To what extent was the SA, SS and the use of terror responsible for the Nazi destruction of the democratic Republic?
The destruction of the democratic republic on the 23rd of March 1933 was brought on by many factors of which an over simplification would be "initiatives from above as well as pressures from below". The SA and SS were crucial to Hitlers plans and were a major factor in the destruction of the democratic republic, however they also showed Hitler that they were unorganised and wild and would cause resentment among the army and elites so that during the night of the long knives Hitler was forced to remove them. The Nazis were also aided by circumstances such as the Reichtag fire which gave them the opportunity to get rid of all the communists and pass the "Decree for the protection of People and State" which removed the Germans freedoms and liberties. However what Hitler needed during the legal revolution was an atmosphere of terror that eliminated all political opposition and for that the SA and SS were very useful. The proof of the usefulness of the SA and SS can be seen during the last meeting of the Reichtag in the Opera House which was a vote on the enabling Act which required 2/3 of the Reichtag vote so that the SA and SS who were present in the Opera House were crucial in intimidating the centre party to vote for the Act.
The SA and SS were extremely useful in producing an atmosphere of terror which effectively eliminated all opposition and gave Hitler the means to destroy the Republic. The major problem facing Hitler when he became chancellor was that he still had considerable opposition coming from the communists and socialists and according to his plan he needed 2/3 of the vote in the Reichtag to pass an Act which altered the constitution. He had used the SA and SS in the past to scare political opposition and when he became chancellor and Göring became Prussian minister of the Interior thus controlling 3/5 of Germanys administration including the police, the SA were legalised in an attempt to carry out the intimidation even further as this quote from a letter from an important SPD member shows: "As things are there is no longer any police protection sufficient to check the aggressive actions of the SA and SS at my meetings ". During this period the SAs power grew to the extent that they virtually controlled the administration in a crude racquet scheme and were able to raid socialist and communist headquarters without disturbance from the police as they did on the third of March 1933 in Brunswick. The use of terror also meant civil workers were forced to leave their parties (if they were socialist) in the fear of losing their job. Their power of destruction and fear was thus crucial in Hitlers plan to destroy the republic
However the SA, SS and the use of terror had their limitations and can not be seen as the only means by which Hitler got to power. The SA were very useful in terrorising the population but their effectiveness in winning votes was limited, so that despite massive communist arrests and intimidation of the opposition the Nazis only got 43.9 % of the vote in 1933. Fest suggests that the reason the SA were effective at all was that Hitler was able to counter the terror and fear they produced among the population with his own attraction and organisation skills: "It was Hitler the great magician, far more than any event, person or group among his followers, who was responsible for the overwhelming level of jubilation that quickly drowned the screams rising from the heroes cellars of the SA headquarters". The use of terror therefor is not always a vote-winner and nobody can really be sure whether Hitler ordered such public disorder or whether the SA on their own initiative disobeyed Hitler. The SA who were mostly working class men wished to dispose of the elites and the acting army which Hitler knew were crucial in his plan to conquer Europe and set up an economy able to withstand the pressure of a long war thus he saw their limitations and was forced to act in the night of the long knives.
All the steps between the day Hitler got the chancellorship and the Enabling Act were not only the result of the use of terror or Hitlers intelligence but also of luck and circumstances which had a very important role to play in the destruction of the republic. To legalise the SA, dispose of the communists and instore an atmosphere of terror Hitler needed to remove all the rights and liberties of the German people, incredibly he was given the opportunity to do just this with the Reichtag fire which was started by a young Dutch communist named van der Lubbe. This feat of luck was so suspicious that contemporaries were certain it was started by the Nazis however it has recently been proven that this was not the case. Hitler was also lucky in that opposite political parties were forever arguing among themselves and were in most matters concerning Hitler extremely gullible. If the centre party had not been so gullible in what Hitler was going to do with the Enabling Act Hitler would have never gotten 2/3 of the vote and thus could never have destroyed the Republic.
"The sheer force of the revolution from below undoubtedly strengthened Hitlers hand and enabled him to neutralise opposition" (Williamson) however if it wasnt for some fortunate events such as the Reichtag fire or Hitlers ability to regain the votes the SA lost him the Republic would have survived.
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