Seizure of power

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With seizure (also takeover or transfer of power ), the appointment of Adolf Hitler to Chancellor of the Reich President Paul von Hindenburg called on January 30, 1933rd In the context of the weeks beyond the date, the term encompasses the subsequent transformation of the parliamentary democracy of the Weimar Republic and its constitution, which existed up to that point, into a centralist dictatorship operating according to the National Socialist leader principle . On that day, Hitler took over the leadership of a coalition government made up of the NSDAP and national conservative allies ( DNVP , Stahlhelm ), in which only two National Socialists held government offices for the time being, Wilhelm Frick as Reich Minister of the Interior and Hermann Göring as Reich Minister without portfolio.

After the Reichstag was dissolved on February 1, the rulers restricted political and democratic rights by means of emergency presidential decrees in the weeks that followed, which were marked by National Socialist terror . The decree of the Reich President for the Protection of People and State (Reichstag Fire Decree ) of February 28, 1933 and the Enabling Act of March 24, 1933 are considered decisive steps on the way to dictatorship . The Reichstag lost practically all decision-making authority. Parliamentarians, along with many others, were locked up in concentration camps and tortured without trial .

Some historians consider the familiar terms seizure of power and assumption of power to be judgmental or imprecise; they use the terms transfer of power , transfer of power or accession to power .


Use of the term in National Socialism

Press release of the Berliner Abendblatt The attack of January 30, 1933 on the seizure of power by Adolf Hitler
On the evening of the seizure of power, National Socialists organize a torchlight procession through Berlin.

The expression of power seizure has the propaganda of the NSDAP including public speeches of Adolf Hitler, Joseph Goebbels ' and other leading Nazis, with rare exceptions, consciously and consistently avoided and instead power takeover used to the German public, there especially the middle classes, the legitimacy To pretend the continuity and peacefulness of what had happened since January 30, 1933, which had by no means existed. Comparable, authentic terms used in contemporary NSDAP propaganda both before and during the period of Nazi rule for the violent "seizure of power" consisted at most in "[government] of the national uprising" (or "national renewal"), "German revolution" and various others Compositions with -revolutionary , such as "national-revolutionary" or "social-revolutionary"; or in a repeatedly invoked and allegedly expressed in mass events, the emotionalized masses rousing "dynamic of movement".

Use of the term after 1945

Berlin, January 30, 1933, 12:40 p.m .: After his appointment as Reich Chancellor, Adolf Hitler leaves the Reich Chancellery in a car .
On the evening of January 30, 1933, Hitler received ovations from supporters and sympathizers at the window of the Reich Chancellery.

The term seizure of power is used differently in historical studies. Often he only refers to Hitler's appointment as Reich Chancellor. Martin Broszat's account of this topic ends with his entry into the Reich Chancellery on January 30, 1933. As a rule, however, historians assume that the “seizure of power” was not a selective event, but a lengthy process through which the NSDAP the Abolished democracy and consolidated their own rule. Historian Gotthard Jasper emphasizes that the outcome of this process was by no means certain from the outset; rather, there was always room for maneuver and alternative options .

The question of when this process was completed is answered differently in the literature on the history of National Socialism. For Josef Becker and Ruth Becker, the "seizure of power" ended with the enforcement of the one-party state in July 1933. Newer handbooks such as the Oldenbourg Grundriss der Geschichte or the Gebhardt argue that the "seizure of power" was not completed until the summer of 1934 - when Hitler after the Röhm Putsch and the death of Hindenburg also took over the powers of the Reich President. The leader state was thus firmly established.

