From Democracy to a Dictatorship

On this day in 1933, the German Reichstag passes the Enabling Act, or Ermächtigungsgesetz, giving Adolph Hitler plenary powers over local, state and national matters throughout the country. In its legal operation, the Act allowed the cabinet (Hitler) to enact legislation, including laws deviating from or altering the constitution, without the consent of the Reichstag. Because this law allowed for departures from the constitution, it was itself considered a constitutional amendment.

The voting occurred in a meeting at the Kroll Opera House, where non-Nazi members were surrounded and threatened by members of SA and SS. The Communists had already been repressed and were not able to vote, and some Social Democrats were kept away as well; most of those present voted for the act, except for the Social Democrats. It followed on the heels of the Reichstag Fire Decree, passed immediately before Hitler’s ascension, which abolished most civil liberties and transferred state powers to the Reich government. The combined effect of the two laws was to transform Hitler’s government into a legal dictatorship.

In 1942, the Reichstag passed a law giving Hitler power of life and death over every citizen, effectively extending the provisions of the Enabling Act for the duration of the war. Hence, countless millions of Germans and citizens of the world would perish simply for the venal cowardice displayed by Hitler’s sycophants and those too weak to stand against him in 1933.

Any similarity to current events, persons or circumstances are purely coincidental and a function of the repeating nature of unlearned and unheeded history.

Author: Bill Urich

A tail-end baby-boomer, Bill Urich was born in Cleveland to a grade school teacher and her Navy vet husband, and reared in Greater Detroit. Working his way through school primarily at night, Mr. Urich holds a Bachelor’s in Journalism, Phi Beta Kappa, and a Juris Doctorate from Wayne State University. In his legal career he has acted as an assistant state prosecutor, city attorney, special prosecutor, mediator, magistrate, private practitioner and mayor of Royal Oak, a large home-rule city in Michigan. Mr. Urich continues in private practice and municipal prosecution, is on faculty to DePaul University, pens regular contributions to political publications, and remains active in selected campaigns and causes related to labor, social and criminal justice. A father of three mostly-grown sons, he spends his precious free time on family, friends, the pursuit of happiness, beauty and truth, three rescue cats, and fronting the rock band Calcutta Rugs from behind the drum kit.

What say you, the people?