On 30th January 1933 President Paul von Hindenburg formally named Adolf Hitler as Chancellor of Germany. It was an appointment the President had initially refused to make as a result of concerns about Hitler’s brutal policies and Hitler’s association with the S.A. known as Brownshirts.
Hitler had enjoyed a meteoric rise in popularity among the German population. Principally as a result of his extraordinary oratory skill but also as a result of the desperate economic situation in Germany, which had suffered rocking inflation after the First World War, and the propaganda skills of Joseph Goebbels.
Hitler was seen as a modern, dynamic leader who could offer solutions to the economic difficulties suffered in Germany.
In parliamentary elections held in 1932, the Nazi party -Nationalist Socialist Germany Workers Party- had won two hundred and thirty seats which was equivalent to 37.3 percent of the vote. This entitled them to have the Chancellor of Germany appointed from their ranks. The party’s choice was Hitler.
The Chancellor and President of Germany have a similar relationship to that of the Prime Minister and Queen of the United Kingdom. The Chancellor, like the Prime Minister holds the real power whilst the President , like the Queen is the head of state but with little real power. President Hindenburg refused to appoint Hitler as Chancellor.
The situation in Germany was unstable with a risk of civil war as escalating violence took place between radical wings of the political parties. Further elections were held in November 1932. The communist party gained seats and the Nazi party lost seats. Right wing conservatives were concerned about the communist party increasing their popularity in Germany. After complex negotiations ex-chancellor Franz von Papen convinced Hindenburg to appoint Hitler as Chancellor. He assured Hindenburg that Hitler would be unable to implement his more brutal policies as Hitler’s powers would be curtailed with von Papen as vice-chancellor and other non-Nazi politicians holding important positions in the German government.
After Hitler’s appointment, he immediately set about achieving his vision of Germany becoming a powerful one party state.
Hitler asked Hindenburg to dissolve the Reichstag. Then the Enabling Act was passed which effectively gave Hitler power to pass laws by decree which could not be cancelled by the Reichstag.
He appointed Hermann Goering as head of the Gestapo or secret state police. The secret police force was expanded with recruitment only taken from Nazi party members.
In February 1933, freedom of the press was severely curtailed and on 27th February civil liberties in Germany were effectively suspended. Hitler had taken his first steps to realise his dream of a Reich which would last for one thousand years.
Author of The Cypher Bureau.