, the physical symbol of country&rsquos democracy and the rule of the people, burnt to the ground. Hitler immediately blamed Communist agitators and used the national crisis as a springboard to dismantle the Republic. In short order he assumed virtual dictatorial powers by means of legislative Enabling Decrees, interned Communist leaders and members in concentration camps, excluded Jews from public service, outlawed trade unions and banned all remaining political parties except for National Socialism. By the summer of 1933 the Third Reich could no longer be deterred.
What might prove the tipping point for American democracy almost ninety years later? It could be a severe economic crisis, a war with Iran, another massive terrorist attack or simply the fact that in 2020 President Trump refuses to leave office after adverse election results, claiming that the outcome was rigged by unspecified &ldquooutsiders&rdquo seeking to destroy hometown America. Would the ideologically refashioned Federal courts, especially the Supreme Court, stand in his way? The Supreme Court has already intervened in the outcome of one presidential election in its Bush v. Gore decision halting the recount of ballots in Florida. Would the present Court, with its growing penchant to ignore standing legal precedent, be willing to go even further this time around? And would a badly fractured Congress be able to act effectively, or would our democracy simply dissolve in a stalemate as it did at the close of the Weimar Republic?
To some, these questions might seem at best hypothetical, and at worst illusionary. But the mere fact that they can now be seriously entertained in terms of the historical precedent of Germany&rsquos Weimar Republic should give us pause. In today&rsquos United States of America, 1933 may be closer than we think.
During the 1933 German general elections, which in OTL, a coalition led by Hitler's NSDAP swept to power, thrusting Hitler into the office of the Reichkanzler. With the Reichstag fire that followed, and President Hindenburg's death, this election resulted in the Nazis assuming absolute power in Germany.
So here's our scenario: instead, during that pivotal election, because of some point of divergence earlier, the German Communist Party breaks with the Comintern, and forms a Popular Front coalition with the more moderate Marxist Social Democrats. This Popular Front, combined with the KPD assuming a more Luxembourgist stance, results in the Popular Front eeking out a thing majority in the Reichstag, and results in either Otto Wels of the SPD or Ernst Thälmann of the KPD assuming the office of Reichkanzler.
What difference wout this make for the world afterwards? Let's assume that events like the Reichstag fire and the death of President Hindenburg all happen just as they did OTL.
Well this butterflies away the Reichstag fire. Why would a communist burn it down if his party were in power? How can the SA get access if their offices are not actually in the Reichstag?
The Nazi Party is dead. They were running on loose change by the 33 elections, without the Chancellorship. The Nazis go bankrupt as a party.
This will require something Weimar didn’t have especially with the depression. Political stability. You need this colation to work where so many others have failed and have a majority to push through some major measures. I honestly don’t think President Hidenburg would like working with Communists and would be tempted to dissolve the Reichstag and rule by decree through his son and close advisors.
The Reichstag fire was never proven to have been the work of a saboteur, whether it was deliberate on the part of the NSDAP or the KPD. Most historians think that that the best evidence still points to the fire being an accident, and hence that's why I left in, partially to muse over what a Reichstag fire would do for the Popular Front. Both the KPD and the SPD utterly despided Hitler and the Nazis, so would they use it as a pretext for repressing the Nazis and banning them from the Reichstag, just like the Nazis did with the Communists in OTL.
Hindenburg potentially disolving the parliament and ruling by decree is an interesting possibility. Of course, it's against the Weimar Constitution, and I would suspect that even the parties that were Hindenburg allies would pitch a fit. Of course, there's also the question of what the militant Popular Front would do. Perhaps an interesting exercise in dual power, where the parliament refuses to be disolved, and attempts to maintain control of the Ministrys of Government.
I agree with OpGreen. If a Popular Front had come to power in 1933, President Hindenburg would have ruled by decree and dissolved the Reichstag. This could, however, plunge the country into a civil war, and I do not think the Army could fight the Nazis, Communists, and defend the borders. This would not be appealing to the military, so maybe Hindenburg would appoint Hitler as Chancellor as a way to appease the Nazis and gain manpower in the fight against the Reds.
It would be interesting to see what the rest of the continent did with this.
