How Did Hitler Establish His Dictatorship?


Many historians and commentators have speculated on how Adolf Hitler managed to build his evil, genocidal regime. In just a few years, from January 1933, when he came to power, until ‘Heydrich’s ‘final solution’ first announced in January 1942, Hitler succeeded in suppressing the free press, bending the judiciary to his will, taking over all police forces in Germany, forcing all arms of the Germany military to take an oath of allegiance that effectively emasculated them, and condemning millions of innocent Jews and other ‘undesirables’ to the labor – and death – camps. By 1939, the country was at war and all individual rights and freedoms were subsumed by the war effort.

Many commentators have questioned how 60 million Germans sleepwalked into this chaotic situation, this unconscionable regime run by a madman, a man with little or no experience of diplomacy or administration. How could they have been blind to what was going on all around them? And how could they have willingly followed the mad dictator into a world war. People have blamed the austerity of the Great Depression of the 1930s, the harshness of the terms of the Versailles Treaty, the charisma of the Führer, and the way he demonized the Jewish race for all of Germany’s woes.

The process is worth sketching:

  1. Hitler was made Chancellor – January 30, 1933
  2. Hermann Göring established the Secret State Police (Gestapo) – 1933
  3. The SS, under Heinrich Himmler and Reinhard Heydrich, occupied and took over all police forces in the country, apart from the Gestapo – 1933
  4. The Reichswehr began a secret program of expansion from the permitted maximum of 100,000 – during 1933 and 1934
  5. The Reichstag in Berlin was burned to the ground, supposedly by a Communist plotting to overthrow the government – February 27, 1933
  6. As a direct result of the fire, President Hindenburg was persuaded to sign the ‘Reichstag Fire Decree’ that suspended many civil liberties – February, 1933
  7. Six days later, a general election returned 288 Nazis, 81 Communists and 120 others to the Reichstag – March 5, 1933
  8. Immediately after the election, Hitler declared membership of the KPD a treasonous act and had all Communist members of the parliament arrested or driven into hiding – March 1933
  9. An ‘Enabling Act’ followed, which vested arbitrary and sweeping powers in Hitler’s regime – March 24, 1933.
  10. The ‘Reich Press Law’ was passed: All Jewish-owned newspapers were taken over and all remaining newspaper owners had to prove they were ‘racially clean’ – October 4, 1933
  11. Only two main newspapers remained. Both were organs of the regime. Völkischer Beobachter was published in the morning and Der Angriff in the afternoon. The fiercely anti-Semitic Der Stürmer persisted for a few years. Joseph Goebbels, the minister for Propaganda and Public Enlightenment, kept a firm control on everything that was printed.
  12. Hermann Göring was forced to hand over the Gestapo to Himmler’s SS – April 20, 1934.
  13. The Reichswehr ranks had swollen from 100,000 to close to 400,000 – by April, 1934.
  14. On the Night of the Long Knives, the SS executed the leaders of the thuggish SA (Brownshirts), an organization that played a major role in putting Hitler in power, but that represented a real ongoing threat to him – June 30, 1934.
  15. The Defense Minister, Werner von Blomberg, introduced a Hitler Oath, which all members of the Reichswehr (German armed forces) were made to take. This was a decisive development, as it meant that opposition to Hitler by a military man would involve breaking a sacred oath – August, 1934.
  16. When President Hindenburg died, Hitler declared himself sole head of state – August 1934.
  17. In 1935 the Wehrmacht replaced the Reichswehr, the Luftwaffe was established and conscription introduced.
  18. The Nuremburg Laws were enacted reducing all Jews remaining in Germany to penury – in 1935.

It’s not too clear how much of this Hitler and the Nazis would have to do if they were attempting to establish a dictatorship nowadays – in the USA for example. The power and reach of the Internet would be a major stumbling block, I imagine. But I think we could expect a spectacular ‘terrorist’ act on American soil to kick-start the process.


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