The Nazis consolidation of power can be grouped into three main themes: pseudo-legality, terror and intimidation and pseudo-moderation.
Germany feared revolution. As such, the Nazis’ consolidation of power relied on maintaining the illusion of a stable democracy. This essentially meant that the Nazis used the atmosphere of panic following the Reichstag Fire to put forward the Enabling Law. Once the Enabling Law was in place, the Nazis could bypass the Reichstag and rule by decree – seemingly creating laws that stabilised Germany and got rid of its ‘internal enemies’. In reality, the laws that the Nazi’s put forward secured their future as the sole ruling party in Germany.
The support of respected individuals such as von Papen and Hindenburg’s son, Oskar von Hindenburg, gave the Nazis further legitimacy for these actions.
The Nazis immediately used the Enabling Law to remove civil rights. This meant, as well as removing other personal freedoms, that the Nazis could now imprison their political opposition for an indefinite period for any, or no, reason. The Enabling Law allowed them to do this under the guise of legality. As such the Nazi’s justified this measure as implementing necessary security measures, rather than revealing their true motive – to remove opposition.
The Nazis’ also took several more steps to reduce their political opposition ‘legally’. On the 2 May 1933 trade unions were banned. Just two months later, on 14 July 1933 the Nazis used the Enabling Act to ban all political parties except the Nazi Party.
The Nazis also took steps to ensure they couldn’t be openly opposed in the press. On the 4 October 1933, it was declared that all editors must be Aryan. Censorship was heightened, and any person publishing actively anti-Nazi material was threatened or imprisoned. By 1935, over 1,600 newspapers had been closed.
These acts removed people’s ability to oppose the Nazi Party, in any form. However, it did so under the guise of legality, and ‘protecting’ the German people and their democracy.
Terror and intimidation
Whilst the pseudo-legal measures were one factor that helped the Nazi’s to consolidate power, another was terror and intimidation.
The Nazi’s used the SA and the newly expanded SS to harass and imprison any potential opponents of the Nazi Party. Following the Enabling Law, much of this harassment and imprisonment was legal.
In 1933, up to 200,000 people were seized and imprisoned by the SA and the SS. Prisons soon became stretched for space. The Nazis improvised. They used any space they could get their hands on to create temporary ‘camps’. The first concentration camp, Dachau, opened in a broken-down munitions factory on the 20 March 1933, imprisoning primarily political prisoners.
The camps were brutal and had extremely unsanitary conditions. Many of the prisoners were tortured and abused.
Many of those that were harassed by the SA and the SS or imprisoned in camps were terrified to speak out about their ordeal – fearing that they would be further abused or re-imprisoned.
Terror and intimidation became one of the main ways that the Nazis sought to control or suppress their opposition, and German’s in general.
The Nazis used the guise of moderation to conceal their rapid consolidation of power.
One key example of an event posed as moderate was the Night of Long Knives.
The Night of Long Knives was the purge of the SA leadership and other political opponents from the 30 June 1934 to the 2 July 1934. Over 150 people were murdered and hundreds more were arrested.
Following the purge, the Nazi’s sculpted the media coverage to portray the event as a preventative measure against a revolutionary, violent, and uncontrollable force, rather than a series of political murders.