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Enabling Act

The Enabling Act (in German: Ermächtigungsgesetz), passed by the Reichstag on March 23, 1933, was the second major step after the Reichstag Fire Decree through which the Nazi dictatorship was established legally.

The full name of the Enabling Act was Gesetz zur Behebung der Not von Volk und Reich (Law in order to remedy the misery of the people and the Reich).

As with most of the laws passed in the process of Gleichschaltung, the Enabling Act is quite short, considering its consequences. It shall therefore be reproduced in full:

German English Translation
1. Reichsgesetze können außer in dem in der Reichsverfassung vorgesehenen Verfahren auch durch die Reichsregierung beschlossen werden. Dies gilt auch für die in den Artikeln 85 Abs. 2 und 87 der Reichsverfassung bezeichneten Gesetze. 1. Other than through the procedure prescribed by the constitution, laws of the Reich may be decided upon by the government of the Reich as well. This includes laws as referred to by articles 85 subsection 2 and 87 of the constitution. [These articles refer to the parliamentary budget rights.]
2. Die von der Reichsregierung beschlossenen Reichsgesetze können von der Reichsverfassung abweichen, soweit sie nicht die Einrichtung des Reichstags und des Reichsrats als solche zum Gegenstand haben. Die Rechte des Reichspräsidenten bleiben unberührt. 2. Laws decided upon by the government of the Reich may deviate from the provisions of the constitution insofar as they do not affect the institutions of the Reichstag and the Reichsrat as such. The constitutional rights of the Reichspräsident shall remain intact.
3. Die von der Reichsregierung beschlossenen Reichsgesetze werden vom Reichskanzler ausgefertigt und im Reichsgesetzblatt verkündet. Sie treten, soweit sie nichts anderes bestimmen, mit dem auf die Verkündung folgenden Tage in Kraft. Die Artikel 68 bis 77 der Reichsverfassung finden auf die von der Reichsregierung beschlossenen Gesetze keine Anwendung. 3. Laws decided upon by the government of the Reich shall be issued by the Chancellor [i.e. Hitler] and announced in the Reich Law Gazette. They shall take effect on the day following the announcement, unless they prescribe a different date. The articles 68 to 77 of the constitution shall not be applied to laws decided upon by the government of the Reich. [These articles regulate the ordinary procedure of legislation.]
4. Verträge des Reiches mit fremden Staaten, die sich auf Gegenstände der Reichsgesetzgebung beziehen, bedürfen für die Dauer der Geltung dieser Gesetze nicht der Zustimmung der an der Gesetzgebung beteiligten Körperschaften. Die Reichsregierung erläßt die zur Durchführung dieser Verträge erforderlichen Vorschriften. 4. Contracts of the Reich with foreign states which affect matters of Reich legislation shall not require the approval of the bodies concerned with legislation. The government of the Reich shall issue the prescriptions required for the execution of such contracts.
5. Dieses Gesetz tritt mit dem Tage seiner Verkündung in Kraft. Es tritt mit dem 1. April 1937 außer Kraft, es tritt ferner außer Kraft, wenn die gegenwärtige Reichsregierung durch eine andere abgelöst wird. 5. This law shall take effect with the day of its announcement. It shall become invalid on April 1, 1937 or earlier, if the present Reich government is succeeded by a different one.

While there had been previous enabling acts in the history of the Weimar Republic, this one was far more reaching since Article 2 allowed for changing the constitution as well. The law therefore formally required a two-thirds majority in the Reichstag. Hitler had taken care of that though: by the powers provided of the Reichstag Fire Decree, most of the KPD deputies were already jailed, and those mandates were declared "dormant" through a change of the Reichstag rules of procedure. The remaining members of parliament were intimidated by the SA surrounding the parliament hall. In the end, only the Social Democrats voted against the bill.

It is symptomatic of the pain that the Nazis took to give their dictatorship a legal appearance that the Enabling Act was indeed formally prolonged twice by the Reichstag beyond the 1937 date.

After the Enabling Act, KPD[?] and SPD were outlawed. Another law from July 14, 1933 prevented the foundation of new political parties. See Gleichschaltung for more information about the subsequent steps.



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