Justifying the National Socialist Reaction to the Reichstag Fire, Part 2 - The Inevitability of the Enabling Act

  • Rise of the NSDAP

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What follows are book excerpts and notes which were prepared for this presentation.

Justifying the National Socialist Reaction to the Reichstag Fire, Part 2 - The Inevitability of the Enabling Act

In part one of this series, we showed that the threat of a Communist revolution in Germany was very real, and that the threat was recognized by the German Federal Government, right up through the early 1930's. We also saw that in its own propaganda, the German Communist Party itself had been threatening such a revolution through all of the years of the Weimar Republic. Therefore when the Reichstag burned, and the culprit was found to be a communist who admitted torching the building for the purpose of setting off such a revolution, whether the Communist Party itself was complicit or not is immaterial, the NSDAP and the German government as a whole had every right to believe that such a revolution was the purpose of the fire, and the Communist Party was therefore banned.

Here we shall present material from Mein Kampf which clearly shows that if the NSDAP ever came to power, the dissolution of other political parties and the parliamentary democracy in Germany as a whole was only inevitable, and therefore in 1933, the Enabling Act was indeed also inevitable.

Hitler, talking about the years leading up to the First World War, explains that the liberal press, which he distinguishes from the “lying Marxist press”, had all along been conditioning people to accept “western democracy”, while Germany was a monarchy, and that it was also instilling a morality of pacifism into the people, which Hitler considered to be a part of the war against Germany by the plutocratic forces, culminating in the First World War. Hitler understood the failure of the German monarchy to protect itself as an institution, the nature of the bureaucrats who were supported by the monarchy but failed to support it in return, and the methods that the press used to undermine the State while the State did nothing to curtail it. All of this led to the dominance of Germany by the international Jews under Versailles and the Weimar Republic. With this we understand Hitler's appreciation for authoritarian government, his disdain for democracy, and his further disdain for a State that has no control over the press, where money becomes the real threat and not freedom of speech.

From Chapter 10 of Book 1 of Mein Kampf (pages 137-139 of the edition posted at Christogenea):

It is clear that the worth and significance of the monarchical principle cannot rest in the person of the monarch alone, unless Heaven decrees that the crown should be set on the head of a brilliant hero like Frederick the Great, or a sagacious person like William I. This may happen once in several centuries, but hardly oftener than that. The ideal of the monarchy takes precedence of the person of the monarch, inasmuch as the meaning of the institution must lie in the institution itself. Thus the monarchy may be reckoned in the category of those whose duty it is to serve. He, too, is but a wheel in this machine and as such he is obliged to do his duty towards it. He has to adapt himself for the fulfilment of high aims. If, therefore, there were no significance attached to the idea itself and everything merely centred around the 'sacred' person, then it would never be possible to depose a ruler who has shown himself to be an imbecile.

[In chapter 12 of Book 1 Hitler outlines the National Socialist principles of governance and explains that the party indeed had a way to replace its own rulers if perhaps one turned out to be such an imbecile.]

It is essential to insist upon this truth at the present time, because recently those phenomena have appeared again and were in no small measure responsible for the collapse of the monarchy. With a certain amount of native impudence these persons once again talk about 'their King'--that is to say, the man whom they shamefully deserted a few years ago at a most critical hour. Those who refrain from participating in this chorus of lies are summarily classified as 'bad Germans'. They who make the charge are the same class of quitters who ran away in 1918 and took to wearing red badges. They thought that discretion was the better part of valour. They were indifferent about what happened to the Kaiser. They camouflaged themselves as 'peaceful citizens' but more often than not they vanished altogether. All of a sudden these champions of royalty were nowhere to be found at that time. Circumspectly, one by one, these 'servants and counsellors' of the Crown reappeared, to resume their lip-service to royalty but only after others had borne the brunt of the anti-royalist attack and suppressed the Revolution for them. Once again they were all there. remembering wistfully the flesh-pots of Egypt and almost bursting with devotion for the royal cause. This went on until the day came when red badges were again in the ascendant. Then this whole ramshackle assembly of royal worshippers scuttled anew like mice from the cats.

