The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

The Consolidation Of Power
(Part 1 of 2)

[THE PRESIDENT (LORD JUSTICE LAWRENCE, Member for the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland) continues]

[Page 7]

The NSDAP, having achieved power in this way, now proceeded to extend its hold on every phase of German life. Other political parties were persecuted, their property and assets confiscated, and many of their members placed in concentration camps. On 26th April, 1933, the Defendant Goering founded in Prussia the Geheime Staatspolizei, or Gestapo, as a secret police, and confided to the deputy leader of the Gestapo that its main task was to eliminate political opponents of National Socialism and Hitler. On 14th July, 1933, a law was passed declaring the NSDAP to be the only political party, and making it criminal to maintain or form any other political party.

In order to place the complete control of the machinery of Government in the hands of the Nazi leaders, a series of laws and decrees were passed which reduced the powers of regional and local governments throughout Germany, transforming them into subordinate divisions of the Government of the Reich. Representative assemblies in the Laender were abolished, and with them all local elections. The Government then proceeded to secure control of the Civil Service. This was achieved by a process of centralization, and by a careful sifting of the whole Civil Service administration. By a law of 7 April it was provided that officials "who were of non-Aryan descent" should be retired; and it was also decreed that "officials who because of their previous political activity do not offer security that they will exert themselves for the national state without reservation shall be discharged." The law of 11th April, 1933, provided for the discharge of "all civil servants who belong to the Communist Party." Similarly, the judiciary was subjected to control. Judges were removed from the bench for political or racial reasons. They were spied upon and made subject to the strongest pressure to join the Nazi Party as an alternative to being dismissed. When the Supreme Court acquitted three of the four defendants charged with complicity in the Reichstag fire, its jurisdiction in cases of treason was thereafter taken away and given to a newly established "People's Court" consisting of two judges and five officials of the Party. Special courts were set up to try political crimes and only party members were appointed as judges. Persons were arrested by the SS for political reasons, and detained in prisons and concentration camps; and the judges were without power to intervene in any way. Pardons were granted to members of the Party who had been sentenced by the judges for proved offenses. In 1935 several officials of the Hohenstein concentration camp were convicted of inflicting brutal treatment upon the inmates. High Nazi officials tried to influence the Court, and after the officials had been convicted, Hitler pardoned them all. In 1942 "judges' letters" were sent to all German judges by the Government, instructing them as to the "general lines" that they must follow.

In their determination to remove all sources of opposition, the NSDAP leaders turned their attention to the trade unions, the churches, and the Jews. In April, 1933, Hitler ordered the late Defendant Ley, who was then staff director of the political organisation of the NSDAP, "to take over the trade unions." Most of the trade unions of Germany were joined together in two large federations, the "Free Trade Unions" and the "Christian Trade Unions." Unions outside these two large federations contained only 15% of the total union membership. On 21st April, 1933, Ley issued an NSDAP directive announcing a "coordination action" to be carried out on

[Page 8]

2ND May, against the Free Trade Unions. The directive ordered that SA and SS men were to be employed in the planned "occupation of trade union properties and for the taking into protective custody of personalities who come into question." At the conclusion of the action the official NSDAP press service reported that the National Socialist Factory Cells Organisation had "eliminated the old leadership of Free Trade Unions" and taken over the leadership themselves. Similarly, on 3rd May, 1933, the NSDAP press service announced that the Christian trade unions "have unconditionally subordinated themselves to the leadership of Adolf Hitler." In place of the trade unions the Nazi Government set up a German Labour Front (DAF), controlled by the NSDAP, and which, in practice, all workers in Germany were compelled to join. The chairmen of the unions were taken into custody and were subjected to ill- treatment, ranging from assault and battery to murder.

In their effort to combat the influence of the Christian churches, whose doctrines were fundamentally at variance with National Socialist philosophy and practice, the Nazi Government proceeded more slowly. The extreme step of banning the practice of the Christian religion was not taken, but year by year efforts were made to limit the influence of Christianity on the German people, since, in the words used by the Defendant Bormann to the Defendant Rosenberg in an official letter, "the Christian religion and National Socialist doctrines are not compatible." In the month of June, 1941 the Defendant Bormann issued a secret decree on the relation of Christianity and National Socialism. The decree stated that:

"For the first time in German history the Fuehrer consciously and completely has the leadership in his own hand. With the Party, its components and attached units, the Fuehrer has created for himself and thereby the German Reich Leadership, an instrument which makes him independent of the Treaty .. More and more the people must be separated from the churches and their organs, the pastor .. Never again must an influence on leadership of the people be yielded to the churches. This influence must be broken completely and finally. Only the Reich Government and by its direction the Party, its components and attached units, have a right to leadership of the people."

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