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Hitler cabinet

Cabinet of Nazi Germany
30 January 1933 – 30 April 1945
First session of the cabinet, 1933
Date formed30 January 1933 (1933-01-30)
Date dissolved30 April 1945 (1945-04-30)
People and organisations
Head of governmentAdolf Hitler
Deputy head of governmentFranz von Papen
(30 January 1933 – 7 August 1934)
Member partiesNazi Party
German National People's Party
(30 January 1933 – 27 June 1933; dissolved itself on 27 June 1933)
Status in legislatureNazi Party – led coalition government
(30 January 1933 – 27 June 1933)
Nazi Party dominate-party government
(27 June 1933 – 5 July 1933)
Nazi Party one-party government
(5 July 1933 – 30 April 1945)
Opposition partiesCentre Party
(30 January 1933 – 5 July 1933; dissolved itself on 5 July 1933)
Communist Party of Germany
(30 January 1933 – 30 April 1945; officially banned on 6 March 1933)
Social Democratic Party of Germany
(30 January 1933 – 30 April 1945; officially banned on 23 June 1933)
Opposition leadersLudwig Kaas
(30 January 1933 – 5 July 1933)
Ernst Thälmann
(30 January 1933 – 18 August 1944)
Walter Ulbricht
(6 March 1933 – 30 April 1945; leader of the Communist Party of Germany in exile)
Arthur Crispien
(30 January 1933 – 23 June 1933)
Otto Wels
(30 January 1933 – 16 September 1939; chairman of the Social Democratic Party of Germany in exile from 23 June 1933 – 16 September 1939)
Hans Vogel
(30 January 1933 – 30 April 1945; chairman of the Social Democratic Party of Germany in exile from 23 June 1933 – 30 April 1945)
History
Election(s)Mar. 1933
Nov. 1933
1936
1938
Outgoing electionNov. 1932
Legislature term(s)7th legislature of the Diet of the Realm
1st legislature of the Greater-German Diet of the Realm
PredecessorVon Schleicher Cabinet
SuccessorGoebbels cabinet

The Hitler cabinet was the government of Nazi Germany between 30 January 1933 and 30 April 1945 upon the appointment of Adolf Hitler as Chancellor of the German Reich by president Paul von Hindenburg. It was originally contrived by the national conservative politician Franz von Papen, who reserved the office of the Vice-Chancellor for himself.[1] Originally, Hitler's first cabinet was called the Reich Cabinet of National Salvation,[2] which was a coalition of the Nazi Party (NSDAP) and the national conservative German National People's Party (DNVP).

History

In brokering the appointment of Hitler as Reich Chancellor, Papen had sought to control Hitler by limiting the number of Nazi ministers in the cabinet; initially Hermann Göring (without portfolio) and Wilhelm Frick (Interior) were the only National Socialist (Nazi) ministers. Further, Alfred Hugenberg, the head of the DNVP, was enticed into joining the cabinet by being given the Economic and Agricultural portfolios for both the Reich and Prussia, with the expectation that Hugenberg would be a counterweight to Hitler and would be useful in controlling him. Of the other significant ministers in the initial cabinet, Foreign Minister Konstantin von Neurath was a holdover from the previous administration, as was Finance Minister Lutz Graf Schwerin von Krosigk Post and Transport Minister Paul Freiherr von Eltz-Rübenach and Justice Minister Franz Gürtner.

The cabinet was "presidential" and not "parliamentary", in that it did not come about as the result of a majority vote in the Reichstag, but was appointed by Hindenburg on the basis of emergency powers granted to the President in Article 48 of the Weimar Republic's constitution. This had been the basis for Weimar cabinets since Hindenburg's appointment of Heinrich Brüning as Chancellor in March 1930. Hindenburg specifically wanted a cabinet of the nationalist right, without participation by the Catholic Centre Party or the Social Democratic Party, which had been the mainstays of earlier parliamentary cabinets. Hindenburg turned to Papen, a former Chancellor himself, to bring such a body together, but blanched at appointing Hitler as Chancellor. Papen was certain that Hitler – who has previously turned down the position of Vice Chancellor – was the necessary ingredient for such a cabinet to work, since he would bring with him the National Socialist movement, the most popular and dynamic force in German politics at the time, so he undertook with the help of Hindenburg's son, Oskar von Hindenburg, to convince the elderly former Field Marshal of the need to give Hitler the Chancellorship.

