Evaluate the view that the Nazi consolidation of power between January 1933 and August 1934 was a ‘legal process’. (10 Marks)
The period between January 1933 and August 1943 was a key period for Hitler and the Nazi party to consolidate power in the form of a dictatorship. Hitler’s change of strategy to gain power legally was an effective process as he created a legal image in the eyes of the public. For example the appearance of legality was shown in his success in the public elections and the consent from officials to join the positions of Chancellor and President, the laws that he used such as Enabling Act and the Reichstag Fire Decree, which were passed legally. However, when assessing the Nazi ‘legal’ consolidation of power it is important to address the number of non-legal factors such as the use of SA terror and the Night of the Long Knives to shape elections and eliminate political opponents that contributed to aiding the Nazi party in achieving the image of legality during their consolidation of power. Therefore, the view that the Nazi consolidation of power between January 1933 and August 1934 was, to certain extent, a legal process when considering the assisting factors that helped to consolidate their power behind the scenes.
The laws that were enacted and used by the Nazi party were apart of a legal consolidation of power. The Reichstag Fire Decree, signed on 28th February 1933 was issued by President Hindenburg through article 48 on the advice of Hitler as an immediate response to the Reichstag fire. This legally allowed the Nazis to suspend civil liberties and (as shown in source G) gave “absolute powers to the German government for 4 years”. This allowed the Nazi party to consolidate their power as the Presidential functions would cease and restricted “the rights and personal freedom and freedom of opinion”(source E). The Reichstag Fire Decree tightened the Reich’s control over state governments (“State and local authorities must obey the orders decreed by the Reichstag government” -source E) allowed the party to make arrests of many communists or socialists, eliminating many political opponents to further consolidate their position in the Reichstag. The Communist party was outlawed and not allowed to take part in the March 1933 elections.Without Communist opposition the Nazi Party gained 44% of the vote in the March 1933 elections. The German National People’s Party, who supported the Nazi Party gained 8% of the vote. This gave Hitler a majority in the Reichstag.
Additionally, the Enabling Act of 1933 was essentially a dictatorship in legality. It was an amendment to the Weimar Constitution that gave the Nazis power to enact laws without the involvement of the Reichstag. The Enabling Act gave Hitler absolute powers and followed the Reichstag Fire Decree, which had abolished most civil liberties and transferred state powers to the Reich government. The combined effect of the two laws was to transform Hitler's government into a...