To what extent was Hitler a totalitarian dictator?
A totalitarian dictator is a leader of a one party state who has complete control over all aspects of society.
Adolf Hitler used three main methods to control the German people: - the law, terror, and persuasion.
After his failed 1923 Munich Putsch (violent uprising), he realised that the only way to gain and keep power was through using the legal system already in place to his advantage. In 1933 Hitler’s right wing party – the Nazis – was the largest party in the Reichstag (German parliament). He did not, however, have an overall majority and he needed to change this to allow him to gain more power, therefore he joined forces with the Nationalist party and was appointed chancellor by President Hindenburg. It was hoped that through this appointment Hitler could be controlled.
Hitler tried to consolidate his power through a general election. During his campaign he used all the facilities of the state (press and radio) to try and convince Germans to vote for him. Senior police officers were replaced with trusted Nazis and Hitler’s private armies – the SA and SS – broke up meetings of opposing political parties but the Nazi party did still not have an overall majority.
Despite this, Hitler tried to pass an Enabling Act which would allow him to publish new laws without the Reichstag’s permission, change the constitution and negotiate treaties with foreign countries. For this to be made law Hitler needed a two-thirds majority vote in the Reichstag but he still faced opposition from communists and social democrats. Some time before this the Reichstag had been set on fire, allegedly by an anarchist although it has been suggested that the SA assisted him.