On January 30, 1933, Adolf Hitler is named Germany’s Reich Chancellor by the Reich President Paul von Hindenburg. This transfer of power signals the advent of National Socialist rule in Germany, which, six years later, would lead to the outbreak of the Second World War.
The immense political power amassed by the National Socialist German Workers’ Party (NSDAP) under the leadership of Adolf Hitler before the outbreak of the Second World War was the result of processes that stretched out over several years. Among the key factors was Hitler’s systematic propaganda and political skill, by which he was able to secure the support of large sectors of the population. Many historians have come to reject the terms “seizure” or “takeover of power” in referring to the rise of the Nazi party, preferring instead to speak of a transfer or transition of power. This highlights the fact that Hitler did not come to power by force, but rather was the beneficiary of broad support from within the population and the political elite. In the elections to the Reichstag on March 15, 1933, the NSDAP received 44 percent of the vote. With the support of other right-wing and centrist parties, including the German National People’s Party (DNVP), the Nazis achieved the absolute majority needed in parliament to pass the Enabling Act, which effectively abolished democratic governance in Germany. The government was able from this point forward to issue laws by decree, even those in total conflict with the constitution.
In July of 1933, Hitler issued the Law for the Prevention of Hereditarily Diseased Offspring. This decree required that all people designated “genetically diseased” or “inferior” by the hereditary health courts be subjected to forced sterilization. Thus eugenics, or “racial hygiene”, was institutionalized (see also: Social Darwinism and Eugenics, 1890). In the year 1934 alone, as the law came into effect, over 30,000 people were sterilized in Nazi Germany; by 1939, the number was 300,000. A radicalization of eugenics took place, leading from forced sterilization to forced abortion to systematic murder, and ushering in the genocidal policies of the Nazi state, which were ultimately turned against various minorities living in and outside of Germany.
Also in July 1933, the Law for the Revocation of Naturalizations and the Withdrawal of German Citizenship was issued. This allowed people who had immigrated to Germany between November 9, 1918 and January 30, 1933, and become legally naturalized, to be stripped of their German citizenship. Similar rules applied to German citizens living abroad. Should they violate the so-called “duty of loyalty to Reich and race”, they could also lose their citizenship and be divested of any property in Germany. While this law was initially wielded against political opponents of the regime, its scope was soon broadened to apply to “Eastern Jews” and political refugees. It would later legitimize the systematic plundering of Jewish émigrés, as the mere fact