No its not. Ruling by Decree became a common event in the late Weimar Republic and the infamous Article 48 provides the powers to the President.
"In case public safety is seriously threatened or disturbed, the Reich President may take the measures necessary to reestablish law and order, if necessary using armed force. In the pursuit of this aim, he may suspend the civil rights described in articles 114, 115, 117, 118, 123, 124 and 153, partially or entirely."
The Parliament cannot refuse to be dissolved. Hidenburg was a old man sure however he was the President and the country and the Army would follow him. There would be no Dual government just a Presidential appointed Chancellor doing what Von Hidenburg’s advisors wanted.
Well, you can't ignore the SA, and the possibility exists that if a Popular Front government comes into power you could see an attempted SA coup, akin to the Kapp Putsch of the early 1920s
If the junkers and army overcome their dislike of the Nazis and support, or refuse to oppose, the SA you potentially have Roehm as head of government, sidelining Hitler, and a civil war in the streets
The SA was indeed a major force however you’re expecting a Prussian military elite to dance to Hitler’s tune? These were the people who even after Hitler became the Supreme Leader behind his back called him “Little Corporal”. Just think about this for a moment.
Hidenburg is the legal head of state and a war hero. Hitler is neither. Hidenburg is a man from their ranks a natural ally to the military who has secretly been improving its capabilities. Hitler is a upstart nobody whose thugs are causing trouble for the Police. Honestly its not a hard choice to see whom the army will go with.
Don’t think of Hitler as the 1938 onwards “Supreme Commander” think of him in 1932/33 there is a massive difference in both Hitler and his perception in Germany and outside.
Even if Hidenburg is dead lets say. The Army can go it alone and take power for themselves with the Former Crown Prince as a new Kaiser. Until 1939 some military districts had portraits of the Kaiser on their walls not the Führer. His Chancellor ship and the withering away of Hindenburg legitimised Hitler. If Hitler is just another financially broke opposition figure the military is going to feel very comfortable backing the group it always has the elites.
III. Structure and Composition
As mentioned in Part II, above, the main legislative organ is the German Bundestag. The Bundesrat is the constitutional body through which the representatives of the German state governments participate in the legislative process. The Basic Law does not use the terms &ldquobicameral parliament&rdquo or &ldquoupper and lower house&rdquo with regard to the Bundestag and Bundesrat. They are both described as &ldquoconstitutional bodies,&rdquo as are the Federal President, the Federal Government, the Federal Convention, the Joint Committee, and the Federal Constitutional Court. Furthermore, the Federal Constitutional Court does not consider the Bundesrat an upper house of Parliament because, according to the court, it &ldquodoes not participate on an equal footing with the German Bundestag in the legislative process&rdquo and &ldquodoes not adopt the laws.&rdquo For all practical purposes, though, the German system can be described as a bicameral system, in particular in all cases in which legislation requires the consent of the Bundesrat.
A. German Bundestag
The German Bundestag has at least 598 members. The number of members fluctuates after every election owing to the voting system, which combines a personal with a party vote. Currently, there are 631 total seats due to four &ldquooverhang seats&rdquo (Überhangmandate) and twenty-nine &ldquobalance seats&rdquo (Ausgleichsmandate). One of the members has stepped down and will not be replaced, so the total number of members is now 630.
The seat allocation in the German Bundestag corresponds to the number of votes cast for the party with the second vote. The first 299 seats are allocated to the candidates who were elected by personal vote (first vote). The remaining seats are filled from the party lists. In the current Eighteenth German Bundestag, the Christian Democratic Union/Christian Social Union (CDU/CSU) parliamentary group has 310 seats, the Social Democratic Party (SPD) has 193 seats, the Left Party has 64 seats, and Alliance &lsquo90/The Greens have 63 seats. For the first time since 1949, the Free Democratic Party (FDP) is not represented in the Bundestag.
At least 5% of the members of the German Bundestag may form a parliamentary group (Fraktion). The members usually belong to the same party or hold the same political views. If that is not the case, the formation of a parliamentary group requires permission from the Bundestag. The formation of a parliamentary group enables the members to work together to achieve shared goals.
