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?
27 Feb 1933
Reichstag Fire - the Reichstag building is set on fire. A Dutch Communist, van der Lubbe, is caught red-handed in the burning building.
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.
5 Mar 1933
General Election - only 44 per cent of the population vote for the Nazis, who win 288 seats in the Reichstag.
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 other parties had been intimidated by the SA - to get the Enabling Act passed, which is all Hitler needed to do.
23 Mar 1933
Enabling Act - the SA intimidates all the remaining non-Nazi deputies. The Reichstag votes to give Hitler the right to make his own laws.
Arguably the critical event - it gave Hitler absolute power to make his laws.
26 April 1933
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.
This put the Nazis in control of local government, and allowed the Gestapo to rule by terror.
2 May 1933
Trade unions are abolished and their leaders arrested.
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.
20 June 1933
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.
Hitler's agreement with the Pope was a temporary truce that allowed Hitler to ban the Catholic Zentrum party without opposition from the Catholic Church.
14 July 1933
Political parties are banned - only the Nazi party is allowed to exist.
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.
24 April 1934
People's Courts - Hitler sets up the Nazi people's courts where judges have to swear an oath of loyalty to the Nazis.
These 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.
30 June 1934
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 murders perhaps 400 of the SA members, including its leader Röhm, along with a number of Hitler's other opponents.
This 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.
19 Aug 1934
Führer - when Hindenburg dies, Hitler declares himself jointly president, chancellor and head of the army.
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 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.