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Hitler and gleichchaltung

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Hitler and gleichchaltung

This essay addresses the Nazi movement called Gleichschaltung, also called Co- ordination or Nazification. In the essay the stages of the co- ordination will be examined. The co- ordination involved three major components. The first and most important area of the co- ordination was the nazification of the government institutions. The second stage involved ridding Germany of its democratic constitution. Hitler had to face seven foundations of constitutional order that inhibited his exercise of power. The foundations were the constitution, the federal structure of the Reich, the Parliament, the Reich President, the civil service, and the courts. The final stage involved gaining control of the Army. Success at each stage was very crucial for Hitler to construct his total dictatorship over the German people and country. It was alarming how swiftly he was able to achieve co- ordination and virtual lack of effective opposition he encountered. Hitler used an enticing slogan of "unity," that made the German people abandon their inhibitions and thoughts of opposition in the first few months of 1933 and they failed to realize to stand up against what was happening to them and their country

On February 4, 1933 the Reich President Hindenburg issued an ordinance for the protection of the German people under Article 48 of the Weimar Constitution. The ordinance allowed made it possible for Hitler to ban periodicals, newspapers, and even assemblies. With this power Hitler began to sever the people's constitutionally guaranteed freedom of opinion which gave him power to suppress peoples feelings but more importantly allowed for the suppression of political groups. A major catalyst in moving the co- ordination forward was the Reichstag fire. It caused minimal damage to the building. The Reichstag fire was the dagger in the heart on February 27, 1933. Hitler was able to convince Hindenburg that the Reichstag fire was a Communist planned attempt to stage a coup. Therefore Hindenburg again issued the Ordinance for the Protection of the Nation and State on February 28. In the name of defending the state against "Communist acts of violence," the ordinance suspended indefinitely all basic rights guaranteed in the Weimar Constitution and placed Germany in a permanent state of emergency "in which every constitutional safeguard was suspended insofar as the purposes of the regime required it. Hindenburg made a massive error by giving Hitler major power even though he believed the Communist threat was a real and serious problem to Germany. The move armed the government, in effect Hitler himself, with tyrannical powers of enormous scope and were destined to remain in force until the Third Reich's downfall twelve years later. With the ordinance of February 28 one could say that the Constitution was effectively co- ordinated.

The next step taken to gain more power was the enactment of the "Enabling Act." It was the first co- ordinating Act. The Reichstag would be asked to pass an "Enabling Act" conferring on Hitler's cabinet exclusive legislative powers for four years. Put even more simply, the German Parliament would be requested to turn over its constitutional functions to Hitler and take a long vacation. However, since this necessitated a change in the constitution, a two- thirds majority was needed to approve it. Hitler had solved this problem earlier. After all, by the decree of February 28, which he had induced Hindenburg to sign the day after the Reichstag fire, he could arrest as many opposition deputies as was necessary to assure his two- thirds majority. The Enabling Law was passed by a vote of 444 to the 94 votes of the Social Democrats. The Act was published on 24 March 1933. The law decreed the transformation of the state parliaments to conform to the new party strength in the Reichstag and provided the laws passed by a state legislature did not need to accord with the constitution of the state.

On April 7th 1933, the Reich commissioners in the states were institutionalized as Reich governors by the "Second Law for Co- ordination the States with the Reich." In almost every case, the new office was taken over by NSDPA Gauleiters, who now possessed the right by law "to see the observance of the policy guidelines set by the Reich Chancellor," and, in addition, to appoint and dismiss members of the state governments. During the first weeks of the 'revolution from below' in March- April, 1933, many officials in local and regional governments were forced to resign and were replaced by Party men. The initiative was often by the local Party organizations with little or no direction from the top, except in the case of the most senior regional officials. At the same time, during 1933, a large number of SA 'commissars' moved into Government offices at various levels, with the excuse that they were making sure that the civil servants were acting in accordance with the principles of the new regime. A good example of this was in a town called Thulburg. With virtual control over the administration of Thalburg and Thulburg County, the Nazis undertook the first and most obvious task: cleansing the city and county offices of actual or potential opponents.