For each electoral term, the Bundestag may set up permanent committees, which roughly correspond to the ministries of the government. The committees prepare the deliberations and decisions of the Bundestag. More specialized committees are set up to deal with specific matters and are dissolved as soon as they have completed their work.
The key leadership role in the German Bundestag is held by the President of the Bundestag. Professor Norbert Lammert has served as President of the German Bundestag since October 2005 and was reelected on October 22, 2013.
The President of the Bundestag represents the Bundestag and therefore the legislative branch in Germany externally. One of his/her main responsibilities is to ensure the maintenance of parliamentary order when the Bundestag is in session.
B. German Bundesrat
The German Bundesrat has sixty-nine members consisting of representatives of the state governments. Each German state is awarded at least three votes. States with more than two million inhabitants receive four votes, states with more than six million inhabitants five votes, and states with more than seven million inhabitants six votes. The number of votes determines the number of members that the state can send to the Bundesrat. Each state can cast its vote only en bloc.
Because the Bundesrat consists of representatives of the state governments, the political parties represented in the Bundesrat correspond to the current leadership in the state in question and change after elections are held in a state. At present, the composition is as follows: the CSU is represented only in Bavaria, whereas the CDU is represented in the government of six states, the SPD in fourteen states, Alliance &lsquo90/The Greens in nine states, the Left Party in two states, and the South Schleswig Voters&rsquo Association (SSW) as a party for the Danish minority only in Schleswig-Holstein.
Like the President of the Bundestag, the President of the Bundesrat holds the key leadership role. Every November 1, a Prime Minister from one of the German states is appointed as President of the Bundesrat for a one-year period. The office rotates between the German states based on population size, with the cycle starting with the Prime Minister from the most populous state and moving in descending order to the Prime Minister from the least populous state. The current President of the Bundesrat for the period from November 1, 2015, to October 31, 2016, is Stanislaw Tillich, the Prime Minister of Saxony.
The President of the Bundesrat represents the Bundesrat externally. His main responsibility is to convene and chair the Bundesrat&rsquos plenary sessions. Furthermore, if the Federal President is unable to perform his duties or if his office falls prematurely vacant, the President of the Bundesrat exercises the Federal President&rsquos powers.
German federal election, March 1933: 33 of 35 parliamentary districts won by the Nazi Party
This was 2 months after Hitler was given the role of chancellor.
This was one month after the reichstag fire decree which allowed them to imprison anyone for anything. which they did. to win this election.
In an open and fair election the Nazis never won the majority. Hitler lost the vote to Hindenburg in 1932, and only became chancellor due to backroom deals, not because of the popular vote.
The map you see here is after the Hitler is already in power, and after the Reichstags Fire. After the Reichstags Fire many Center and left wing parties were banned or their activities severely curtailed.
In an open and fair election the Nazis never won the majority.
They didn't win the majority in this election either. Though, in fairness, they were the strongest party in a quite a few elections.
In an open and fair election the Nazis never won the majority. Hitler lost the vote to Hindenburg in 1932, and only became chancellor due to backroom deals, not because of the popular vote.
That's general result in multiparty parliamentary system though.
Someone's been watching the World War Two channel haven't they?
Edit: TimeGhost History, different channel same people
Vast majority will look at this and get the wrong impression. Partial elections shouldn't even be called elections, unless the word is meaningless.
Due to the voting system and multi party system the NSDAP won 44,5% of seats.
Is there any particular reason the Rhineland is the area where the Zentrum won the majority.
It's a fact, that the German Rhineland was a demilitarized zone until 1936, when it was re-occupied and re-militarized by the Nazi Germany, but I don't know the exact reason either. Might be because the nation-wide unrest incited by the NSDAP didn't spread here.
The Zentrum-Party was a conservative Catholic Party, and it was one of the most important parties in the Weimar Republic. It always had a large following in the very catholic areas of the Rhineland and was firmly rooted in the population of this area.
After Hitler was made Reichspräsident, he needed the central parties to vote for his Enabling act, which gave him dictatoric power. The Zentrum-Party voted for this act because of the promise of letting some power left for the Reichstag and that Hitler would sign the long awaited treaty between Germany and the Vatican, which would guarantee the rights of the Roman-Catholic German citizens. (This treaty was indeed signed later in 1933, but existed on only on paper and was broken many times, because. Well, Nazis) The Zentrum was the last of the democratic Parties that disbanded in July 1933.
