Means Used by the Nazi Conspiractors in Gaining Control of the German State (Part 10 of 55)
Nazi Conspiracy & Aggressio
Volume I Chapter VII
B. Control Acquired
(1) On 30 January 1933, Hitler became Chancellor of the German Republic. (2 After the Reichstag fire of 28 February 1933, clauses of the Weimar Constitution guaranteeing personal liberty an freedom of speech, of the press, of association and assembly, were suspended. The Weimar Constitution contained certain guarantees as to personal freedom (Article 114), as to inviolability of the home (Article 115), and as to the secrecy of letters and other communications (Article 117). It also had provisions safeguarding freedom of speech and of the press (Article 118), and of assembly (Article 123), and of association (Article 124). The Reich President was authorized, "if public safety and order in the German Reich are considerably disturbed or endangered," to take steps to suspend "the Fundamental Rights" established in Articles 114, 115, 117, 118, 123, 124, and 153. (Article 48
(2) (2050-PS) On 28 February 1933, the Nazi conspirators, taking as their excuse a fire which had just destroyed the Reichstag building, caused to be promulgated a Decree of the Reich President suspending the constitutional guarantee of freedom. This decree, which purported to be an exercise of the powers of the Reich President under Article 48 (2) of the Constitution, and which was signed by the Reich President, Hindenburg, the Reich Chancellor, Hitler, the Reich Minister of the Interior, Frick, and the Reich- Minister of Justice, Guertner, provided in part: "Sections 114, 115, 117, 118, 123, 124, and 153 of the Constitution of the German Reich are suspended until further notice. Thus, restrictions on personal liberty, on the right of free expression of opinion, including freedom of the press, on the right of assembly and the right of association, and violations of the privacy of postal, telegraphic, and telephonic communications, and warrants for house-searchers, orders for confiscations as well as restrictions on property, are also permissible beyond the legal limits otherwise prescribed."
(3) The Nazi conspirators secured the passage by the Reichstag of a "Law for the Protection of the People and the Reich", [Page 209] giving Hitler and the members of his then Cabinet plenary powers of legislation. At the first meeting of Hitler's Cabinet on 30 January 1933, passage of an Enabling Law (Ermaechtigungsgesetz) was discussed, and suppression of the Communist Party was considered as a means for securing the majority requisite for this and other purposes. (351-PS) Since such a law involved a change in the Constitution it was governed by Article 76 of the Weimar Constitution which provided:
"The Constitution may be amended by law. The acts of the Reichstag amending the Constitution can only take effect if two-thirds of the regular number of members are present and at least two-thirds of those present consent." (2050-PS)
At the first meeting of the Hitler Cabinet on 30 January 1933, both Hitler and Goering favored early dissolution of the Reichstag and new elections in an effort to achieve a. majority for the new Cabinet. (51-PS) This course was followed and new elections for the Reichstag were held on March 1933, at which 288 Nazis were elected out of 647 members (2514-PS). Taking advantage of the Presidential decree of 28 February 1933 suspending constitutional guarantees of freedom, Goering and other Nazi conspirators immediately caused a large number of Communists, including party officials and Reichstag deputies, and a smaller number of Social Democratic officials and deputies to be placed in "protective custody". (2324-PS; 2573-PS; L-83) thus all Communist deputies and a number of Social Democratic deputies were prevented from attending the new session of the Reichstag. On 9 March 1933, Frick announced that the Communists would be prevented from participating in the first session of the Reichstag on March 21st, because of their being more usefully occupied. (240-PS
As Frick cynically stated:
"When the Reichstag meets the 21st of March, the Communists will be prevented by urgent labor elsewhere from participating in the session. In concentration camps they will be re-educated for productive work. We will know how to render harmless permanently sub-humans who do not want to be re-educated." (2651-PS
At a meeting of the Reich Cabinet on 15 March 1933, the problem of securing the necessary two-thirds majority in favor of an Enabling Act was again considered. Frick stated his belief that the Act would have to be broadly conceived, in a manner to allow for any deviation from the clauses of the Constitution of the Reich. Goering thought the two-thirds majority would be forthcoming and that if necessary some of the Social Democrats could be excluded from the room during the voting. (2962-PS) [Page 210] At a meeting of the Cabinet on 20 March 1933, there was further discussion of means for securing the majority and quorum necessary to secure passage of the Act (2963-PS).
On 23 March, Hitler spoke in favor of an Enabling Law proposed by the Nazi conspirators and in the course of the debate said:
"The Government insists on the passage of this law. It expects a clear decision in any case. It offers to all the Parties in the Reichstag the possibility of a peaceful development and a possible conciliation in the future. But it is also determined to consider a disapproval of this law as a declaration of resistance. It is up to you, gentlemen, to make the decision now. It will be either peace or war." (2652-PS)
Thus subject to the,full weight of Nazi pressure and terror, the Reichstag passed the proposed law, 441 deputies voting in its favor, and 94 Social Democrats being opposed (2579-PS). The following day, the law was promulgated. It provided: "The Reichstag has resolved the following law, which is, with the approval of the Reichsrat, herewith promulgated, after it has been established that the requirements have been satisfied for legislation altering the Constitution.
"SECTION 1. Reich laws can be enacted by the Reich Cabinet as well as in accordance with the Procedure established in the Constitution. This applies also to the laws referred to in article 85, paragraph 2, and in article 87 of the Constitution.
"SECTION 2. The national laws enacted by the Reich Cabinet may deviate from the Constitution so far as they do not affect the position of the Reichstag and the Reichsrat. The powers of the President remain undisturbed.
"SECTION 3. The national laws enacted by the Reich Cabinet are prepared by the Chancellor and published in the Reichsgesetzblatt. They come into effect, unless otherwise specified, upon the day following their publication. Articles 68 to 77 of the Constitution do not apply to the laws enacted by the Reich Cabinet.
"SECTION 4. Treaties of the Reich with foreign states which concern matters of national legislation do not require the consent of the bodies participating in legislation. The Reich Cabinet is empowered to issue the necessary provisions for the execution of these treaties.
"SECTION 5. This law becomes effective on the day of its publication. It becomes invalid on April 1, 1937; it further [Page 211] becomes invalid when the present Reich Cabinet is replaced by another." (2001-PS) The time limit stated in the law was twice extended by action of the Reichstag and once by decree of Hitler. (2047-PS; 2048-PS; 2103-PS)
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