How did the Nazis seize power?

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Hitler gains power

Just 24 hours after taking office, Hitler called for new elections to be held on 5 March 1933. Hermann Goering, a leading Nazi who had become head of the police in Bavaria, recruited 50,000 SA and SS members into the police. They began a campaign of violence and terror against Communists and other opponents.

On 27 February 1933 the Reichstag (Parliament building) burnt down. The Nazis blamed Communists for starting the fire, and arrested and imprisoned over 4,000 of them. Hitler persuaded the aged President Hindenburg to give him emergency powers. These powers took away people’s rights and as a result marked the beginning of the breakdown of the democratic process. The SS and SA arrested thousands more Communists and other enemies of the Nazis. The new powers meant that they could be imprisoned indefinitely without trial.

Again, using these new powers, the Nazis banned newspapers, leaflets and meetings of opponents. The ensuing violence led to the deaths of more than 50 people and injuries to many more.

The Nazis increased their campaign of anti-communist and antisemitic propaganda, using the radio, newspapers, leaflets, rallies and all other opportunities at their disposal. Dr Joseph Goebbels, who became Nazi minister of culture, masterminded the campaign.


Renewed elections

In the election of 5 March, the Nazis increased their share of the vote to 44 per cent. With the support of small right-wing nationalist parties and the Catholic Centre Party, Hitler was then able to achieve a majority in the Reichstag. 

This enabled him to take control. By 444 votes to 94 the Reichstag passed an ‘Enabling law’, giving the Nazi party the power to make laws without parliamentary approval. The Nazis were now the power in Germany.