1933 Parliamentary Election in Germany - History
On March 23, 1933, the newly elected members of the German Parliament (the Reichstag) met in the Kroll Opera House in Berlin to consider passing Hitler's Enabling Act. It was officially called the 'Law for Removing the Distress of the People and the Reich.' If passed, it would effectively mean the end of democracy in Germany and establish the legal dictatorship of Adolf Hitler.
The 'distress' had been secretly caused by the Nazis themselves in order to create a crisis atmosphere that would make the law seem necessary to restore order. On February 27, 1933, they had burned the Reichstag building, seat of the German government, causing panic and outrage. The Nazis successfully blamed the fire on the Communists and claimed it marked the beginning of a widespread uprising.
On the day of the vote, Nazi storm troopers gathered in a show of force around the opera house chanting, "Full powers - or else! We want the bill - or fire and murder!!" They also stood inside in the hallways, and even lined the aisles where the vote would take place, glaring menacingly at anyone who might oppose Hitler's will.
Just before the vote, Hitler made a speech to the Reichstag in which he pledged to use restraint.
"The government will make use of these powers only insofar as they are essential for carrying out vitally necessary measures. The number of cases in which an internal necessity exists for having recourse to such a law is in itself a limited one." - Hitler told the Reichstag.
He also promised an end to unemployment and pledged to promote peace with France, Great Britain and the Soviet Union. But in order to do all this, Hitler said, he first needed the Enabling Act.
A two thirds majority was needed, since the law would actually alter the German constitution. Hitler needed 31 non-Nazi votes to pass it. He got those votes from the Center Party after making a false promise to restore some basic rights already taken away by decree.
However, one man arose amid the overwhelming might. Otto Wells, leader of the Social Democrats stood up and spoke quietly to Hitler.
"We German Social Democrats pledge ourselves solemnly in this historic hour to the principles of humanity and justice, of freedom and socialism. No enabling act can give you power to destroy ideas which are eternal and indestructible."
This enraged Hitler and he jumped up to respond.
"You are no longer needed! - The star of Germany will rise and yours will sink! Your death knell has sounded!"
The vote was taken - 441 for, only 84, the Social Democrats, against. The Nazis leapt to their feet clapping, stamping and shouting, then broke into the Nazi anthem, the Hörst Wessel song.
They achieved what Hitler had wanted for years - to tear down the German Democratic Republic legally and end democracy, thus paving the way for a complete Nazi takeover of Germany.
From this day on, the Reichstag would be just a sounding board, a cheering section for Hitler's pronouncements.
Copyright © 1996 The History Place™ All Rights Reserved
Was Hitler democratically elected?
Was Adolf Hitler democratically elected? Or rather was the Nazis’ rise to power one that came with the democratic consent of the German people?
These questions are not as easy to answer as one might imagine. In part, this has to do with the trajectory that the Weimar republic took in the years before 1933, meaning the years during which Hitler and his NSDAP rose to popularity and ultimately to power in other parts, it has to do with the peculiarities of the Weimar democratic system and finally, it has to do with the understanding of democratic that is applied. Because Hitler did not win the election for president but rather, he became part of the government by forming a coalition after the NSDAP had won a significant part – though not a majority – of the popular vote in parliamentary elections.
But first things first: What is a Weimar and what does he do?
The Weimar Republic as it became known from the 1930s forward is a name for Germany – at this point still officially named the German Reich – during the republic, democratic phase between 1918 and 1929/1933. The Weimar Republic was a political system that functioned as a democratic parliamentary republic but with a strong and directly elected president. Functioning as a democratic republic, governments were formed from parliamentary coalitions that had a majority of representatives in the German Reichstag.
The Weimar Republic is most commonly associated with crisis. It started with a revolution that until early 1919 still had to be decided if it was a communist revolution on top of a political, democratic one with this not turning out to be the case. Still, in subsequent years the republic was plagued by a variety of crises: Hyper-inflation, the occupation of the Rhineland by the Allies, and political turmoil such as the first attempted coup by parties like the Nazi party and a variety of political assassination by fascists and right-wingers.
