Nazi Germany


Hitler as Munich politician

1919 - 1923

Hitler joined the German Workers' Party, one of a number of right-wing extreme nationalist parties in Munich. By the summer of 1921, Hitler had assumed total control of the party, which he renamed the National Socialist German Workers' Party, or Nazi for short. His idea was that the party's name would distinguish the Nazis from the socialist parties while gaining support from both working-class and nationalist circles. He worked to develop the party into a mass political movement with flags, badges, uniforms, its own newspaper, and its own police force/militia known as the SA, the Sturmabteilung, or Storm Troops. The SA was used to defend the party in meeting halls and to break up the meetings of other parties. Hitler's oratorical skills were largely responsible for attracting an increasing number of followers.

Beer Hall Putsch


When it appeared that the Weimar Republic was on the verge of collapse in 1923, the Nazis and other right-wing leaders in Bavaria decided to march on Berlin to overthrow the Weimar government. When his fellow conspirators reneged, Hitler and the Nazis decided to act on their own by staging an armed uprising in Munich. The so-called Beer Hall Putsch was quickly crushed. Hitler was arrested, put on trial for treason, and sentenced to prison for five years.

Nazis win 107 seats in Reichstag


Germany's economic difficulties paved the way for the Nazis' rise to power. The economic and psychological problems of the Great Depression made the radical solutions offered by extremist parties appear more attractive. Already in the Reichstag elections of September 1930, the Nazis polled 18 percent of the vote and gained 107 seats in the Reichstag, making the Nazi Party one of the largest in Germany.

Hitler is made chancellor


The right-wing elites of Germany came to see Hitler as the man who had the mass support to establish a right-wing, authoritarian regime that would save Germany and their privileged positions from a Communist takeover. These people almost certainly thought that they could control Hitler and underestimated his abilities. Under pressure from these elites, President Hindenburg agreed to allow Hitler to become chancellor on January 30, 1933 and form a new government.

Enabling Act


The Nazis sought the passage of an Enabling Act on March 23, 1933, which would empower the government to dispense with constitutional forms for four years while it issued laws that would deal with the country's problems. Since the act was to be an amendment to the Weimar constitution, the Nazis needed and obtained a two-thirds vote to pass it. The Enabling Act provided the legal basis for Hitler's acts. He no longer needed either the Reichstag of President Hindenburg. In effect, Hitler became a dictator appointed by the parliamentary body itself.

Reichstag fire


On the day after a fire broke out in the Reichstag building on February 27, 1933, supposedly set by the Communists, Hitler was able to convince President Hindenburg to issue a decree that gave the government emergency powers. It suspended all basic rights of citizens for the full duration of the emergency, thus enabling the Nazis to arrest and imprison anyone without redress.

Hindenburg dies; Hitler as sole ruler


When Hindenburg died on August 2, 1934, the office of president was abolished, and Hitler became sole ruler of Germany. Public officials and soldiers were all required to take a person oath of loyalty to Hitler as the "Fuhrer of the German Reich and people." The Third Reich had begun.

Purge of the SA


The SA, under the leadership of Ernst Rohm, openly criticised Hitler and spoke of the need for a second revolution and the replacement of the regular army by the SA. Hitler solved both problems simultaneously on June 30, 1934, by having Rohm and a number of other SA leaders killed in return for the army's support in allowing Hitler to succeed Hindenburg when the president died.

Nuremberg laws


In September 1935, the Nazis announced new racial laws at the annual party rally in Nuremberg. These Nuremberg laws excluded German Jews from German citizenship and forbade marriages and extramarital relations between Jews and German citizens. The Nuremberg laws essentially separated Jews from the Germans politically, socially, and legally and were the natural extension of Hitler's stress on the preservation of a pure Aryan race.



The Kristallnacht, or Night of Shattered Glass, was one of the more considerably violent phases of anti-Jewish activity, which was initiated on November 9-10, 1938. The assassination of a third secretary in the German embassy in Paris by a young Polish Jew became the excuse for a Nazi-led destructive rampage against the Jews in which synagogues were burned, seven thousand Jewish businesses were destroyed, and at least one hundred Jews were killed. 30,000 Jewish males were rounded up and sent to concentration camps.