The objective of the tutorial is to make the student aware of Hitler's Domestic Policy.


Write one constitutional cause, one political cause and one economic cause of the Weimar Republic's weakness?


Ans- Constitutional weakness - Elections for parliament used proportional representation. This resulted in lots of small political parties with no single party having a majority.

Political weakness - The Weimar Republic was never popular with the public because the German people blamed it for accepting the hated Versailles Treaty.

Economic weakness - The Weimar Republic was weakened by huge reparations debts.


Hitler's Dictatorship


Hitler remained German leader for 12 years. Some effects of his rise to power came slowly, over the longer term. Others were short-term effects. For example, within just six months, Hitler was virtual dictator of Germany. This topic explains how.

The Reichstag Fire Decree

Soon after coming to power, Hitler asked Hindenburg to call a general election for 5th March. He wanted to increase his control of the Reichstag.

Then Hitler had a stroke of luck. In February 1933, the parliament building was destroyed by fire. A young communist, named Marinus van der Lubbe, was caught. He confessed, was sentenced to death, and beheaded in January 1934.

The fire had far-reaching effects. Hitler said that van der Lubbe was part of a communist conspiracy and persuaded Hindenburg to issue the Reichstag Fire Decree, slashing the civil rights of the German people.

Intended for temporary use in an emergency, the Reichstag Fire Decree stayed in operation until Hitler's death, 12 years later.

Suspended rights

The 1933 elections

It was during this national crisis that the 1933 general election was held and Hitler took control of the Reichstag.

The Nazis had 288 of the 647 seats; only 81 Communists won seats and Hitler banned them from the Reichstag. Crucially, this left only 94 Social Democrats to vote against an Enabling Act, which gave Hitler the two-thirds majority in favour that he needed to change the constitution. A power he was quick to use.

1933 election campaign

The Enabling Act


The Enabling Act, passed in March 1933, changed the constitution of the Weimar Republic and dramatically increased Hitler's control over Germany. It said that the chancellor – and of course Hitler was the chancellor – could pass laws without the consent of parliament, the Reichstag.


After the Enabling Act was passed, Hitler used his new law-making powers to increase his control over Germany. Click the buttons below to explore the ways in which Hitler steadily gained total power.

Trade Unions

In May 1933, Hitler issued a law banning trade unions and making strikes illegal. This removed one source of opposition, since many workers still supported the Communist Party and widespread strikes would have been one way to undermine Hitler's government.

Political Parties

In July 1933, Hitler issued another decree. He made all political parties in Germany illegal – except his own Nazi party. This obviously made it very difficult for anyone to organise a movement against him.

Hitler had control of central government. But, under the constitution, all the regions of Germany had their own local parliaments, with powers to govern locally. So, in January 1934, the local parliaments were abolished. Hitler appointed his own local governors to run each region.


Police state

All states have police forces, but most have to act within the law. Hitler created forces accountable only to him:

The SS had been created in the 1920s. They were Hitler's personal bodyguard and the Nazi Party's police force. They were led by Heinrich Himmler and were famous for their jet-black uniforms over brown shirts. After 1933, Hitler increased the SS to 50,000 men. They were put in overall charge of the state's security forces.

The Gestapo was a new non-uniformed police force which Hitler created in 1933. They were led by Reinhard Heydrich and were particularly feared by Germans because no-one could tell them apart from normal citizens. The Gestapo could arrest and imprison people without charge or trial.


Concentration Camps

By 1939, 150,000 Germans were 'under protective arrest' in German prisons. About 20,000 of these were in concentration camps. The first for men was opened at Dachau in 1933; the first for women at Moringen in 1934. They did not have normal prison rules; violence against prisoners was routine.

Night of Long Knives’

By 1932, the SA (the Nazis' original paramilitary force) had grown to 100,000 storm troopers. Hitler was worried that they could become more loyal to the leader of the SA – Ernst Rohm – than they were to him.