[The reference to the “flesh-pots of Egypt” is a reference to the Exodus and the weak will of many of the Israelites, who would have returned to decadence in slavery rather than face the difficult challenges which lie ahead.]

If monarchs were not themselves responsible for such things one could not help sympathizing with them. But they must realize that with such champions thrones can be lost but certainly never gained.

All this devotion was a mistake and was the result of our whole system of education, which in this case brought about a particularly severe retribution. Such lamentable trumpery was kept up at the various courts that the monarchy was slowly becoming under mined. When finally it did begin to totter, everything was swept away. Naturally, grovellers and lick-spittles are never willing to die for their masters. That monarchs never realize this, and almost on principle never really take the trouble to learn it, has always been their undoing.

One visible result of wrong educational system was the fear of shouldering responsibility and the resultant weakness in dealing with obvious vital problems of existence.

The starting point of this epidemic, however, was in our parliamentary institution where the shirking of responsibility is particularly fostered. Unfortunately the disease slowly spread to all branches of everyday life but particularly affected the sphere of public affairs. Responsibility was being shirked everywhere and this led to insufficient or half-hearted measures being taken, personal responsibility for each act being reduced to a minimum.

If we consider the attitude of various Governments towards a whole series of really pernicious phenomena in public life, we shall at once recognize the fearful significance of this policy of half-measures and the lack of courage to undertake responsibilities. I shall single out only a few from the large numbers of instances known to me.

In journalistic circles it is a pleasing custom to speak of the Press as a 'Great Power' within the State. As a matter of fact its importance is immense. One cannot easily overestimate it, for the Press continues the work of education even in adult life. Generally, readers of the Press can be classified into three groups:

  • First, those who believe everything they read;

  • Second, those who no longer believe anything;

  • Third, those who critically examine what they read and form their judgments accordingly.

Numerically, the first group is by far the strongest, being composed of the broad masses of the people. Intellectually, it forms the simplest portion of the nation. It cannot be classified according to occupation but only into grades of intelligence. Under this category come all those who have not been born to think for themselves or who have not learnt to do so and who, partly through incompetence and partly through ignorance, believe everything that is set before them in print. To these we must add that type of lazy individual who, although capable of thinking for himself out of sheer laziness gratefully absorbs everything that others had thought over, modestly believing this to have been thoroughly done. The influence which the Press has on all these people is therefore enormous; for after all they constitute the broad masses of a nation. But, somehow they are not in a position or are not willing personally to sift what is being served up to them; so that their whole attitude towards daily problems is almost solely the result of extraneous influence. All this can be advantageous where public enlightenment is of a serious and truthful character, but great harm is done when scoundrels and liars take a hand at this work.

The second group is numerically smaller, being partly composed of those who were formerly in the first group and after a series of bitter disappointments are now prepared to believe nothing of what they see in print. They hate all newspapers. Either they do not read them at all or they become exceptionally annoyed at their contents, which they hold to be nothing but a congeries of lies and misstatements. These people are difficult to handle; for they will always be sceptical of the truth. Consequently, they are useless for any form of positive work. The third group is easily the smallest, being composed of real intellectuals whom natural aptitude and education have taught to think for themselves and who in all things try to form their own judgments, while at the same time carefully sifting what they read. They will not read any newspaper without using their own intelligence to collaborate with that of the writer and naturally this does not set writers an easy task. Journalists appreciate this type of reader only with a certain amount of reservation.

Hence the trash that newspapers are capable of serving up is of little danger--much less of importance--to the members of the third group of readers. In the majority of cases these readers have learnt to regard every journalist as fundamentally a rogue who sometimes speaks the truth. Most unfortunately, the value of these readers lies in their intelligence and not in their numerical strength, an unhappy state of affairs in a period where wisdom counts for nothing and majorities for everything. Nowadays when the voting papers of the masses are the deciding factor; the decision lies in the hands of the numerically strongest group; that is to say the first group, the crowd of simpletons and the credulous.