The law "for the reconstitution of the permanent Civil Service," enacted on April 7th 1933, had provided the necessary conditions as far as personnel policy was concerned. The new civil service law, which was followed by numerous amendments and implementation decrees, made possible the dismissal of employees even in violation of existing laws if they did not possess the requisite "suitability," were not of Aryan decent" (initially with the exception of war veterans), or "on the basis that their former political activities did not offer the assurance that they supported the national state without reservations." These arbitrary regulations showed that the true purpose of the law was not for he restoration of the civil service but rather its intimidation and political levelling. Political purges, persecution of Jews, threats, and revenge coalesced.

Much of the same thing happened to the judiciary. Here, too, "co-ordination" was energetically begun. Control over legislation already meant an indirect "co- ordination" of the legal system, and the organization of National Socialist Lawyers' Association, in which membership was by no means voluntary,offered ample possibilities for influencing and intimidating judges and attorneys. Hitler even appointed a special Reich Commissioner for Justice "to co- ordinate justice in the states and renew the legal system." Hans Frank, the National Socialist legal luminary of the early days, now Bavarian Minister of Justice, and later the brutal Governor General of occupied Poland, was appointed to the position of Reich Commissioner for the Coordination of Justice in the States and the Renewal of Jurisprudence. The purpose of the reorganization was to put law at the service of National Socialism.

Having successfully removed a possible political threat from regional parliaments, the Nazis next tackled labor, another potential center of resistance. On May 1,1933, Hitler invited labor leaders to celebrate the traditional May Day in Berlin and called on the workers to join the new classless Volksgemeinschaft. The following day the Fuhrer's security forces broke into and looted the offices and presses of the Social Democratic Free Trade Unions. The liberal Hirsch- Duncker unions yielded to Nazi pressure and dissolved themselves that same May; the Christian trade unions followed in June. The German labor movement was reorganized by Robert Ley, head of the NSDAP's Political office, as the German Labor Front(DAF). Ley at once prohibited strikes and outlawed collective bargaining. In short order the Christian Trade Unions, with about 600 000 members, and the Liberal groups, with about 500 000, voluntarily submit to Nazi control. Deprived of his trade unions, collective bargaining and the right to strike, the German worker in the Third Reich became an industrial serf, bound to his master, the employer, much as medieval peasants had been bound to the lord of the manor. The so- called Labor Front, which in theory replaced the old trade unions, did not represent the worker.

On the 10th of May 1933 Hitler set out to destroy the Social Democratic Party. Throughout Germany the government seized all Socialist buildings, offices, newspapers (more than a hundred), and party funds, together with the possessions and funds of the Reichbanner. With one stroke the Socialist Party was completely crippled. The anti- Nazi activities of SDP emigres in Prague were used as an excuse to ban the SDP officially on 22 June 1933. By the end of June, the two Liberal parties and the Nationalist party recognized the inevitable and disbanded themselves. Their membership had by now virtually disappeared, either to join the Nazis or into what was termed 'inner emigration'. SDP collapse was followed on 5 July by the most powerful non- Socialist opposition party, the Catholic Center.

It was Hitler's will that his own NSDAP be the only political party allowed to exist in the Third Riech. The Law Concerning the Formation of New Parties, promulgated on July 14, 1933, abolished all other political parties. Stipulated that National Socialist German Workers' Party is the only political party in Germany. Stated anyone who seeks to maintain the organization of another political party or to organize a new political party is to be punished by confinement in a jail from six months to three years unless his act is punishable by a still higher penalty under other laws. The exclusive position of the Party, which was the starting- point of the co- ordination process, had been officially recognised by the law of July 14th forbidding the formation of any other party.

Hitler issued a decree for the Gleichschaltung of all activities in the Third Reich in the end of June 1933. On June 30, 1933, he issued a decree defining the specific tasks of the Ministry for Public Enlightenment and Propaganda under the direction of Dr. Paul Joseph Goebbels. In this capacity and also as chief of the Reich Culture Chamber, Goebbels went ahead to coordinate all elements of German national life- press, radio, art, music, theatre, and cinema. Each was regarded as a limb of the body politic, and each was a project, to foster, and nourish the Nazi image and the standards set by Hitler.

