Germany Under the Nazis

In 1932, German President Paul von Hindenburg was asleep in his home. His son woke him with the news that he had defeated Nazi Party leader Adolf Hitler and reelection to the Presidency. “It will still be true in an hour,” he said as he went back to sleep. Dismissive of the “Bohemian Corporal” as he called Hitler, Hindenburg hoped making Hitler Chancellor in January 1933 would appease and quiet him. A year later he was dead, and Hitler folded the powers of the Presidency into his own. He became Führer, or leader, of all of Germany. He proclaimed the Third Reich, following a history theory that German unity would be achieved in the Third Kingdom. After The Holy Roman Empire and Otto von Bismarck, Adolf Hitler proclaimed his rule would last a thousand years.

The Nazis had always used violence to intimidate their opponents, and once Hitler took office this did not change. In 1933 Buchenwald Concentration Camp was opened for political prisoners, and after Hitler became the supreme power thousands were sent there. At first Jews were not sent; the Nazis first focused on the intelligentsia and their political enemies.

In March 1933 the Reichstag was set afire in circumstances that remain mysterious. The Nazis blamed the Communists and history has blamed the Nazis. This last institution of the Weimar Republic was shut down, and Hitler used this as an excuse to condemn Communists and socialists to prison.

Hitler and the Nazis moved against those least likely to defend themselves. Disabled and mentally retarded Germans were sent away to special “hospitals” where they were forcibly sterilized and eventually killed.

On April 1, 1933, the Nazis organized a boycott of Jewish business. The SA stood in front of Jewish businesses and intimidated anyone attempting to enter. The next week Jews were removed from civil service positions. With the year, “non-Aryans” — anyone with one Jewish parent or grandparent — were removed from practicing professions like law, banking, medicine, and journalism.