Gottfried Benn: A Biography
Chapter 6: The Crisis of the Spirit: 1933–1934
The Crisis of the Spirit: 1933–1934
A State Official
On 30 January 1933, Adolf Hitler became Chancellor of Germany. The “seizure of power” (“Machtergreifung”) had begun. Between that date and the promulgation of the law banning the creation of new parties on 14 July, the Nazis, in a process known as “Gleichschaltung” (“systematic integration”), suspended the clauses of the Constitution safeguarding civil liberties, banned or forced into liquidation the Communist, Social Democratic and Centre parties, and incarcerated their most active members in newly constructed concentration camps. Jews were removed from positions within the judicial, educational, medical and even sporting institutions of the nation, and trade union organisations replaced with a Nazified Labour Front.
The revolutionary dynamism of the “Machtergreifung” was not simply manifest in the content of these changes; it was also evident in the style with which they were carried out: through street marches, paramilitary displays and other spectacles that allowed the Nazi Party to control the civic sphere in the new Germany. On the very evening of Hitler’s call to the Chancellery, Berlin provided the mise en scène for a mass rally that confirmed both the ideological and material victory of the regime. Contemporaries caught up in the crowds tell of “the pounding of steps, the grave solemnity of the red and black flags, the flickering reflection of the torches on the faces of the people, and songs, whose melodies sounded at the same time sentimental...
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