It is an all-important interest of the State and a national duty to prevent these people from falling into the hands of false, ignorant or even evil-minded teachers. Therefore it is the duty of the State to supervise their education and prevent every form of offence in this respect. Particular attention should be paid to the Press; for its influence on these people is by far the strongest and most penetrating of all; since its effect is not transitory but continual. Its immense significance lies in the uniform and persistent repetition of its teaching. Here, if anywhere, the State should never forget that all means should converge towards the same end. It must not be led astray by the will-o'-the-wisp of so-called 'freedom of the Press', or be talked into neglecting its duty, and withholding from the nation that which is good and which does good. With ruthless determination the State must keep control of this instrument of popular education and place it at the service of the State and the Nation.

But what sort of pabulum was it that the German Press served up for the consumption of its readers in pre-War days? Was it not the worst virulent poison imaginable? Was not pacifism in its worst form inoculated into our people at a time when others were preparing slowly but surely to pounce upon Germany? Did not this self-same Press of ours in peace time already instil into the public mind a doubt as to the sovereign rights of the State itself, thereby already handicapping the State in choosing its means of defence? Was it not the German Press that under stood how to make all the nonsensical talk about 'Western democracy' palatable to our people, until an exuberant public was eventually prepared to entrust its future to the League of Nations? Was not this Press instrumental in bringing in a state of moral degradation among our people? Were not morals and public decency made to look ridiculous and classed as out-of-date and banal, until finally our people also became modernized? By means of persistent attacks, did not the Press keep on undermining the authority of the State, until one blow sufficed to bring this institution tottering to the ground? Did not the Press oppose with all its might every movement to give the State that which belongs to the State, and by means of constant criticism, injure the reputation of the army, sabotage general conscription and demand refusal of military credits, etc.--until the success of this campaign was assured?

Because Mein Kampf is an entire thesis on German society and governance, which was formed out of Adolf Hitler's understanding of the destruction of a long-standing monarchical Germany at the hands of the international Jew, the ideas which it expresses are closely inter-connected, and it is sometimes difficult to determine exactly where one should begin and end quoting from it in order to make a point or illustrate an idea. In this next section, Hitler outlines the basic National Socialist principles of governance, and some of the reasons for which those principles were developed:

From Chapter 12 of Book 1 of Mein Kampf (pages 194-139 of the edition posted at Christogenea):

Social-Democracy and the whole Marxist movement were particularly qualified to attract the great masses of the nation, because of the uniformity of the public to which they addressed their appeal. The more limited and narrow their ideas and arguments, the easier it was for the masses to grasp and assimilate them; for those ideas and arguments were well adapted to a low level of intelligence.

These considerations led the new movement to adopt a clear and simple line of policy, which was as follows:

In its message as well as in its forms of expression the propaganda must be kept on a level with the intelligence of the masses, and its value must be measured only by the actual success it achieves.

At a public meeting where the great masses are gathered together the best speaker is not he whose way of approaching a subject is most akin to the spirit of those intellectuals who may happen to be present, but the speaker who knows how to win the hearts of the masses.

An educated man who is present and who finds fault with an address because he considers it to be on an intellectual plane that is too low, though he himself has witnessed its effect on the lower intellectual groups whose adherence has to be won, only shows himself completely incapable of rightly judging the situation and therewith proves that he can be of no use in the new movement. Only intellectuals can be of use to a movement who understand its mission and its aims so well that they have learned to judge our methods of propaganda exclusively by the success obtained and never by the impression which those methods made on the intellectuals themselves. For our propaganda is not meant to serve as an entertainment for those people who already have a nationalist outlook, but its purpose is to win the adhesion of those who have hitherto been hostile to national ideas and who are nevertheless of our own blood and race.