The more recent scientific literature often puts the word "seizure of power" in quotation marks. Because this term represents the takeover as a kind of coup in which the people take a passive role. In fact, however, the NSDAP had not inconsiderable popular support . In addition, conservative politicians and parties were also involved in the transfer of power to Hitler, through the appointment of Hitler as Chancellor by Hindenburg, through participation in the government led by Hitler, through the ordinances of the Reich President and through the approval of the Enabling Act in German Reichstag 1933. At the beginning of 1933, anti-communism was the link between the NSDAP and the right-wing German National People's Party (DNVP) and the parties of the center ( Zentrum , DVP , DStP ). Hitler's accession to power was legal under the law of the Weimar Republic , as were other power-political elements such as the Reichstag election on March 5, 1933 . In between, however, there were months of restrictions on freedom of the press and freedom of assembly. Because of this problem, several historians speak of a “ transfer of power ” instead of a seizure of power . Others describe the event as a whole as the phase of the National Socialist conquest of power in 1933/34.

After the Reichstag fire on February 27, 1933, the new rulers clearly violated the Weimar Constitution. With the Reichstag Fire Ordinance, Hindenburg enabled the transition to dictatorship. This ordinance was valid until the end of the Nazi state. Essential democratic principles such as the freedom of the person , of the press, expression and assembly, the letters and secrecy of telecommunications as well as the freedom of association were placed in suspended. At the same time, the NSDAP also used numerous terrorist measures to enforce its rule, with which political opponents were intimidated, arrested or murdered. According to Michael Grüttner , the Reichstag elections on March 5th can only be described as a “semi-free election” despite being carried out correctly. In this election, the NSDAP did not win the absolute majority of the seats in the Reichstag, with almost 44% , but together with its coalition partner, the DNVP, for which 8% of the voters had voted, it had a reliable parliamentary majority. Since the hundred votes of the Communist MPs were declared invalid, the National Socialist-Conservative coalition even had a majority in parliament that was almost sufficient for constitutional changes . In the presidential cabinets , through which Germany was governed from March 1930 with emergency ordinances from the Reich President, a stable majority of votes in the Reichstag was lacking. Karl Dietrich Bracher therefore also speaks of Hindenburg's presidential dictatorship , which preceded Hitler's “pseudo-legal seizure of power”.


The National Socialists had learned from the failed Hitler putsch of November 9, 1923 and developed a “legality strategy” for their “ national revolution ” to adhere formally to law and order. Accordingly, as a witness in the high treason trial against the three Reichswehr officers Hanns Ludin , Richard Scheringer and Hans Friedrich Wendt , Hitler expressly affirmed in September 1930 that his party was “based on legality” and only wanted to come to power in accordance with the constitution.

Since the election success of 1930 , Reich Chancellor Heinrich Brüning ( German Center Party ) tried to keep the constitution and the state alive with a minority government supported by the Social Democrats . Brüning enforced a ban on the SS and SA , which had to be lifted again in 1932 under pressure from Hindenburg and the right-wing national forces around Kurt von Schleicher . From an economic point of view, Brüning also exacerbated the high unemployment rate with a rigid budget equalization program by reducing employment-generating government spending instead of increasing it. Since 1932, the independent Chancellor Franz von Papen tried to work with the National Socialists in order to use their mass attachment for himself. A government coalition of the center, DNVP and NSDAP that Papen aimed for failed, however, because of Hitler's demand for Reich Chancellorship for himself. Since Papen tried to win over the National Socialists, he failed to ban the NSDAP and portray it as a party that was dangerous to the state. He and his predecessor were given the opportunity to do so by the Boxheim documents , which had surfaced in Hesse in 1931 and had betrayed plans for a Nazi coup. Instead, he himself took dictatorial measures, as Reich Chancellor deposed the SPD-led minority government of the state of Prussia (“ Prussian strike ”).

In December 1932, the new Reich Chancellor Schleicher tried to bring about a " cross-front " with the involvement of supposedly left-wing Nazis. Through joint actions with the DNVP and the Stahlhelm, such as the referendum against the Young Plan in 1930, and especially in 1931 in the " Harzburg Front ", the National Socialists were greatly upgraded and made socially acceptable. The massive support from industry claimed by the left , however, only made a minor contribution to the rise of National Socialism in this phase. It was only a few entrepreneurs who supported Hitler, for example, by submitting an industrial proposal.

