Law to Remedy the Distress of the People and the Reich (The Enabling Act)
March 24, 1933
The Law to Remedy the Distress of the People and the Reich, also known as the Enabling Act, became the cornerstone of Hitler's dictatorship by allowing him to enact laws, including ones that violated the Weimar constitution, without approval of either parliament or Reich President von Hindenburg.
Since the passage of this law depended upon a two-thirds majority vote in parliament, Hitler and the Nazi party ensured the outcome by intimidation and persecution. They prevented all 81 Communists and 26 of the 120 Social Democrats from taking their seats, detaining them in so-called protective detention in Nazi-controlled camps. In addition, they stationed SA and SS members in the chamber to intimidate the remaining representatives and guarantee their compliance. In the end, the law passed with more than the required two-thirds majority, with only Social Democrats voting against it.
The Supreme Court did nothing to challenge the legitimacy of this measure. Instead, it accepted the majority vote, overlooking the absence of the Communist delegates and the Social Democrats who were under arrest. In fact, most judges were convinced of the legitimacy of the process and did not understand why the Nazis proclaimed a “Nazi Revolution.” Erich Schultze, one of the first Supreme Court judges to join the Nazi party, declared that the term “revolution” did not refer to an overthrow of the established order but rather to Hitler's radically different ideas. In the end, German judges—who were among the few who might have challenged Nazi objectives—viewed Hitler's government as legitimate and continued to regard themselves as state servants who owed him their allegiance and support.