Still, even under these circumstances, the fall of the republic was not pre-ordained like the story is often told. When people emphasize how the Versailles treaty f.ex. is responsible for the Nazi take-over of power, it is thinking the republic from its end and ignoring the relatively quiet and successful and functioning years of the republic that occurred between 1924 and 1929.
Here the Great Depression and economic crisis of 1929 plays an important role for Weimar political culture to change fundamentally. As Richard Evans writes in The Coming of the Third Reich:
The Depression’s first political victim was the Grand Coalition cabinet led by the Social Democrat Hermann Müller, one of the Republic’s most stable and durable governments, in office since the elections of 1928. The Grand Coalition was a rare attempt to compromise between the ideological and social interests of the Social Democrats and the ‘bourgeois’ parties left of the Nationalists. […] Deprived of the moderating influence of its former leader Gustav Stresemann, who died in October 1929, the People’s Party broke with the coalition over the Social Democrats’ refusal to cut unemployment benefits, and the government was forced to tender its resignation on 27 March 1930.
Indeed, from that point onwards, German governments would not rule with the support of parliamentary majority anymore, namely because they would rule without participation of the Democratic Socialist SPD, which had been throughout the Weimar years and until 1932 the party with the largest part of the vote in parliament. And yet, the German parties to the right of the SPD couldn’t agree on a lot in many ways but they could agree that they rejected the SPD and even more so the again burgeoning communist movement in Germany.
From 1930 forward, Weimar governments would not govern by passing laws through parliament but instead by presidential emergency decree. Article 48 of the Weimar constitution famously included a passage that should public security and order be threatened, the Reichspräsident – at that time Paul von Hindenburg – “may take measures necessary for their restoration, intervening if need be with the assistance of the armed forces.” However, these measures were to be immediately reported to the Reichstag which then could revoke them with a majority.
The problem that arose here was that because the conservative parties did not have a majority in parliament for they refused to work and compromise at all with the SPD and because the SPD refused to work with the communist KPD, chancellor Brüning and later on Papen argued to Hindenburg that this constituted an emergency and thus began ruling independent of parliament through the use of presidential decree.
Additionally, because they embraced a course of austerity and cutting social spending while at the same time privileging the wealthy, political discontent began spreading in Germany to a great decree. Most notably, both the KPD but even more so the NSDAP began gaining votes. In 1928 the NSDAP garnered 2,6 % of the total votes when in 1930 they were already the second strongest party with 18% and finally in the first election of 1932 the strongest party in parliament with 37%.
It was above all the Nazis who profited from the increasingly overheated political atmosphere of the early 1930s, as more and more people who had not previously voted began to flock to the polls. Roughly a quarter of those who voted Nazi in 1930 had not voted before. Many of these were young, first-time voters, who belonged to the large birth-cohorts of the pre-1914 years.
Yet these electors do not seem to have voted disproportionately for the Nazis the Party’s appeal, in fact, was particularly strong amongst the older generation, who evidently no longer considered the Nationalists vigorous enough to destroy the hated Republic. Roughly a third of the Nationalist voters of 1928 voted for the Nazis in 1930, a quarter of the Democratic and People’s Party voters, and even a tenth of Social Democratic voters.
Concurrently, political violence escalated in the streets. Nazis fought the communists and social democrats in the streets, in a calculated bid to destabilize German democracy and political culture while using their press organs to instigate a culture war, resulting in what essentially became a parallel reality for adherents to Nazi ideology who would go on to believe that “international Jewry” controlled the government and the international scene and that the baby-slaughtering, blood-drinking evil doers planned to destroy the German “race”.
This was hard to curb because those charged with upholding public order did not do a very good job at it. Evans again:
Facing this situation of rapidly mounting disorder was a police force that was distinctly shaky in its allegiance to Weimar democracy. […] The force was inevitably recruited from the ranks of ex-soldiers, since a high proportion of the relevant age group had been conscripted during the war.
The new force found itself run by ex-officers, former professional soldiers and Free Corps fighters. They set a military tone from the outset and were hardly enthusiastic supporters of the new order. […] they were serving an abstract notion of ‘the state’ or the Reich, rather than the specific democratic institutions of the newly founded Republic.
