Third Reich Day by Day: April 1933

The Nazis gained power via the ballot box, and some political dealings. But once in power Hitler quickly consolidated his control over the German state. New laws were introduced giving him dictatorial power, their passage made easier by the Reichstag fire in February. From then on, Nazi Germany became a centrally controlled totalitarian regime.

1 April

Germany, Legal

Official boycott of Jewish shops and professional men begins. The attitude of the German population towards the Jews is curious. Though Nazi propaganda would have the world believe that every German hates the Jews, this is not the case. It is true that in places where National Socialism was able to attach itself to deeply rooted anti-Semitic traditions, the racially based anti-Semitism of the Nazis has found receptive ears. However, the mass of the population has not been induced into actively supporting the persecution of the Jews. That said, the persecution of the Jews has not prompted any wide-scale popular criticism.

The Nazi Party has pledged to create a Germany in which Jews will be set apart from their fellow Germans and denied their place in German life and culture. Jews have been expelled from a number of smaller towns and forced to move to larger towns or cities, or emigrate. All but Nazi-controlled publications have been effectively suppressed.

The Law on the Reconstruction of the Professional Civil Services is introduced, which makes no distinction between Reich, state or civil service cadres and giving transferability between each. All unqualified, disloyal or Jewish staff are to be dismissed (in the event, however, 90 percent of the civil service remained). Himmler is made Commander of the Bavarian Political Police.

1 April

Military, Navy

The pocket battleships Deutschland was commissioned and the Admiral Scheer launched. Deutschland was one of three armoured ships - the so-called “pocket battleships” - laid down between 1928 and 1931. Deutschland was the first of the class, being launched in May 1931 and completed in April 1933. She was originally used as a seagoing training ship, to familiarize crews with her new technology.

Designed as long-range commerce raiders, powerful enough to sink anything they could not outrun and fast enough to outrun anything they could not sink - except for the Royal Navy ships HMS Hood, Renown and Repulse. - and they often classed as “pocket battleships”. Officially listed as Panzerschiffe (“armoured ships”), in reality they were raiding cruisers built to light cruiser standards and equipped with an exceptionally heavy main battery. They were built under a clause in the Treaty of Versailles that allowed Germany to build ships up to 10,605 tonnes (10,000 tons) with guns of up to 11in; this was intended to allow coast-defence battleships. Two further ships of this class were redesigned to become the “Scharnhorst” class in response to the French “Dunkerque” class. Deutschland varied in the style and arrangement of the superstructure. The Washington Treaty of 1921 left Germany quite limited in the amounts of ships that she could construct. Admiral Raeder had a vision of a fleet of ships that would tie up the Royal Navy and disrupt the sea line of communication for France and England, but this was not possible with the tonnage permitted by this treaty. There was only one solution to the problem - Germany would have to under-report the weights of her ships. Lying or not, in 1933 the Deutschland. was commissioned. She was underreported in her weight by at least 20 percent (reported at 12,294 tonnes [12,100 tons] but actually displacing 15,748 tonnes [15,500 tons]), but even this was a violation of the weights granted in the treaty. The French and British, the enforcers of this treaty, were not worried because they knew that the new French “Dunkerque” class and British ships like the HMS Hood could outgun and outrun this new class of German ship.

7 April

Germany, Legal

Second Coordination Law appoints state governors.

8 April

Germany, Legal

Law on the Reconstruction of the Professional Civil Service is introduced, making no distinction between Reich, state or local cadres, giving transferability between each.

26 April

Germany, Police

A decree on the establishment of the Geheime Staats Polizeiamt (Gestapa), which was later renamed Geheime Staats Polizei (Gestapo), as a new department of the Prussian state police affiliated with the Minister of the Interior, to be headed by Diels. Göring is persuaded by his friend Diels that a secret police force was necessary to monitor the activities of the communists. The Gestapo becomes the political police of Nazi Germany.

The Gestapo ruthlessly eliminated opposition to the Nazis within Germany and its occupied territories and was responsible for the roundup of Jews throughout Europe for deportation to extermination camps. Hermann Göring, Prussian minister of the interior, detached the political and espionage units from the regular Prussian police, filled their ranks with thousands of Nazis, and, on April 26, 1933, reorganized them under his personal command as the Gestapo. Simultaneously, Heinrich Himmler, head of the SS, together with his aide Reinhard Heydrich, similarly reorganized the police of Bavaria and the remaining German states.

The Gestapo operated without restraints. It had the authority of “preventative arrest”, and its actions were not subject to judicial appeal. Thousands of leftists, intellectuals, Jews, trade unionists, political clergy, and homosexuals simply disappeared into concentration camps after being arrested by the Gestapo. The political section could order prisoners to be murdered, tortured, or released. Together with the SS, the Gestapo managed the treatment of “inferior races,” such as Jews and Gypsies. During World War II the Gestapo suppressed partisan activities in the occupied territories and carried out reprisals against civilians. Gestapo members were included in the Einsatzgruppen (Special Action Squads), which were mobile death squads that followed the German army into Poland and Russia to kill Jews and other “undesirables.” Bureau IV B4 of the Gestapo, under Adolf Eichmann, organized the deportation of millions of Jews from other occupied countries to death camps.