After Papen failed to secure a majority he proposed to dissolve the parliament again along with an indefinite postponement of elections. Hindenburg at first accepted this, but after General Kurt von Schleicher and the militarywithdrew their support, Hindenburg instead dismissed Papen and appointed Schleicher, who promised he could secure a majority government by negotiations with both the Social Democrats, the trade unions, and dissidents from the Nazi party under Gregor Strasser. In January 1933 however, Schleicher had to admit failure in these efforts and asked Hindenburg for emergency powers along with the same postponement of elections that he had opposed earlier, to which the President reacted by dismissing Schleicher.
Hitler's appointment as Chancellor
Meanwhile Papen, resentful because of his dismissal, tried to get his revenge on Schleicher by working toward the General's downfall, through forming an intrigue with the camarilla and Alfred Hugenberg, media mogul and chairman of the DNVP. Also involved were Hjalmar Schacht, Fritz Thyssen and other leading German businessmen. They financially supported the Nazi Party, which had been brought to the brink of bankruptcy by the cost of heavy campaigning. The businessmen also wrote letters to Hindenburg, urging him to appoint Hitler as leader of a government "independent from parliamentary parties" which could turn into a movement that would "enrapture millions of people."
Finally, the President reluctantly agreed to appoint Hitler Chancellor of a coalition government formed by the NSDAP and DNVP. Hitler and two other Nazi ministers (Frick, G?ring) were to be contained by a framework of conservative cabinet ministers, most notably by Papen as Vice-Chancellor and by Hugenberg as Minister of Economics. Papen wanted to use Hitler as a figure-head, but the Nazis had gained key positions, most notably the Ministry of the Interior. On the morning of January 30, 1933, in Hindenburg's office, Adolf Hitler was sworn in as Chancellor during what some observers later described as a brief and simple ceremony.
Reichstag Fire and the March elections
Having become Chancellor, Hitler foiled all attempts to gain a majority in parliament and on that basis convinced President Hindenburg to dissolve the Reichstag again. Elections were scheduled for early March, but on February 27, 1933, the Reichstag building was set on fire. Since a Dutch independent communist was found in the building, the fire was blamed on a Communist plot to which the government reacted with the Reichstag Fire Decree of February 28, which suspended basic rights, including habeas corpus. Under the provisions of this decree, the Communist Party and other groups were suppressed, and Communist functionaries and deputies were arrested, put to flight, or murdered.
Day of Potsdam
Campaigning continued, with the Nazis making use of paramilitary violence, anti-Communist hysteria, and the government's resources for propaganda. On election day, March 6, the NSDAP increased its result to 43.9% of the vote, remaining the largest party, but its victory was marred by its failure to secure an absolute majority. Hitler had to maintain his coalition with the DNVP, as the coalition had a slim majority.
The "Day of Potsdam" and the Enabling Act
On 21 March, the new Reichstag was constituted itself with an impressive opening ceremony held at Potsdam's garrison church. This "Day of Potsdam" was staged to demonstrate reconciliation and union between the revolutionary Nazi movement and "Old Prussia" with its elites and virtues. Hitler himself appeared not in Nazi uniform but in a tail coat, and humbly greeted the aged President Hindenburg.
Because of the Nazis' failure to obtain a majority on their own, Hitler's government confronted the newly elected Reichstag with the Enabling Act that would have vested the cabinet with legislative powers for a period of four years. Though such a bill was not unprecedented, this act was different since it allowed for deviations from the constitution. As the bill required a two-thirds majority in order to pass, the government needed the support of other parties. The position of the Catholic Centre Party, at this point the third largest party in the Reichstag, turned out to be decisive: under the leadership of Ludwig Kaas, the party decided to vote for the Enabling Act. It did so in return for the government's oral guarantees regarding the Church's liberty, the concordats signed by German states and the continued existence of the Centre Party itself.
On 23 March, the Reichstag assembled in a replacement building under extremely turbulent circumstances. Some SA men served as guards within while large groups outside the building shouted slogans and threats toward the arriving deputies. Kaas announced that the Centre would support the bill amid "concerns put aside.", while Social Democrat Otto Wels denounced the Act in his speech. At the end of the day, all parties except the Social Democrats voted in favour of the bill. The Enabling Act was dutifully renewed every four years, even through World War II.
Removal of remaining limits
With this combination of legislative and executive power, Hitler's government further suppressed the remaining political opposition. The KPD and the SPD were banned, while all other political parties dissolved themselves. Labour unions were merged with employers' federations into an organisation under Nazi control and the autonomy of state governments was abolished.
Adolf Hitler in Triumph of the Will.
Hitler also used the SA paramilitary to push Hugenberg into resigning and proceeded to politically isolate Vice Chancellor Papen. As the SA's demands for political and military power caused much anxiety among the populace in general and especially among the military, Hitler used allegations of a plot by the SA leader Ernst R?hm to purge the paramilitary force's leadership during the Night of the Long Knives. Opponents unconnected with the SA were also murdered, notably Gregor Strasser and former Chancellor Kurt von Schleicher.
Soon after, president Paul von Hindenburg died on 2 August 1934. Rather than holding new presidential elections, Hitler's cabinet passed a law proclaiming the presidency dormant and transferred the role and powers of the head of state to Hitler as F?hrer und Reichskanzler (leader and chancellor). Thereby Hitler also became supreme commander of the military, which swore their military oath not to the state or the constitution but to Hitler personally. In a mid-August plebiscite these acts found the approval of 90% of the electorate. Combining the highest offices in state, military and party in his hand, Hitler had attained supreme rule that could no longer be legally challenged.
The Third Reich