In general, those considerations of which I have given a brief summary in the chapter on 'War Propaganda' became the guiding rules and principles which determined the kind of propaganda we were to adopt in our campaign and the manner in which we were to put it into practice. The success that has been obtained proves that our decision was right.

  1. The ends which any political reform movement sets out to attain can never be reached by trying to educate the public or influence those in power but only by getting political power into its hands. Every idea that is meant to move the world has not only the right but also the obligation of securing control of those means which will enable the idea to be carried into effect. In this world success is the only rule of judgment whereby we can decide whether such an undertaking was right or wrong. And by the word 'success' in this connection I do not mean such a success as the mere conquest of power in 1918 but the successful issue whereby the common interests of the nation have been served. A coup d'etat cannot be considered successful if, as many empty-headed government lawyers in Germany now believe, the revolutionaries succeeded in getting control of the State into their hands but only if, in comparison with the state of affairs under the old regime, the lot of the nation has been improved when the aims and intentions on which the revolution was based have been put into practice. This certainly does not apply to the German Revolution, as that movement was called, which brought a gang of bandits into power in the autumn of 1918.

But if the conquest of political power be a requisite preliminary for the practical realization of the ideals that inspire a reform movement, then any movement which aims at reform must, from the very first day of its activity, be considered by its leaders as a movement of the masses and not as a literary tea club or an association of philistines who meet to play ninepins.

(9) The nature and internal organization of the new movement make it anti-parliamentarian. That is to say, it rejects in general and in its own structure all those principles according to which decisions are to be taken on the vote of the majority and according to which the leader is only the executor of the will and opinion of others. The movement lays down the principle that, in the smallest as well as in the greatest problems, one person must have absolute authority and bear all responsibility.

In our movement the practical consequences of this principle are the following:

The president of a large group is appointed by the head of the group immediately above his in authority. He is then the responsible leader of his group. All the committees are subject to his authority and not he to theirs. There is no such thing as committees that vote but only committees that work. This work is allotted by the responsible leader, who is the president of the group. The same principle applies to the higher organizations--the Bezirk (district), the Kreis (urban circuit) and the Gau (the region). In each case the president is appointed from above and is invested with full authority and executive power. Only the leader of the whole party is elected at the general meeting of the members. But he is the sole leader of the movement. All the committees are responsible to him, but he is not responsible to the committees. His decision is final, but he bears the whole responsibility of it. The members of the movement are entitled to call him to account by means of a new election, or to remove him from office if he has violated the principles of the movement or has not served its interests adequately. He is then replaced by a more capable man. who is invested with the same authority and obliged to bear the same responsibility.

[This form of government is very close to what is found of the children of Israel in Exodus chapter 18, with the one exception that we must esteem Moses to have been chosen by God, and not by the people. From Exodus 18: “ 19 Hearken now unto my voice, I will give thee counsel, and God shall be with thee: Be thou for the people to God-ward, that thou mayest bring the causes unto God: 20 And thou shalt teach them ordinances and laws, and shalt shew them the way wherein they must walk, and the work that they must do. 21 Moreover thou shalt provide out of all the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness; and place such over them, to be rulers of thousands, and rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens: 22 And let them judge the people at all seasons: and it shall be, that every great matter they shall bring unto thee, but every small matter they shall judge: so shall it be easier for thyself, and they shall bear the burden with thee. 23 If thou shalt do this thing, and God command thee so, then thou shalt be able to endure, and all this people shall also go to their place in peace.”]

One of the highest duties of the movement is to make this principle imperative not only within its own ranks but also for the whole State.

The man who becomes leader is invested with the highest and unlimited authority, but he also has to bear the last and gravest responsibility.

The man who has not the courage to shoulder responsibility for his actions is not fitted to be a leader. Only a man of heroic mould can have the vocation for such a task.

Human progress and human cultures are not founded by the multitude. They are exclusively the work of personal genius and personal efficiency.

