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History Revision Unit 2 Key Topic 3

Reichstag Fire, 1933:

27 February 1933, Reichstag building destroyed by a fire, Dutch
communist Marinus van der Lubbe arrested. He confessed and was
found guilty and executed. Hitler saw it as an opportunity to attack
the communists and consolidate his power:
Hitler used the fire to his advantage in two ways:
o It gave him an opportunity to imprison many communist
leaders, which stopped them campaigning during the election.
o 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.
Hitler used the fire to make Hindenburg call a state of emergency so
that he could call any decrees he liked, legally:
o Decree for the Protection of the People and the State power to
suspend Germans civil rights
o He could ensure the police force ignored the activity of the SA
o Industrialists funded the Nazi campaign
General election
Although 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 SA had intimidated the
other parties - to get the Enabling Act passed, which is all Hitler
needed to do.
Enabling Act, March 1933
Hitler had absolute power to make his laws without the consent of
the Reichstag
Ended democracy and the Weimar Republic
Local government, January 1934
This put the Nazis in control of local government, and allowed the
Gestapo to rule by terror
He would appoint governors to run every region of Germany
Trade unions, May 1933
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

Banning 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
Night of the Long Knives, 30 June 1934
Arranged for the death of Rhm and other senior officers of the SA to
be arrested, imprisoned and shot
This destroyed all opposition within the Nazi Party
It gave power to the brutal SS
Displayed Hitlers brutality internationally

SS (Schutzstaffel)
Military group set up in 1925
From 1929 run by Heinrich Himmler
During 1930s, expanded to 50,000 and put in charge of state
Carried out racial purification and one part was Totenkopf, who ran
concentration camps
Members were Aryan with pure wives

Gestapo (Geheime Staatspolizei):

Non uniformed secret police force
Set up in 1933, put under control of SS in 1936
Led by Reinhard Heydrich
Couldnt be told apart from public so added extra fear element
Arrested anyone who acted against Nazi ideas, without responsibility
Concentration camps:
First camp was at Dachau in 1933, first for women at Moringen
Secretive places in isolated conditions and not controlled
Prisoners were minority groups e.g. Jews and prostitutes
From 1938, camp inmates were used as labour
6 camps by 1939 20,000 people in total
after 1939, they were used for mass murder
Law courts:
National Socialist League for the Maintenance of the Law, all judges
must be members
If the judges displeased the Nazis they could not join

Because they followed Nazi ideas Hitler told the judges they could
punish people even if they were innocent
New Peoples Court, to hear all treason against the state cases
judges were handpicked and Hitler could increase the sentence if it
was too lenient
The Nazi viewpoint on religion
The Nazis believed in Constructive Christianity and freedom for
every religious denomination (group). But in reality, the Nazis saw
the Church and Christianity as a threat to their policies. One-third of
Germans were Catholics and two-thirds were Protestants. At the
beginning they cooperated with the Nazis. They believed that the
new government protected them from communism and maintained
traditional morals and family values.
Links with the Catholic and Protestant Churches
Hitler signed a concordat with the Pope in 1933. He promised full
religious freedom for the Church and the Pope promised that he
wouldnt interfere in political matters.
Then, the Nazis started to close Catholic churches. Many
monasteries were shut down and the Catholic Youth Organisation
was abolished (remember that the Nazis had created the Hitler Youth
The Pope protested by issuing a letter in 1937, which was to be read
in every Catholic Church. This didnt have any impact at all.
Around 400 priests were arrested and sent to the Dachau
concentration camp.
The National Reich Church
There were 28 Protestant groups in Germany, and they were merged
to form the National Reich Church in 1936. A member of the Nazi
party was elected Bishop of the Church. Non-Aryan ministers were
Church members called themselves German Christians, with "the
Swastika on their chest and the Cross in their heart."
Censorship of newspapers and the arts
Newspapers were censored.
1935 - 1,600 newspapers were closed down
1938 - 10,000 publications disappear
Around 2,500 textbooks by unreliable authors were burnt in public.
Berlin students burned 20,000 books by Jews and Communists in
Music was controlled. Jazz was banned, as well as the jitterburg
dance, as black people had invented them.

Germany lost many talented authors and musicians, e.g. Thomas

Mann and Bertolt Brecht. On the other hand, Strauss and Wagner
were very popular.
1934 The Malicious Gossip Law telling an Anti-Nazi joke was a
crime, leading to a fine or imprisonment.