Within this volatile situation, the year of 1932 saw two parliamentary elections: The July 1932 already took place in the midst of civil war-esque scenes in Germany with the Nazis clashing with the left. During the elections, violence escalated with the police unwilling or unable to act. In Altona – now part of Hamburg – shortly before the election the Nazis marched through traditionally left-wing Altona when shots were fired, and two SA men were wounded. In response, the SA and the local police fired back shooting 16 people.
This was then used by the conservative government to de-power the Social Democratic government in Prussia and instead place it under a government commissar, arguing that otherwise the SPD would turn Prussia into an anarchist, lawless place. Shortly after the vote was called, a group of SA men in Potempa in Northern Germany broke into a communist’s apartment in the village and beat him to death in front of his elderly mother, which further spurred fears of political violence.
A new government was hard to form and in response German conservatives lead by Franz von Papen und Kurt Schleicher embraced fascism and the Nazis: They tried to form a government involving the Nazis, following the logic that they would rather work with fascists than compromise with leftists and because they felt threatened by communism.
At first, the Nazis rejected this advance demanding more power within the government – a strategy that worked out. Following another election in November 1932, a new government was formed in January 1933 with Hitler as chancellor supported by Papen and Schleicher.
This however was not enough and so another vote was called: The Reichstag election of March 1933 would be the last election until 1945 where several parties would take part in. Already, voter suppression methods were in full force. The NSDAP used SA, SS and police to keep social democrats and communists from voting social democratic and communist rallies and publication were prohibited, and on February 27 the Reichstagsbrand happened.
Following the attempt to set the Reichstag on fire by marinus van der Lubbe, a supporter of the communists from the Netherlands, the Nazi government used emergency powers to start arresting people, prohibiting other parties, the unions, forming concentration camps and start suppressing political opponents.
This really marks the beginning of Nazi rule in full force. Still, in the March 1933 elections, the NSDAP managed to garner about 43% of the vote while the SPD with all the suppression and so forth going on became second strongest party with about 18%. But it didn’t matter anymore: Embraced and supported by the German conservative political establishment, the Nazis would impose authoritarian rule and brutally suppress other political movements, starting Nazi dictatorship and ultimately even turning on some of the very people who had lifted them to power.
Oftentimes, discussion will revolve around the fact that not a majority of people voted for the Nazis (their best result being just above 40%) or that they rose to power legally because the coalition governments where within what German law allowed. However, the big question to me that brings it back to the initial question of this text and that is a very pertinent one, is: When is the point where a system stops working as intended and therefore democracy becomes hollow resp. it stops being democratic?
The Germany where the Nazi celebrated their electoral successes was a Germany that German conservatives already didn’t govern democratically anymore. For at least three years, Germany was governed not by elected parliament but by presidential decree during a time when Nazi violence against political opponents and counter-violence escalated massively and often tolerated in a calculated way or with little pushback.
In July 1932, shortly before the first Reichstag election of that year, the German federal government deposed a democratically elected Social Democratic state government and replaced it by a commissar using occurrences completely elsewhere as a justification for this authoritarian move.
Under such circumstances, with the German political system already sliding into authoritarian patterns of behavior, is it justified to still speak of it as a democracy or can it be said that the growth of the Nazi party came about not under democratic circumstance but were cultivated by the authoritarian tendencies of the conservative end of the political spectrum and their refusal to accept social democratic politics addressing an economic and social crisis?
The parliamentary system of the Weimar Republic had already been undermined before 30 January 1933, the day on which President Hindenburg appointed Hitler Chancellor of the Reic h. Hitler had commended himself to the elite conservative circles that shared his distaste for the Republic, not least through his desire to replace the parliamentary system with an authoritarian monocratic state or Führerstaat . Like the chancellors of the preceding presidential cabinets, Hitler prevailed upon Hindenburg to dissolve the Reichstag on 1 February 1933 and call a general election. The Reichsta g fire on the night of 27 to 28 February 1933 provided a welcome pretext for the enactment of the Presidential Order for the Protection of the Nation and the State, commonly known as the Reichstag Fire Decree, which suspended the fundamental individual rights enshrined in the Weimar Constitution ‘until further notice’ in fact, they remained in abeyance until the end of the Third Reich .