The system of parliamentary democracy had already been undermined in the years since 1930, when Briining also governed with emergency ordinances in the absence of a parliamentary majority. Another step away from (party) democracy was when Papen set up a cabinet of mostly non-party ministers in 1932 (“ Cabinet of Barons ”).

Hitler had already stated in his testimony in 1930: “The constitution only prescribes the methods, but not the goal. In this constitutional way we will try to obtain the decisive majorities in the legislative bodies in order to bring the state into the form that corresponds to our ideas at the moment when we succeed. ”The majority for the Enabling Act on 23 March 1933, however, was achieved using brutal methods of violence such as the expulsion or murder of members of parliament. Despite massive street terror to intimidate politically dissenters, the NSDAP had previously failed to win an absolute majority in the election for the eighth German Reichstag .

Hitler and the NSDAP had been underestimated both by the part of the Conservatives who supported him and by their opponents from the republican camp. The conservative strategy of "framing" or "taming" the National Socialists failed because of Hitler's will to power. The conservatives had relied too much on the Reich President Hindenburg: after the Reich constitution , he could depose the Reich Chancellor. They also trusted in the rule of law and in their own social position. Therefore, they helped Hitler to undermine those free-democratic foundations on which their own security and existence depended. In addition, both Papen, Alfred Hugenberg and Schleicher ultimately spoke out in favor of Hitler's chancellorship. The last possibility of a coalition with the bourgeois center under tolerance of the SPD existed after the Reichstag elections in 1930 .

In view of the six million unemployed, the means of the general strike did not seem promising to the trade unions . A general strike or similar actions were rejected by the leading politicians of the SPD with the argument that this could give Hitler a pretext for further persecution. Only the KPD , which between November 1932 and the de facto ban on its activities in the presidential decree for the protection of the people and the state at the end of February 1933 formed the third largest parliamentary group in the Reichstag with a hundred members, was there a call for a general strike against Hitler's " fascist government Counterrevolution ”. This call for a “mass strike”, however, hardly got any real circulation. The only attempt to implement the general strike on January 31, 1933 in the Swabian industrial town of Mössingen remained isolated and was quickly crushed, its leaders sentenced to prison terms and later interned in concentration camps.

Political science classification

The term revolution for the National Socialist seizure of power was long rejected. On the one hand, because they did not want to adopt the language used by the National Socialists, who used the term themselves, on the other hand, because it did not seem to fit: the events of 1933 seemed too far from the historical archetype, the French Revolution with its ideals Freedom, equality, brotherhood removed. For Marxists , applying the concept of revolution to National Socialism was out of the question, because for them revolution has a positive connotation as the victory of an oppressed class in the class struggle . For Leon Trotsky, for example, Hitler was not a revolutionary but, on the contrary, an embodiment of the “bourgeois counterrevolution ”.

The publicist Sebastian Haffner denied the revolutionary character of the seizure of power because of the lack of ethos of the National Socialists:

“What one must at least expect from people who want to be 'revolutionaries' is that they attack, show courage, risk their lives. Barricades may be something out of date, but some form of spontaneity , uprising, engagement and insurrection seems to be essential to a real revolution. March 1933 contained none of this. His event was concocted from the strangest elements, but the only thing that was completely lacking in it was some act of courage, bravery and generosity on any part. "

In more recent representations, however, the National Socialist seizure of power is more often referred to as a revolution . In 1983 Horst Möller examined the applicability of Theodor Geiger's sociology of revolution to the events of 1933 and came to the conclusion that instead of a seizure of power one should speak more correctly and less belittlingly of a Nazi revolution . This is not contradicted by the much-vaunted legality of the process, since although all revolutions are eo ipso illegal, in 1933 only individual acts such as Hitler's appointment as Reich Chancellor were legal: Overall, the National Socialists committed so many and so weighty "violations of the spirit and letters of the Weimar people." Constitution that there can be no doubt about the illegality and consequently also from this aspect of the revolutionary character of the Nazi seizure of power. "