Because of this principle, our movement must necessarily be anti-parliamentarian, and if it takes part in the parliamentary institution it is only for the purpose of destroying this institution from within; in other words, we wish to do away with an institution which we must look upon as one of the gravest symptoms of human decline.

(10) The movement steadfastly refuses to take up any stand in regard to those problems which are either outside of its sphere of political work or seem to have no fundamental importance for us. It does not aim at bringing about a religious reformation, but rather a political reorganization of our people. It looks upon the two religious denominations as equally valuable mainstays for the existence of our people, and therefore it makes war on all those parties which would degrade this foundation, on which the religious and moral stability of our people is based, to an instrument in the service of party interests.

[Here we can see that Hitler did not compromise in his relations with Christians when he rose to power, but rather he outlined years before his party's ascension that the Christian denominations were valuable to the spiritual health of the people, and that therefore the party would not meddle in religious affairs. Hitler was not compromising, but was rather acting on the values he had, which he had previously reflected in Mein Kampf.]

Finally, the movement does not aim at establishing any one form of State or trying to destroy another, but rather to make those fundamental principles prevail without which no republic and no monarchy can exist for any length of time. The movement does not consider its mission to be the establishment of a monarchy or the preservation of the Republic but rather to create a German State.

The problem concerning the outer form of this State, that is to say, its final shape, is not of fundamental importance. It is a problem which must be solved in the light of what seems practical and opportune at the moment.

Once a nation has understood and appreciated the great problems that affect its inner existence, the question of outer formalities will never lead to any internal conflict.

These words from Mein Kampf more than demonstrate, that if the National Socialists ever came to power in Germany, then the Enabling Act was inevitable, and Adolf Hitler warned of it long before the NSDAP did come to power. When the German people put Hitler in power, they were essentially asking for the dissolution of Parliamentary democracy in Germany! It is not Adolf Hitler's fault, that he was one politician who actually kept his promises.

From the beginning of a rather long article by Leon Degrelle, entitled How Hitler Consolidated Power in Germany and Launched A Social Revolution, which was published by the the Institute for Historical Review in the Fall of 1992, we have a glimpse of the Germany that Hitler gained political control of, a Germany which was broken and starving under the double yoke of both Versailles and the Depression:

Half a century later [I think Degrelle had written this while in Spain in the 1980's], few people understand the crisis Germany faced at that time. Today, it's easy to assume that Germans have always been well-fed and even plump. But the Germans Hitler inherited were virtual skeletons.

During the preceding years, a score of "democratic" governments had come and gone, often in utter confusion. Instead of alleviating the people's misery, they had increased it, due to their own instability: it was impossible for them to pursue any given plan for more than a year or two. Germany had arrived at a dead end. In just a few years there had been 224,000 suicides - a horrifying figure, bespeaking a state of misery even more horrifying.

By the beginning of 1933, the misery of the German people was virtually universal. At least six million unemployed and hungry workers roamed aimlessly through the streets, receiving a pitiful unemployment benefit of less than 42 marks per month. Many of those out of work had families to feed, so that altogether some 20 million Germans, a third of the country's population, were reduced to trying to survive on about 40 pfennigs per person per day.

Further on in that same article, there is a lengthy section discussing Hitler's ascension to power and the Enabling Act:

These last chancellors -- Herr Brüning, Herr von Papen, and General Schleicher -- were able to maintain rule only by executive decree. Their authority, artificially sustained by misuse of Article 48, was dependent on von Hindenburg and the camarilla advising him. Just how slim was their level of popular support was shown in a particularly humiliating 1932 Reichstag "vote of confidence," in which more than 90 percent of the deputies voted against him and his government.

Hitler's accession to power abruptly brought an end to government impotence. As a condition of appointing him, however, Hindenburg had demanded that the new chancellor be hemmed in like a prisoner in his own government. In his first government, Hitler was obliged to name four times as many conservative -- or better, reactionary - ministers as his own men. Just two members of his first cabinet were National Socialists.

