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August 19: The Führer

August 19, 2013

fuehreroathNinety percent of the German voting public, or nearly 39 million people, approved a plebiscite on this date in 1934 that gave Adolf Hitler absolute power in Germany. The New York Times observed in its front-page report that the vote “gives Chancellor Hitler, who four years ago was not even a German citizen, dictatorial powers unequaled in any other country, and probably unequaled in history since the days of Genghis Khan.” Hitler had been appointed chancellor 19 months earlier and had spent those months consolidating his power and the power of his Nazi party, through both legal and violent methods, including the reorganization of local government, the establishment of the Gestapo, the banning of trade unions, the banning of other political parties, and the murder of his rivals. The day after his consolidation of power, mandatory “Führer oaths” were administered throughout Germany, including within the military. (To see footage of this, look below.) Hitler had also enforced a boycott of Jewish-owned businesses, banned Jews from government jobs, from the bar, and from receiving national health insurance, and revoked the citizenship of Jews born outside of Germany. Worse, much worse, was to come.

“I swear: I will be faithful and obedient to the leader of the German empire and people, Adolf Hitler, to observe the law, and to conscientiously fulfill my official duties, so help me God!” —Hitler oath for civil servants