The Enabling Act
In spite of the reign of terror and the first wave of arrests of Communists, Social Democrats and trade unionists, in the Reichstag elections of 5 March 1933 the Communist Party of Germany (KPD) obtained 12.3% of the vote and the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) 18.3%, while the moderate centre-right parties, namely the Centre Party and the Bavarian People’s Party (BVP), polled 13.9%. The National Socialist German Workers’ Party (NSDAP) and the German National People’s Party (DNVP) won 43.9% and 8% of the vote respectively, and so together they formed a right-wing government. By means of the Enabling Act - officially entitled the ‘Law to Remedy the Distress of the People and the Reich ’ - Hitle r intended to free himself from all parliamentary scrutiny, but he needed the support of a two-thirds majority in the Reichstag to enact such legislation. The 81 elected Members from the KPD did not take part in the vote, since they were already either under arrest or had gone into hiding or exile. While 94 Members from the SPD braved intimidation by voting against the bill, the Centre Party, the BVP, the German State Party (DStP), the Christian Social People’s Service (CSVD), the German Peasants’ Party (DBP) and the Agricultural League ( Landbund ) joined the DNVP and the NSDAP in approving the Enabling Act. The Act empowered the Government to enact laws without the consent of Parliament, even if they were inconsistent with the Constitution of the Reich . In this way the Reichstag downgraded itself from a legislative body to an acclamatory auditorium.
Very soon, on 31 March 1933, the Government adopted, without parliamentary involvement, the Act Establishing the Identity of the Länder with the Reich (Gesetz über die Gleichschaltung der Länder mit dem Reich ), which abolished the autonomous rights of the Länder , replacing them with stringent centralised rule. Ten months later, the Reich Restructuring Act ( Gesetz über den Neuaufbau des Reichs ) dissolved the parliaments of the Länder . This was followed on 14 February 1934 by the dissolution of the Reichsrat , the national representative assembly of the Länder . In the summer of 1934, another crucial step was taken towards the establishment of the ‘ Führer state’ with the Night of the Long Knives at the end of June and the beginning of July, when Hitler had troublesome rivals removed from the political scene or murdered. Following Hindenburg ’s death on 2 August 1934, a law amalgamating the offices of President and Chancellor - likewise adopted without parliamentary approval - enabled Hitler to assume the title of ‘Leader and Chancellor of the Reich ’ ( Führer und Reichskanzler ). He also became commander-in-chief of the Wehrmacht, whose members henceforth swore an oath of allegiance to him personally and no longer to the Weimar Constitution.
The Reichstag as a ‘one-party parliament’
After the adoption of the Enabling Act, the Reichstag only ever met on 19 occasions. It adopted seven laws, compared with 986 enacted by the Government. By the time of the Reichstag election of 12 November 1933, voters were already being presented with a single list of candidates whom they could approve or reject en bloc. Through the withdrawal of the mandates of Communist and Social Democrat members and the defection of representatives of the middle-class parties to the NSDAP, the Reichstag ultimately developed into a one-party parliament, whose members had to swear allegiance to the Führer . The insignificance of the parliament contrasted with the fact that a parliamentary seat carried great prestige and provided ample financial security, with which long-serving and distinguished party officials of the NSDAP were rewarded. The status attached to Parliament by the National Socialists is also reflected in the fact that the Reichstag building was never restored as a venue for plenary sittings. Instead, Parliament met in the Kroll Opera House, which had staged its last performance in 1931.
The end of parliamentary activity
The sole parliamentary group was chaired by Wilhelm Fric k, the NSDAP’s national returning officer, who had been Minister of the Interior in Hitler’ s cabinet since 30 January 1933. Other Reichstag bodies were successively abolished. Although committees were appointed in accordance with Article 35 of the Weima r Constitution as late as December 1933, they were no longer convened. After the Reichstag elections of 29 March 1936 and 10 April 1938, the appointment of committees was also dispensed with. Hitler, however, set great store by the legitimacy of apparent plebiscitary approval, which was used to underpin the ritualistic propaganda attaching to each of his policy statements. Even though the first ‘Great German Reichstag ’ after the annexation of Austria adopted neither a new constitution nor any other legislation, Hitler described that Parliament as the “representation of the German people”, which could “lay claim to being regarded as a truly constituent body”. At the last sitting of the Reichstag , on 26 April 1942, its members showed that they had entirely forsworn all of their rights. By rising from their seats, they approved a resolution of the Reichstag drafted by Hans Heinrich Lammers and read out by Hermann Göring , which stated that “the Führer , in his capacity as leader of the nation […], must therefore be able at any time - without being bound by existing legal provisions - to prevail if necessary upon all Germans […], by every means he deems appropriate, to fulfil their obligations”.