Hindenburg's representatives were given the mission of keeping Hitler on a leash. At the Reichstag session of March 24, however, Hitler broke that leash, not with yet another executive decree (like his immediate predecessors), but by obtaining a two-thirds parliamentary majority for the "Enabling Act" that legally amended the constitution and gave him sweeping plenary powers for a period of four years.

Four years in power to plan, create and make decisions. Politically, it was a revolution: Hitler's first revolution. And completely democratic, as had been every stage of his rise. His initial triumph had come through the support of the electorate. Similarly, sweeping authority to govern was granted him through a vote of more than two-thirds of the Reichstag's deputies, elected by universal suffrage.

This was in accord with a basic principle of Hitler's: no power without the freely given approval of the people. He used to say: "If you can win mastery over the people only by imposing the power of the state, you'd better figure on a nine o'clock curfew."

Nowhere in twentieth-century Europe had the authority of a head of state ever been based on such overwhelming and freely given national consent. Prior to Hitler, from 1919 to 1932, those governments piously styling themselves democratic had usually come to power by meager majorities, sometimes as low as 51 or 52 percent.

"I am not a dictator," Hitler had often affirmed, "and I never will be. Democracy will be rigorously enforced by National Socialism."

Authority does not mean tyranny. A tyrant is someone who puts himself in power without the will of the people or against the will of the people. A democrat is placed in power by the people. But democracy is not limited to a single formula. It may be partisan or parliamentary. Or it may be authoritarian. The important thing is that the people have wished it, chosen it, established it in its given form.

That was the case with Hitler. He came to power in an essentially democratic way. Whether one likes it or not, this fact is undeniable. And after coming to power, his popular support measurably increased from year to year. The more intelligent and honest of his enemies have been obliged to admit this, men such as the declared anti-Nazi historian and professor Joachim Fest, who wrote:

For Hitler was never interested in establishing a mere tyranny. Sheer greed for power will not suffice as explanation for his personality and energy -- He was not born to be a mere tyrant. He was fixated upon his mission of defending Europe and the Aryan race ... Never had he felt so dependent upon the masses as he did at this time, and he watched their reactions with anxious concern.

These lines weren't written by Dr. Goebbels, but by a stern critic of Hitler and his career. (J. Fest, Hitler, New York: 1974, p. 417.)

By February 28, 1933, less than a month after his appointment as chancellor, Hitler had already managed to free himself of the conservative ballast by which Hindenburg had thought to weigh him down. The Reichstag fire of the previous evening prompted the elderly President to approve a new emergency law "For the Protection of the People and the State," which considerably increased the powers of the executive.

Hitler meant, however, to obtain more than just concessions ruefully granted by a pliable old man: he sought plenary powers legally accorded him by the nation's supreme democratic institution, the Reichstag. Hitler prepared his coup with the skill, the patience, and the astuteness for which he is legendary. "He possessed," historian Fest later wrote, "an intelligence that included above all a sure sense of the rhythm to be observed in the making of decisions."

After explaining how at first von Hindenburg tried to contain Hitler, but that Hitler then won over the hearts, confidence and sympathies of not only the sentimental von Hindenburg but also many of the monarchists and Wehrmacht officers by arranging a glorious celebration of Germany's illustrious past at Potsdam, Degrelle continues:

In order to establish his new state in definitive form, Hitler now proposed to obtain the official ratification of the Reichstag, which would establish his authority to govern as a virtual dictator for a period of several years.

To gain such plenary powers lawfully, the German constitution had to be amended, and this would require approval by two thirds of the parliament's members.

Hitler's party, having won 17,300,000 votes in the elections of March 5, 1933, for the new Reichstag, held a total of 288 seats - making it by far the largest single party. His conservative ally in the temporary partnership, Hugenberg's German National People's Party (DNVP), had captured 4,750,000 votes and held another 52 seats, giving the coalition a total of 340 deputies.

