Hitler the Politician

In modern society the name Adolf Hitler is synonymous for evil. As the perpetrator of the greatest crime of this century and its most destructive war, Mr. Hitler well deserves this reputation.

Yet too often in speaking of Adolf Hitler people forget the man and see only the legend he has become. Hitler, after all, gained power as a politician in a democratic Germany. He played the game of compromises, elections, and leverage that all politicians play. Indeed, Hitler was quite adept at politics; without his skill the National Socialists would have remained a fringe party like so many others

Take the Enabling Act of 1933, the law which effectively turned a semi-democratic Germany into a one-party dictatorship. It essentially shifted all power – the ability to make laws, most importantly – from the legislative Reichstag (Germany’s parliament) to Germany’s executive government (Hitler, in other words). One clause, for instance, read:

Treaties of the Reich with foreign states which affect matters of Reich legislation shall not require the approval of the bodies of the legislature. The government of the Reich shall issue the regulations required for the execution of such treaties.

In getting this law passed Hitler could not merely declare his will and have all Germany follow; there were still checks against his power at that time. Because the Enabling Act modified the Germany’s constitution, it required a two-thirds majority in parliament. At the time the Nazis only controlled 288 out of 647 seats (under semi-free elections taken during the same month of March). Moreover, the Social Democrats and Communists – which together held almost one-third of parliament’s seats – were adamantly opposed to the Enabling Act. If Hitler was to pass his law, he would have to tread a very fine needle.

Events, however, had provided a useful tool for Hitler to wipe out his political opposition. A month before, in February 1933, unidentified arsonists set fire to the Reichstag, Germany’s parliament (today many suspect the Nazis themselves as culpable). Placing blame on the Communist Party, Hitler had passed an emergency decree eliminating civil liberties. Communist representatives in parliament were summarily jailed, prevented from voting against the Enabling Act.

Several other factors helped Hitler. The influential Catholic Centre Party agreed to support the Enabling Act; in return Hitler promised to protect the Catholic Church. Intimation was present: on the day of the vote Nazi Brown-shirts surrounded the legislature, chanting “Give us the Enabling Act or there will be another fire!” A number were present inside the building, armed and in full uniform, as voting proceeded.

In the end, the vote was 441 in favor, 94 against. On March 23rd, 1933 the Reichstag voted itself out of existence.

All in all, the Hitler portrayed here is quite different from the evil caricature. One sees a clever and ruthless politician, not a madman. Watching Hitler the politician makes the myth more mundane, but it also paints a more accurate picture of events as they were.

--Inoljt, http://mypolitikal.com/

 

 

Tags: Adolf Hitler, Enabling Act, Germany, Nazi, politician, Politics (all tags)

Comments

2 Comments

and what is the point?

of course hitler played the political game. he was an intuitive person who read and played others extremely well. yes, he did achieve leadership via the process of elections and parlimentary politics. this is not a revelation to anyone who has studied the period.

madman? yes he was....anyone who is willing to bring his adopted nation down around his head in flames as he sits in his bunker...that certainly qualifies him for madman status, at least to me. but, that does not forestall the fact a madman can be clever and have some great skills. hitler was a magician when it came to details he had read, he could spout out specs for tanks, aircraft and ships that astounded those around him. he was, as noted, intuitive and could game those he came into contact with....well, usually, though when faced with a calm, consistent line from a stable person, he typically became disoriented.

 

yes the reichstag did vote the enabling act....but the communist members were specifically barred from their seats and as you note, it was an armed camp. this is hardly politics, it was just the first note of tyranny and force being applied. yes, there were forces restraining the nazis early on, the church and the military being most notable. but the state of the economy, the deep hatred for the versailles treaty made too many in the nation susceptible to being lulled into thinking hitler could be contained, that he was just going to blow over.

 

politician yes....madman...yes

by blackflag 2010-05-10 09:29AM | 0 recs
RE: and what is the point?

It's that it's very interesting to look at Hitler as a normal politician instead of the villain everybody sees him as today. It offers an interesting, different perspective.

Everybody knows about Hitler the yelling maniac. But I bet an awful lot of people find it really weird to think of Hitler the leader of the National Socialist Party trying to make a deal with the Centre Party to cement his control.

by Inoljt 2010-05-11 12:38PM | 0 recs

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