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German Federal Archive
Hitler addresses the Reichstag before the passage of the Enabling Act, March 1933.

On This Day: Nazis Ban All Other Political Parties

July 14, 2011 06:00 AM
by Denis Cummings
On July 14, 1933, Adolf Hitler’s Nazi Party officially declared itself the only political party in Germany and outlawed the formation of any other parties.

The Road to One-Party Rule

Adolf Hitler became Chancellor of Germany on Jan. 30, 1933. Immediately, he set in place a plan to take full control of the country’s political and economic institutions using a policy called “Gleichschaltung,” meaning a switch to the same wavelength.

On Feb. 27, the Reichstag building, home of the German parliament, was set on fire. Dutch communist Marinus van der Lubbe was found inside, and the Nazis claimed that he was part of a communist plot to overthrow the government.

The following day, Hitler issued a decree “for the Protection of the People and the State,” commonly known as the Reichstag Fire Decree. It stripped citizens of their constitutional liberties and allowed the Nazi government to arrest communist leaders. Many historians believe that the Reichstag fire was started by the Nazis to justify the decree.

Hitler’s coalition government would gain a small majority in the March general elections and, with communist officials in prison, pass the Enabling Act on March 23. It stripped the Reichstag of its legislative powers and created the legal basis for Hitler’s dictatorship.
Only the Social Democratic Party voted against the act. Chairman Otto Wels, speaking before the legislature and a crowd of Nazi brownshirts there to intimidate delegates, gave an emotional speech decrying the Enabling Act. “Freedom and life can be taken from us, but not our honor,” he declared.

With full control of the country, the Nazi Party outlawed the Social Democratic Party, leaving no parties in opposition to the government. It then forced smaller parties to disband, even though they had helped him rise to power.

The last remaining party, the Catholic Centre Party, disbanded after the Nazi government agreed to a Concordat with the Vatican. “The Vatican saw common ground in the Nazis’ vehement anti-Bolshevism and hoped that by refraining from political statements and activism the Catholic Church would be spared total subordination to the Nazi regime,” according to the German Historical Institute.

On July 14, with no other parties remaining, the Nazi government passed the Law Against the Establishment of Parties, which stated, “The National Socialist German Workers Party constitutes the only political party in Germany.” Anyone attempting to establish a party other than a Nazi Party would be “punished with penal servitude up to three years or with imprisonment or with imprisonment of from six months to three years.”

Background: Rise of Hitler

Adolf Hitler was born on April 20, 1889, in Braunau am Inn, a town on the border of Austria and Germany, and grew up with a strong sense of German nationalism. As a young man, he lived in Vienna on his father’s pension, but failed to make a living as an artist.

He admired Germany and enlisted in the German Army during World War I. His fellow soldiers were impressed by his bravery and commitment to the cause, but they also found him to be a loner and prone to frequent outbursts against Jews and communists.

He was devastated when Germany surrendered and accepted the terms of the Treaty of Versailles. He blamed the Jews and communists for losing the war, and aspired to rebuild Germany into a world power.

He joined the German Workers’ Party in 1919; he soon became its leader renamed it the National Socialist German Workers’ Party, or Nazi Party. He attempted a coup d’etat—the Beer Hall Putsch—in 1923, but it failed and he was imprisoned.

The Nazis gained supporters after the coup, appealing to Germans who wanted strong, nationalist leadership in place of the weak and ineffective Weimar government. Although the government had issued bans on the party, it won many seats in the 1930 election and became a viable political party.

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