The Night of the Long Knives began on 30th  June 1934. Over the next 4 days, the SS arrested and shot up to 400 people without trial, including Rohm and 150 other SA officers - who were replaced by those loyal to Hitler.

Hitler was brazenly acting illegally now. He told the Reichstag, 'I ordered the leaders to be shot. If anyone asks why I did not use the courts, I say this: in this hour, I became the supreme judge of the German people.'


From chancellor to Fuhrer

On 2nd August 1934, President Hindenburg died. Instead of allowing the German people to elect a new president, Hitler announced that:

·       The powers of the president and the chancellor would be combined into one new role: 'the Fűhrer'.

·       The whole army had to swear allegiance to the Fűhrer.

·       The new Fűhrer would be… yes, you've guessed it… Adolf Hitler.

A plebiscite – a public vote – was held in 1934 to confirm the decision and 90% of Germans were declared to have voted in favour. The Weimar Republic was at an end; Hitler's new dictatorship, The Third Reich, had begun.


The Holocaust

Hitler turning Germany into a dictatorship and a police state was a short-term – almost immediate – effect of his rise to power. Other consequences emerged gradually over the longer term. One example is the Holocaust.

Hitler’s anti-Semitism

1933 – Persecution (Massacre) of the Jews begins


Hitler believed that Jewish people were part of the ‘Untermenschen’ – those he felt to be sub-human. He blamed them for Germany’s defeat in the First World War and for its economic problems. He also believed that marriage to Jews weakened the superior Arian race. So when the Nazis came to power, Jews were persecuted. For example:

·       April 1933: SA-organised boycott of Jewish businesses.

·       September 1933: Jews were banned from inheriting land.

·       May 1935: Jews were banned from the army.




1935 - The Nuremberg Laws

In September 1935, the Nazis announced a raft of new measures, called the Nuremberg Laws, which made persecution worse. For example, Jews were:

·       forced to travel on different parts of trams and trains.

·       forbidden from marrying German citizens.

·       made to identify themselves by wearing a coloured patch.

·       barred from being German citizens, so they could not vote or hold government office.

Incremental persecution continued until 1938, when things got much worse.



Hitler's rise to power makes a captivating story. But more interesting to most historians are the causes of what happened. You will remember that, in Unit 1, we considered the idea that the First World War had two types of cause: long and short term. You could apply the same kind of analysis to Hitler's accession to power.

These long-term causes laid the gunpowder - creating the context for Hitler's succession:

·       the weaknesses of the Weimar Republic, dating back to 1919

·       and – during the 1920s - the steady growth of the Nazi Party and Hitler's reputation as a political leader.

These short-term causes were the spark - triggering Hitler's accession to power:

·       the Wall Street Crash in 1929

·       and the decisions – in 1932 and 1933 - of men like Hindenburg and Papen.

Seeing causes in terms of long and short term can often help to clarify how a complex event happened. But in the video below, I'll be reflecting on another idea about causation in history: how far do people cause events?



Consider these factors in Hitler’s accession to power, as chancellor of Germany in January 1933.

·       Hitler’s own actions as creator of the Nazi Party and a charismatic public speaker.

·       Hindenburg and von Papen’s decision to appoint Hitler as chancellor.

·       The Wall Street Crash.





It’s clear that, to some extent, people control history. 

Hitler created an organised party and national image for himself as a powerful leader. As a result, the Nazis became the biggest Reichstag party. In this sense, there was no option but to make him chancellor.

Papen recommended Hitler and Hindenburg chose him. If they had decided otherwise, events would have been different.

So people clearly influence events, but influence is not control.

Sometimes the choices people have are shaped by outside forces. The Wall Street Crash created so much financial hardship that the German public more or less abandoned moderate parties. They turned to the Nazis and made them the biggest party in the Reichstag.

Arguably, if the Wall Street Crash had never happened, Hitler would not have come to power in 1933. So events shape the choices people have.

Perhaps it is best to think of events as the interaction of people’s actions and outside forces.


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