After deducting the 81 "empty" Communist seats, the opposition now mustered just 226 members: 120 Social Democrats, 92 (Catholic) Center and BVP deputies, and 14 others.

Although his coalition held a majority of seats, to alter the constitution Hitler needed a two thirds majority -- which meant 36 additional votes.

At first sight, this goal seemed almost impossible. For more than a decade, the Catholic Center and Bavarian People's parties had been outspoken critics of Hitler and his National Socialist movement, unhesitatingly using religion as a partisan political weapon, and even denying religious burial to Catholic National Socialists murdered by Communist killers.

Hitler, with the assistance of Göring (who was now president of the new Reichstag), would now have to win over that clerical flock. Center party leader Monsignor Kaas, a squat and pudgy prelate who found the collecting of votes to be more satisfying than the guidance of souls, was flattered and courted by Hitler, who dangled before him the promise of a rapprochement between the state and the Catholic Church, an earnest promise that Hitler would make good on the following summer. The beguiled prelate may have believed that he was going to lead errant sheep back to the fold. In any case, Hitler succeeded in persuading and seducing the Center party. Some deputies of the smaller opposition parties also yielded.

When it came time to vote, Hitler was granted plenary powers with a sweeping majority of 441 votes to 94: he had won not just two thirds, but 82.44 percent of the assembly's votes. This "Enabling Act" granted Hitler for four years virtually absolute authority over the legislative as well as the executive affairs of the government.

The five paragraphs of this "Law for the Alleviation of the Misery of the People and the Nation" were brief and to the point:

  1. Laws may be promulgated by the Reich government apart from the procedures provided for by the Constitution ...

  2. Laws promulgated by the Reich government may deviate from the Constitution provided they do not change the position of the Reichstag or of the Reichsrat. The powers of the Reich President are not changed.

  3. Laws promulgated by the Reich government will be prepared by the Chancellor and published in the "Official Journal." Unless otherwise specified, they become effective on the day following publication ...

  4. Treaties concluded by the Reich with foreign states that concern matters of national legislation do not require ratification by the legislative bodies. The Reich government is empowered to issue the regulations necessary for their execution.

  5. This law becomes effective on the day of publication, and remains valid until April 1, 1937. It also becomes invalid if the present government is replaced by another.

Berlin, March 24, 1933

Von Hindenburg, Hitler, Frick, von Neurath, Krosigk

Thus, a parliamentary democracy, exercising its constitutional powers, had legally established an authoritarian national state. Next, a solution was needed to problem of the horde of the competing regional, state and local parliaments, jurisdictions and authorities. For the most part, these authorities were virtual nullities, and there was no love lost between them. For fourteen years, though, they had acted together whenever a opportunity presented itself to thwart the central government in Berlin.

It was inconceivable that a strong government such as the one Hitler had just established could function effectively with thousands of second-level politicians carping and questioning his every move. Anyway, Germans had in fact become sick and tired of the squandering of authority, the perpetual squabbling, the pettiness, discord, and the anarchy for which, in the final analysis, it was the people who paid.

"It is a fact," French historian Bénoist-Méchin later observed, "that the unification of the states and the Reich answered one of the most profound aspirations of the German people. They had enough of being torn apart by the constant threats of secession of the provincial governments. For centuries they had dreamed of being part of a single community." (Histoire de l'Armée Allemande, vol. III, p. 117.)

It seemed a simple enough task, because public opinion demanded the abolition of the administrative mess. But such a reform would necessarily bruise the vanity of thousands and collide head-on with many local special interests.

A man who is a council president or a minister, even if only of a small state, does not easily resign himself to being no more than a private citizen, to once again becoming, let us say, a provincial lawyer scampering to the court house with coattails flying. The 2,400 legislative deputies would also be bitter about losing the good life they had come to know and expect. Gone the prestige, the deference, the awards, the vacation trips at public expense, the discreet gratuities! Who among us does not make a wry face when swallowing bitter medicine? But it had to be, for Hitler had his eyes fixed on the national goal: a unified nation.