The church was an institution that Hitler wanted to wrap his hand around as well and one of his means of doing so was the Concordat with Rome. The Concordat with the Vatican on July 8th , 1933 led to an alarmingly rapid reversal of attitudes. According to the proclamations of the highest Church leaders, the Catholic Church would henceforth either exclude itself from public life or lend its valuable support to the new regime. Hitler accepted Rome's right to appoint church leaders and the Catholic church's claim to run special schools and other lay institutions. The Vatican recognised the Hitler regime and agreed to the dissolution of the Center Party. July 20th after several months of negotiation, probably inaugurated toward the end of March when Kass went to Rome and Bergen to Berlin, the Concordat between Germany and the Holy See is signed at Rome by Papan and Cardinal Pacelli. The Concordat signed between the Vatican and the Reich Government on July 20 removed the Church's moral support from what remained of organized Catholic resistance to the Nazis.

On January 30, 1934, precisely one year after his assumption of political power as chancellor, Hitler issued a basic law for the reorganization of the German Reich. His purpose to give legality to his dictatorship.

The circle was now closed; only the armed forces still remained outside. The SA leaders headed by Chief of Staff Roehm had been pressing for the co- ordination of the Reichswehr with the Nazi movement, in other word with the SA. Roehm probably visualized the armed forces being dissolved in the SA. Hitler thought more realistically. He knew that he needed the officers' technical knowledge for his foreign and military plans, including rearmament. He also recognized that the Reichswehr, with its high self- esteem and determination to preserve its tradition of independence and aloofness from politics, would not tolerate "co- ordination". To put the SA in the place of the Reichswehr would have meant giving it the most powerful position in the State. Finally, he saw in Roehm's demand a threat to his own position. The thought of Roehm beside him as commander of the entire armed forces was disturbing. June 30th, 1934 was as important as January 30th 1933 on the road to annihilation and barbarism. During what Hitler later called the Night of the Long Knives, the leadership of his own SA, as well as other diverse opponents of the regime, were butchered at state order throughout the land. On that day , NSDAP, SS, and Reichswehr marched arm in arm down the road to terror. The brutal ruthlessness and the utter lawlessness of the execution of Rohm were carefully noted by the party for future guidance.

The event that co- ordinated the whole machinery of state was the death of President Hindenburg. After Hindenburg's death, the president's office was fused with that of the chancellor, and the state was turned over to a single person. The offices of Chancellor and President had been combined and Adolf Hitler had taken over the powers of the head of state and Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces. The title of President was abolished; Hitler would be known as Fuehrer and Reich Chancellor. His dictatorship had become complete.

Gleichschaltung was a great feat for Hitler. It was a calculated plan and procedure to gain control he desired to move toward total control of Germany. His first stage to seize power was the destruction of the Reichstag and creating the dictatorship of the "national" government. The Enabling Act was the center point of attack of reaching this goal. This 1st step was key. Once he had control of the government he was able to mold the laws to favour his position. The second stage was the destruction of the democratic constitutional state. In the process of achieving this stage the civil service, judiciary, trade unions and democratic professional organizations had to be destroyed. Their destruction along with the liquidation of all other political parties, resulted in the legal creation of the one party state. The third and final stage was the alliance with the Army but not total control over, and the taking over of the police and its incorporation into the SS. The co- ordination efferts of Hitler created a strong and powerful menace and one that was not easily defeated. Together these stages were essential to the creation of Hitler's dictatorship and he maintained those powers until his defeat in World War Two.

This essay addresses the Nazi movement called Gleichschaltung, also called Co- ordination or Nazification. In the essay the stages of the co- ordination will be examined. The co- ordination involved three major components. The first and most important area of the co- ordination was the nazification of the government institutions. The second stage involved ridding Germany of its democratic constitution. Hitler had to face seven foundations of constitutional order that inhibited his exercise of power. The foundations were the constitution, the federal structure ...

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