1987 Rainer Zitelmann introduced Hitler in his dissertation . Self-image of a revolutionary offers two arguments for the fact that a revolution took place in Germany in 1933: On the one hand, Hitler's revolutionary “social program”, which goes far beyond racist fantasies of destruction , is the cause of his mass attachment. On the other hand, Zitelmann, following Ernst Nolte , differs from a “normative” concept of revolution in which only positive developments appeared revolutionary. Empirically , one can say that revolution is neutral rather than “profound, i.e. H. Understand change that is clearly different from normal changes and permanent in its effects ”, which is not necessarily violent and is not limited to the political sphere. Understood in this way, Hitler's “legal revolution” should be understood as such. This interpretation met with some decided contradiction.

In his German History of Society 2003, Hans-Ulrich Wehler speaks of a totalitarian revolution, based on Richard Löwenthal , to which he counts the October Revolution of 1917, the National Socialist seizure of power and the Chinese revolution : They are all characterized by a lasting upheaval with both constructive and destructive effects Elements, a dissolution of the previous system of rule and society, extreme polarization within society, a dogged power struggle, a spectacular event, new ideas of legitimation and institutions, an exchange of elites and a change in mentalities. Michael Grüttner argues similarly . Riccardo Bavaj's overview, with reference to Sigmund Neumann, assumes a permanent revolution "aimed at political, 'ethnic' and 'racial' homogenization as well as an 'unlimited expansion' of the National Socialist 'area of ​​command'."


Austria and Sudetenland

In Austria especially worked Theodor Habicht for a seizure of power in Nazi sense. In 1934 there was the July coup , which failed. During this putsch, the then Federal Chancellor Engelbert Dollfuss was murdered. With the annexation of Austria in March 1938 the Greater German Reich came into being .

In the Sudetenland , Konrad Henlein founded the Sudeten German Home Front in 1933, renamed the Sudeten German Party in 1935 . In autumn 1938 the area was incorporated into the German Reich as Reichsgau Sudetenland .

Nazi propaganda, later forms of commemoration

In Germany, the National Socialists celebrated January 30th as the day of the national uprising and the beginning of their takeover by ordering public buildings to be flagged with the swastika flag .

Since 1996, the Day of Remembrance of the Victims of National Socialism on January 27 has also served as a reminder of the seizure of power.