Nazi Germany - Dictatorship
Nazi Germany became a dictatorship under Adolf Hitler as this one person and party controlled an entire nation at their own will, creating a climate of fear and removing personal freedom.
After being appointed Chancellor in 1933, Hitler had gained greater power than the previous politicians - more than could have been guessed when he won the public vote. When President Hindenburg died in 1934 Hitler took the opportunity to merge together the roles of chancellor and president.
Germany was a democracy when Hitler first rose to power in January 1933 - they had fair elections and to laws were debated in the Reichstag before they were passed.
In March 1933 Hitler promised to hold a general election, which for him would have been an ideal opportunity to demonstrate to all opposing politicians where Germany’s true loyalties lay. In 1932 Hitler had been shown that there was a possible peak in the support for the Nazis during the election of November that year.
But one week before the election, on 27 February 1933, the German parliament ( Reichstag) building burned down due to arson. Hitler jumped on the opportunity to portray the fire as part of a Communist effort to overthrow the state. Hitler knew he had to play on President Hindenburg’s communism fear in order to convince him to give emergency powers, as stated in the Weimar Constitution. He managed to persuade the President that communists were going to take over the nation with force.
Marianus van der Lubbe, a well-known communist, was caught near the Reichstag building shortly after the fire began. Nazi officials who arrested him claimed that he had confessed the fire was used to signal the beginning of the revolution to overthrow democracy. The authorities supposedly found matches on him and he reportedly smelt of petrol.
Hitler requested emergency powers from President Hindenburg to quash the ‘communist uprising’. Using the Weimar Constitution, Hindenburg passed the Law for the Protection of the People and the State. Popularly known as the Reichstag Fire Decree, the regulations suspended important provisions of the German constitution, especially those safeguarding individual rights and due process of law.
Hitler was convinced that an election, which was held in march, would be the last. But Hitler did not receive enough votes to ensure him a 50 per cent majority in the Reichstag - a total of 17.3 million.
On the 7 April 1933, the Law for the Restoration of the Professional Civil Service was passed. This law ensured that only people of “Aryan descent” could work as civil servants.
From the 2 May 1933, Hitler abo lished trades unions and imprisoned their leaders. In return he gave workers a May Day holiday. Abolishing the trade unions allowed Hitler to destroy a group that might have opposed him. It also gave Hitler the opportunity to set up the German Labour Front, which gave him control over German workers.
In 14 July 1933, the Nazi Party also passed a law prohibiting the creation of any political party, and made the Nazi party the only legitimate German political party.
Hitler’s only problem from his perspective was on ensuring loyalty within the party ranks. As such, in June 1934 he launched ‘The Night of the Long Knives’ - the killing of about 400 SA members who threatened Hitler’s authority.
On the 7 April 1933, Nazi officials were put in charge of all local government in the provinces.
From the 2 May 1933, trades unions were wiped out along with their funds taken and leaders put in prison. In return the workers were given a May Day holiday.
As of 14 July 1933, a law was passed that made it illegal to form a new political party, and made the Nazi party the only legal German political party.
Germany then became a country of spies, with people employed in each street and building complex with the main purpose of keeping watch on others in their ‘area’ and reporting to the authorities if they felt something wasn’t right. No one wanted to offend the Nazi Police and the secret police lead by Heinrich Himmler because of their reputation. So for this reason Nazi Germany was a nation run by fear of the government.
Hitler’s only problem from his perspective was loyalty within the ranks of his own party. He overcame this in June 1934 with ‘The Night of the Long Knives’ - the wiping out of the SA’s leadership and others who had caused Hitler to become angry.