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Speech of Hitler to Reichstag,
3. CONSOLIDATION OF TOTALITARIAN POLITICAL CONTROL
Between the Accession to Power (early 1933) and the Outbreak of the War (late 1939) the Nazi Conspirators Consolidated Their Control of Germany by Utilizing and Molding Its Political Machinery to Their Own Ends.
A. The Nazi conspirators reduced the Reichstag to an impotent body of their own appointees. Under the Weimar Constitution of the German Reich, adopted by the German people on 11 August 1919, the Reichstag was a representative parliamentary body with broad legislative powers. Article 20 provided that the Reichstag should be "composed of the delegates of the German people.” Article 68 of the Chapter on Legislation provided that:
"Bills are introduced by the government of the Reich or by members of the Reichstag. Reich laws shall be enacted by
the Reichstag.” (2050-PS) In Mein Kampf Hitler stated the conspirators' purpose to undermine the Reichstag:
“Our young movement in essence and structure is anti-parliamentarian, i.e., it rejects majority voting as a matter of principle as well as in its own organization
* Its participation in the activities of a parliament has only the purpose to contribute to its destruction, to the elimination of an institution which we consider as one of the gravest symptoms of decay of mankind *
(2883-PS). With the passage of the Law for the Protection of the People and the Reich (also known as the Enabling Act) the Nazi succeeded, in effect, in depriving the Reichstag of its legislative functions. The legislative as well as the executive powers of the government were concentrated in Hitler and the Cabinet (2001PS; the legislative activities of the Cabinet (Reichsregierung) and its power to contravene constitutional limitations are treated in Section 3 of Chapter XV).
During the period from March 1933 until the beginning of 1937, the Reichstag enacted only four laws: The Reconstruction Law of 30 January 1934 and the three Nurnberg laws of 15 September 1935. The Reichstag was retained chiefly as a sounding board for Hitler's speeches. All other legislation was enacted by the Cabinet, by the Cabinet ministers, or by decree of the Fuehrer (2481-PS). Hess has admitted the lack of importance of the Reichstag in the legislative process after 1933. (2426-PS)
Hitler indicated in a 1939 decree that the Reichstag would be permitted to enact only such laws as he, in his own judgment, might deem appropriate for Reichstag legislation. (2018-PS)
Immediately after the Nazis acquired the control of the central government they proceeded systematically to eliminate their opponents. First they forced all other political parties to dissolve, and on 14 July 1933 issued a decree making illegal the existence of any political party except the Nazi Party. (1388-PS)
In early 1935 there were 661 delegates in the Reichstag. Of this number 641 were officially registered as Nazi party members and the remaining 20 were classified as "guests” (Gaeste). (2384PS; 2380-PS)
B. The Nazi conspirators curtailed the freedom of popular elections throughout Germany. Under the Weimar Republic there existed constitutional and legislative guarantees of free popular elections. The Weimar Constitution guaranteed the universal, . equal and secret ballot and proportional representation. (2050– PS) These general principles were implemented by the provisions of the Reich Election Law of 1924, particularly with respect to the multiple party system and the functioning of proportional representation. (2382-PS)
In Mein Kampf Hitler stated the conspirators' purpose to subvert the system of popular election: "Majority can never replace men.
The political understanding of the masses is not sufficiently developed to produce independently specific political convictions and to
select persons to represent them." (2883-PS) The occasional national elections after 1933 were formalities devoid of freedom of choice. Bona fide elections could not take place under the Nazi system. The basic ideological doctrine of the Fuehrerprinzip (Leadership Principle) dictated that all subordinates must be appointed by their superiors in the governmental hierarchy. In order to insure the practical application of this principle the Nazis immediately liquidated all other political parties and provided criminal sanctions against the formation of new parties. (For further discussion see Section 2 on the Acquisition of Totalitarian Political Control.)
Although the Reichstag, unlike all other elective assemblies in Germany, was allowed to continue in existence, elections no longer involved a free choice between lists or candidates. At these elections there were usually large bands of uniformed Nazis surrounding the polls and intimidating the voters. (2955-PS)
The surreptitious marking of ballots (e.g. with skimmed milk) was also customary, to ascertain the identity of the persons who cast "No" or invalid votes. (R-142)
Although it had already become practically impossible to have more than one list of candidates, it was specifically provided by law in 1938 that only one list was to be submitted to the electorate. (2355-PS)
By the end of this period, little of substance remained in the election law. In an official volume published during the war there
are reprinted the still effective provisions of the law of 1924. The majority of the substantive provisions have been marked "obsolete” (gegenstandslos) (2381-PS).
The comprehensive Nazi program for the centralization of German government included in its scope the whole system of regional and local elections, which soon ceased to exist. Article 17 of the Weimar Constitution had required a representative form of government and universal, secret elections in all Laender and municipalities (2050-PS). Yet in early 1934, the sovereign powers (Hoheitsrechte) of the Laender were transferred by law to the Reich, and the Land governments were placed under the Reich control:
“The popular assemblies (Volksvertretungen) of the Laender
shall be abolished.” (2006-PS) Pursuant to the German Communal Ordinance of 30 January 1935, the mayors and executive officers of all municipalities received their appointments "through the confidence of Party and State" (Article 6 (2)). Appointments were made by Reich authorities from lists prepared by the Party delegates (Article 41). City councillors were selected by the Party delegates in agreement with the mayors (Article 51 (1)). (2008-PS)
C. The Nazi conspirators transformed the states, provinces, and municipalities into what were, in effect, mere administrative organs of the central government. Under the Weimar Constitution of the pre-Nazi regime, the states, provinces, and municipalities enjoyed considerable autonomy in the exercise of governmental functions-legislative, executive and judicial. (2050-PS)
Hitler, in Mein Kampf, stated the conspirators' purpose to establish totalitarian control of local government:
“National Socialism, as a matter of principle, must claim the right to enforce its doctrines, without regard to present federal boundaries, upon the entire German nation and to educate it in its ideas and its thinking.
The National Socialist doctrine is not the servant of political interests of individual federal states but shall become the ruler of the
German nation." (2883-PS)
"In the midst of the great power constellations of the globe
By a series of laws and decrees, the Nazi conspirators reduced the powers of the regional and local governments and substantially transformed them into territorial subdivisions of the Reich government. The program of centralization began almost immediately after the Nazis acquired the chief executive posts of the government. On 31 March 1933, they promulgated the Provisional Law integrating the Laender with the Reich (2004-PS). This law called for the dissolution of all state and local self governing bodies and for their reconstitution according to the number of votes cast for each party in the Reichstag election of 5 March 1933. The Communists and their affiliates were expressly denied representation.
A week later there followed the Second Law Integrating the Laender with the Reich (2005-PS). This Act established the position of Reich Governor. He was to be appointed by the President upon the proposal of the Chancellor, and was given power to appoint the members of the Land governments and the higher Land officials and judges, the authority to reconstruct the Land legislature according to the law of 31 March 1933 (2004-PS, supra), and the power of pardon.
On 31 January 1934, most of the remaining vestiges of Land independence were destroyed by the Law for the Reconstruction of the Reich:
“The popular referendum and the Reichstag election of No-
Laender are transferred to the Reich.
ministrative supervision of the Reich Minister of Interior. Article IV. The Reich Government may issue new constitu
tional laws." This law was implemented by a regulation, issued by Frick, providing that all Land laws must have the assent of the competent