Web links

Wiktionary: seizure of power  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Norbert Frei : Seizure of Power - Notes on a Historical Term (PDF; 8.2 MB), in: Vierteljahrshefte für Zeitgeschichte (VfZ) 31/1983, pp. 136–145.
  2. Richard J. Evans: The Third Reich - Rise. Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag, Munich 2005, ISBN 3-423-34191-2 , p. 569.
  3. See Klaus-Jürgen Müller: Das Heer and Hitler. Army and National Socialist regime 1933–1940. 2nd edition, Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt, Stuttgart 1988, p. 37 .
  4. Martin Broszat: The seizure of power. The rise of the NSDAP and the destruction of the Weimar Republic. Munich 1984.
  5. Gotthard Jasper: The failed taming. Paths to Hitler's seizure of power 1930–1934. edition suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 1986, pp. 8-11.
  6. Josef Becker, Ruth Becker (ed.): Hitler's seizure of power. Documents from Hitler's rise to power January 30, 1933 until the one-party state was sealed on July 14, 1933. 2nd edition, dtv, Munich 1992, ISBN 3-423-02938-2 .
  7. Klaus Hildebrand , Das Third Reich (=  Oldenbourg floor plan of history , vol. 17), 7th edition, Munich 2009, p. 17.
  8. Michael Grüttner: The Third Reich. 1933–1939 (=  Handbook of German History , Volume 19), Klett-Cotta, Stuttgart 2014, p. 78.
  9. Cf. Uwe Andersen , Wichard Woyke (Ed.): Concise dictionary of the political system of the Federal Republic of Germany. 2nd edition, Springer, Wiesbaden 1995, p. 391 .
  10. Cf. Eberhard Kolb , Dirk Schumann : The Weimar Republic. 8th edition, Munich 2013, p. 277; Gunter Mai: The Weimar Republic. Munich 2009, p. 105; Hans-Ulrich Wehler : German history of society. Vol. 4, 2nd edition, Munich 2003, p. 585.
  11. ^ For example Bernd-Jürgen Wendt : The National Socialist Germany (contributions to politics and contemporary history). Edited by the State Center for Political Education in Berlin in conjunction with Eckhard Jesse , Leske + Budrich, Opladen 2000, ISBN 3-8100-2513-5 , p. 88 ; Hans-Ulrich Thamer , Der Nationalozialismus , Reclam, Stuttgart 2002 (= Universal Library; 17037), ISBN 3-15-017037-0 , p. 15.
  12. Michael Grüttner, The Third Reich. 1933–1939 (=  Handbook of German History , Volume 19), Klett-Cotta, Stuttgart 2014, p. 51 ff.
  13. ^ Karl Dietrich Bracher : The German dictatorship. Origin, structures, consequences of National Socialism. 3rd edition, Kiepenheuer & Witsch, Cologne 1969, pp. 337, 401.
  14. 80 years ago: Reichstag passed Enabling Act , background report by the Federal Agency for Civic Education / bpb , March 22, 2013; Wolfgang Stenke, intimidation, tricks and sheer terror , Deutschlandradio Kultur , calendar sheet / article from March 23, 2013.
  15. See Joachim Fest : Coup. The long way to July 20 , Siedler, Berlin 1994, pp. 30–33.
  16. Digitized version of the original leaflet of the KPD Württemberg with the call for a general strike against Hitler ( memento of April 8, 2014 in the Internet Archive ) (PDF).
  17. Hans-Joachim Althaus (ed.) U. a .: "There was nothing there except here" - The red Mössingen in the general strike against Hitler. History of a Swabian workers' village , Rotbuch-Verlag, Berlin 1982, ISBN 3-88022-242-8 .
  18. ^ Rainer Zitelmann : Hitler. Self-image of a revolutionary . Third edition, Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, Darmstadt 1990, p. 31 f.
  19. Leon Trotsky: What Now? Questions of fate for the German proletariat . Berlin 1932, Chapter 6 ( online , accessed February 22, 2017).
  20. Sebastian Haffner: History of a German . The memories 1914–1933 . Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt, Stuttgart / Munich 2000, Chapter 20.
  21. ^ Horst Möller: The National Socialist seizure of power. Counterrevolution or Revolution? In: Vierteljahrshefte für Zeitgeschichte 31 (1983), issue 1, pp. 25–51, the quotation p. 48 ( online , accessed on February 22, 2017).
  22. ^ Rainer Zitelmann: Hitler. Self-image of a revolutionary . Third edition, Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, Darmstadt 1990, pp. 31 ff. And 39.
  23. Wolfgang Wippermann : Controversial past. Facts and controversies about National Socialism. Berlin 1998, p. 67.
  24. ^ Hans-Ulrich Wehler: German history of society. Vol. 4, Munich 2003, p. 601 f. and 619 ff.
  25. ^ Michael Grüttner: Arsonists and honest men. Germany 1933–1939. Stuttgart 2015, p. 10.
  26. ^ Riccardo Bavaj: The National Socialism. Origin, Rise, and Rule. Berlin 2016, p. 72.
  27. Holocaust Remembrance. Lammert: Hitler's takeover of power no industrial accident , FAZ from January 30, 2013.