February 28, 1933: The Reichstag Fire Decree is issued.

The February 27 arson attack on the Reichstag Building (the house of the Weimar-era parliament) took place just weeks after Adolf Hitler was appointed Chancellor of Germany. The fire was pinned on communist subversives, and, while the actual motives of the arsonists remain a subject of debate to this day, the event indubitably benefited Hitler and his party and facilitated the process of their shift in power from simple domination to total control. 

The first step in this process following Hitler’s appointment and the Reichstag Fire was the Reichstag Fire Decree, which was promulgated immediately after the fire took place. As stated in the opening text of the decree, this act suspended “until further notice” entire articles of the Weimar Constitution using a different portion of the constitution (Article 48), which stated that the President could potentially suspend civil rights in cases of emergency. So it was done - the Fire Decree imposed

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…

Shortly after the decree went into effect, the new regime arrested thousands of communists and suspected communists (including some party leaders), suppressed publications, and concentrated power into the hands of the central government - all for the sake of preventing an imagined Bolshevist takeover. After the Nazi Party failed to capture an absolute majority in parliament in the March 1933 election, Hitler used the March 23 Enabling Act to further tighten the Nazis’ grip on Germany through ostensibly constitutional means; the act granted the Chancellor and cabinet ministers the power to enact legislation over the Reichstag. These two acts, neither of which were abolished throughout Hitler’s rule, formed the basis for the Nazi totalitarian state. 

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