On February 27, 1933 the German Parliament building burned, Adolf Hitler rejoiced, and the Nazi era began. Hitler, who had just been named head of a government that was legally formed after the democratic elections of the previous November, seized the opportunity to change the system.

The next day, at Hitler’s advice and urging, the German president issued a decree “for the protection of the people and the state.” It deprived all German citizens of basic rights such as freedom of expression and assembly and made them subject to “preventative detention” by the police. A week later, the Nazi party, having claimed that the fire was the beginning of a major terror campaign by the Left, won a decisive victory in parliamentary elections. Nazi paramilitaries and the police then began to arrest political enemies and place them in concentration camps. Shortly thereafter, the new parliament passed an “enabling act” that allowed Hitler to rule by decree.

After 1933, the Nazi regime made use of a supposed threat of terrorism against Germans from an imaginary international Jewish conspiracy. After five years of repressing Jews, in 1938 the German state began to deport them. On October 27 of that year, the German police arrested about 17,000 Jews from Poland and deported them across the Polish border.

The Reichstag fire shows how quickly a modern republic can be transformed into an authoritarian regime.


Hitler had his icon mustache so he could wear a gas mask.

July 18, 2016. How did Hitler rise to power? https://www.facebook.com/TEDEducation/videos/1240972065915997/UzpfSTYxNjgzNTY2MjoxMDE1NTk3NjM3MjA1NTY2Mw/

The Nazi party was not initially popular.

In 1929, the Great Depression happened. American banks withdrew their loans from Germany. The struggling economy collapsed over night. Mainstream parties were unable to handle the crisis. Left-wing opposition was too fragmented by internal squabbles. And so, some of the frustrated public flocked to the Nazis.

In 1932, Hitler ran for President, losing the election to war hero Von Hinderberg. But with 36% of the vote, he demonstrated the extent of his popularity. But the following year, business leaders advised Hinderberg to appoint Hitler as chancellor to channel his popularity for their own goal. Though chancellor was only an administrative head of government, Hitler steadily expanded the power of his position. His supporters formed paramilitary groups and fought protesters in the streets. Hitler raised fears of a Communist uprising and argued only he could restore law and order. Then in 1933, a young worker was convicted of setting fire to the parliament building. Hitler used the event to convince the government to grant him emergency powers. Within months, freedom of the press was abolished, other political parties disbanded, and anti-Jewish laws passed. Many of Hitler's early radical supporters were arrested. When president Hinderberg died in August 1934, it was clear there would be no new election. Many of his early measures didn't require repression; he had support from the public. Public intellectual and business leaders endorsed Hitler.