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What Role did the Reichstag Fire Play In Allowing Hitler to Consolidate his Power

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Introduction

What Role did the Reichstag Fire Play In Allowing Hitler to Consolidate his Power? A week before the Reichstag elections, on the 27th February 1933, the Reichstag building in Berlin burned down. The Nazis claimed that this was the work of a Dutch Communist- Marinus van der Lubbe. If it was the work of the Nazis, as some historians suspect, Hitler had no connection. Since 1930, all of the chancellors had been able to use Article 48 of the Weimar Constitution. This allowed them to rule by decree. However, President Hindenburg did not offer Hitler this, probably because he did not trust Hitler. However, after the Reichstag Fire, Hitler declared a state of emergency and persuaded Hindenburg to allow him to use part of the Article 48 which stripped people of their civil rights and allowed the police to make arrests without warrant. Hindenburg signed a 'Decree for the Protection of the People and the State', taking away freedom of speech and assembly. Within hours of the fire, Hitler arrested around 4,000 communists. In the last few days before the elections, only the Nazis and Nationalists were allowed to campaign freely. Due to these arrests of his oppositions, Hitler was seen as a man of action, which is what people were looking for to pull Germany from the Depression. ...read more.

Middle

This was not the same part of Article 48 that Hitler's predecessors had which allowed them to rule by decree, but was a part that previous chancellors had not been able to use. Within hours of the fire, Hitler arrested around 4,000 communists. Hitler was therefore seen as a man of action, which is what people were looking for to pull Germany from the Depression. Hitler only needed 50% of the votes to push bills through the Reichstag. Hitler gained 288 seats but this was still under the 50% of votes that Hitler required. Hitler formed a coalition with the DNVP and built concentration camps, such as Dachau for his political enemies. He had overcome the handicap that he started with- not having access to Article 48. The Reichstag fire, was a major stepping stone to Hitler becoming the Fuhrer of Germany. However, there was still a long way for Hitler to go- the President, Hindenburg, at any time could remove Hitler from the post of chancellor. The second factor which helped Hitler achieve total power was the Enabling Bill. The Chancellor of the Weimar Constitution could get the right, from the Reichstag, to rule by decree for a given length of time. ...read more.

Conclusion

Hitler declared 1 May a free paid holiday for workers and the Nazis took over the Trade Union offices. Hitler also created jobs to win support of the working classes and calm the unions. The Catholic Church was a large organisation and its followers could easily be persuaded not to support Hitler. Hitler convinced the Catholic Church that he and they shared the same interests and he signed a concordat with the pope, agreeing to respect the autonomy of the church. The army was another group which could stop Hitler, and it had recently signed an oath of allegiance to him after Hindenburg's death. All other political parties abolished themselves and so the Nazi party was the only party left. The Enabling Act was therefore automatically renewed after 4 years. On 14 July 1933 Hitler declared a one party state. In October 1933 Hitler walked out of the League of Nations disarmament conference, showing that he was 'sticking to his guns' on his policies of smashing Versailles. Hitler's appointment as chancellor, in a way, was the most important reason in his achievement of complete power. Without becoming chancellor, he could not have become Fuhrer. However, his domination was far from inevitable. Hitler had to exploit every opportunity in order to become dictator of Germany. Communists are arrested wholesale though the party is not banned until after the elections so that the left vote will remain split. ...read more.

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