History

How Hitler consolidated power 1933-1934

In January 1933 Hitler became chancellor of Germany and by August 1934, he had declared himself Führer - the leader of Germany. What happened during this time that allowed Hitler to take the ultimate position of authority?

Summary

Dates and events 1933-1934

DateEvent

27 Feb 1933

Reichstag fire

Reichstag Fire - the Reichstag [Reichstag: German parliament in Berlin. ] building is set on fire. A Dutch Communist, van der Lubbe, is caught red-handed in the burning building.

5 Mar 1933

Nazis get 44 per cent of the vote

General Election - only 44 per cent of the population vote for the Nazis, who win 288 seats in the Reichstag.

23 Mar 1933

The Enabling Act

Enabling Act - the SA [SA : Also known as Storm Troopers or Brownshirts. A military style organisation of the Nazi party formed in 1921 under Hitler. ] intimidates all the remaining non-Nazi deputies. The Reichstag votes to give Hitler the right to make his own laws.

26 April 1933

Gestapo established

Local government is reorganised - the country is carved up into 42 Gaus, which are run by a Gauleiter. These Gaus are separated into areas, localities and blocks of flats run by a Blockleiter. Hitler sets up the Gestapo.

2 May 1933

Trade unions banned

Trade unions are abolished and their leaders arrested.

20 June 1933

Cross and chain on a Nazi flag

Concordat - Hitler makes an agreement with the Pope who sees him as someone who can destroy communism. This agreement allows Hitler to take over political power in Germany as long as he leaves the Catholic Church alone.

14 July 1933

Political parties banned

Political parties are banned - only the Nazi party is allowed to exist.

24 April 1934

People's Courts

People's Courts - Hitler sets up the Nazi people's courts where judges have to swear an oath of loyalty to the Nazis.

30 June 1934

Night of the Long Knives

Night of the Long Knives - some SA leaders are demanding that the Nazi party carry out its socialist agenda, and that the SA take over the army. Hitler cannot afford to annoy the businessmen or the army, so the SS [SS: Also known as the Blackshirts. A German police/ military style organisation created to serve as the personal bodyguards of Adolf Hitler. In Hitler's Germany they eventually controlled the intelligence, security and police forces, and extermination of those they considered undesirable. ] murders perhaps 400 of the SA members, including its leader Röhm, along with a number of Hitler's other opponents.

19 Aug 1934

Hitler is Führer

Führer - when Hindenburg dies, Hitler declares himself jointly president, chancellor and head of the army.

More detail

If you are asked about how Hitler consolidated his power, remember that the question is not just about describing what happened and what Hitler did. You should explain how Hitler's actions helped him to consolidate his power - it is more about the effects of what he did. The table below describes how certain events that happened between 1933 and 1934 gave Hitler the opportunity to consolidate power.

Events and results 1933-1934

EventResult
Reichstag fire

Hitler used the fire to his advantage in two ways:

  1. It gave him an opportunity to imprison many communist leaders, which stopped them campaigning during the election.
  2. It allowed the Nazis to say that the country was in danger from the communists during its election campaign.

Both these actions helped the Nazis to win more seats in the election.

When the courts convicted Dutch Communist van der Lubbe, but did not convict other Communist leaders, Hitler was furious and replaced the courts with the Nazi People's Courts.

General electionAlthough it did not give the Nazis the majority that Hitler had hoped for in the Reichstag, it gave them enough seats - after Hitler had arrested all the communist deputies and the other parties had been intimidated by the SA - to get the Enabling Act passed, which is all Hitler needed to do.
Enabling Act Arguably the critical event - it gave Hitler absolute power to make his laws.
Local governmentThis put the Nazis in control of local government, and allowed the Gestapo to rule by terror.
Trade unionsAbolishing 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.
ConcordatHitler's agreement with the Pope was a temporary truce that allowed Hitler to ban the Catholic Zentrum party without opposition from the Catholic Church.
Political parties

Banning political parties made Germany a one-party state and destroyed democracy in the country.

After this action, Germans could no longer get rid of Hitler in an election.

People's CourtsThese were set up to give Hitler greater control over the judgements made in courts. Hitler was furious because the courts did not sentence the communists to death for starting the Reichstag fire.
Night of the Long KnivesThis destroyed all opposition within the Nazi Party. It gave power to the brutal SS. It also showed the rest of the world what a tyrant Hitler was.
FührerThis formally made Hitler the absolute ruler of Germany.

Many historians believe that Nazi Germany only appeared to be a dictatorship. In fact, officials were left to make most of the decisions themselves, and the Nazi government was badly-organised, and chaotic.

Hitler and the army

It is important to note that in 1934, the army was not subject to Hitler's authority. At this point, he still needed the army's support, which is why he destroyed the SA in the Night of the Long Knives.

In 1938, army leaders hoped Hitler's plan to conquer the Sudetenland would fail and give them an opportunity to depose [Depose: To remove a ruler or monarch. ] him. When he suceeded, their attempt to get rid of him fell apart, and Hitler dismissed the chief of staff and 60 other generals. Thereafter, the army was also subservient to Hitler.

Activity and answer preparation

Activity

To familiarise yourself with Hitler's actions 1933-1934, play the activity 'Opening the doorways to power' to see if you can remember the sequence of events that consolidated Hitler's power.

illustration of Adolf Hitler speaking

Can you open the doors to power for Hitler?

Answer preparation

As part of your revision, think about the arguments and facts you would use to explain:

  1. How Hitler consolidated his power, 1933-1934.
  2. How Hitler changed Germany from a democracy to a dictatorship.
  3. Which event marked the end of the Weimar Republic - the Enabling Act or the banning of political parties.

The question 'Why Hitler came to power' (ie how he became chancellor in January 1933) is completely different to 'How did Hitler consolidated his power' (ie how he took absolute power in 1933-1934). Make sure you do not misinterpret questions, which may not be worded so clearly. The key is to look carefully at the dates in the question.

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