Initially, the Hitler cabinet, like its immediate predecessors, ruled through Presidential decrees written by the cabinet and signed by Hindenburg. However, the Enabling Act of 1933, passed two months after Hitler took office, gave the cabinet the power to make laws without legislative consent or Hindenburg's signature.[notes 1] In effect, the power to rule by decree was vested in Hitler, and for all intents and purposes it made him a dictator. After the Enabling Act's passage, serious deliberations more or less ended at cabinet meetings. It met only sporadically after 1934, and last met in full on 5 February 1938.[3]

When Hitler came to power, the cabinet consisted of the Chancellor, the Vice-Chancellor and the heads of 10 Reich Ministries. Between 1933 and 1941 six new Reichsministries were established, but the War Ministry was abolished and replaced by the OKW. The cabinet was further enlarged by the addition of several Reichsministers without Portfolio and by other officials, such as the commanders-in-chief of the armed services, who were granted the rank and authority of Reichsministers but without the title.[4] In addition, various officials - though not formally Reichministers - such as Reich Youth Leader Baldur von Schirach, Prussian Finance Minister Johannes Popitz and Chief of the Organization for Germans Abroad, Ernst Wilhelm Bohle, were authorized to participate in Reich cabinet meetings when issues within their area of jurisdiction were under discussion.[5][6]

As the Nazis consolidated political power, other parties were outlawed or dissolved themselves. Of the three original DNVP ministers, Franz Seldte joined the Nazi Party in April 1933, Hugenberg departed the cabinet in June when the DNVP was dissolved and Gürtner stayed on without a party designation.[7] There were originally several other independent politicians in the cabinet, mainly holdovers from previous governments. Papen was the first of these to be dismissed in early August 1934. Then, on 30 January 1937, Hitler presented the Golden Party Badge to all remaining non-Nazi members of the cabinet (Blomberg, Eltz-Rübenach, Fritsch, Gürtner, Neurath, Raeder & Schacht) and enrolled them in the Party. Only Eltz-Rübenach, a devout Roman Catholic, refused and resigned.[8] Similarly, on 20 April 1939, Brauchitsh and Keitel were presented with the Golden Party Badge. Dorpmüller received it in December 1940 and formally joined the Party on 1 February 1941. Dönitz followed on 30 January 1944. Thus, no independent politicians or military leaders were left in the cabinet.

The actual power of the cabinet as a body was minimized when it stopped meeting in person and decrees were worked out between the ministries by sharing and marking-up draft proposals, which only went to Hitler for rejection, revision or signing when that process was completed. The cabinet was also overshadowed by the numerous ad hoc agencies – both of the state and of the Nazi Party – such as Supreme Reich Authorities and plenipotentiaries – that Hitler caused to be created to deal with specific problems and situations. Individual ministers, however, especially Göring, Goebbels, Himmler, Speer, and Bormann, held extensive power, at least until, in the case of Göring and Speer, Hitler came to distrust them.

By the final years of World War II, Bormann had emerged as the most powerful minister, not because he was head of the Party Chancellery, which was the basis of his position in the cabinet, but because of his control of access to Hitler in his role as Secretary to the Führer.[9]

Composition

The Reich cabinet consisted of the following Ministers:

Portfolio Minister Took office Left office Party Ref
Chancellor of the German Reich Adolf Hitler30 January 193330 April 1945NSDAP
Vice-Chancellor of the German Reich Franz von Papen30 January 19337 August 1934Independent
Reich Minister of Foreign Affairs Konstantin von Neurath30 January 19334 February 1938Independent
 Joachim von Ribbentrop4 February 193830 April 1945NSDAP
Reich Minister of the Interior Wilhelm Frick30 January 193324 August 1943NSDAP
 Heinrich Himmler24 August 194329 April 1945NSDAP
Reich Minister of Finance Lutz Graf Schwerin von Krosigk30 January 193330 April 1945Independent
Reich Minister of Justice Franz Gürtner30 January 193329 January 1941DNVP
 Franz Schlegelberger (acting)29 January 194124 August 1942NSDAP
 Otto Georg Thierack24 August 194230 April 1945NSDAP
Reich Minister of the Reichswehr
(from 21 May 1935, Reich Minister of War)
 Werner von Blomberg30 January 19334 February 1938Independent
Reich Minister of Economics Alfred Hugenberg30 January 193329 June 1933DNVP
 Kurt Schmitt29 June 19333 August 1934NSDAP
 Hjalmar Schacht3 August 193426 November 1937Independent
 Hermann Göring26 November 193715 January 1938NSDAP
 Walther Funk5 February 193830 April 1945NSDAP
Reich Minister for Food and Agriculture Alfred Hugenberg30 January 193329 June 1933DNVP
 Richard Walther Darré29 June 193323 May 1942NSDAP
 Herbert Backe23 May 194230 April 1945NSDAP
Reich Minister of Labour Franz Seldte30 January 193330 April 1945DNVP[10]
Reich Postal Minister Paul Freiherr von Eltz-Rübenach30 January 19332 February 1937Independent
 Wilhelm Ohnesorge2 February 193730 April 1945NSDAP
Reich Minister of Transport Paul Freiherr von Eltz-Rübenach30 January 19332 February 1937Independent
 Julius Dorpmüller2 February 193730 April 1945Independent
Reich Minister of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda Joseph Goebbels13 March 193330 April 1945NSDAP
Reich Minister of Aviation Hermann Göring1 May 193323 April 1945NSDAP
Reich Minister of Science, Education and Culture Bernhard Rust1 May 193430 April 1945NSDAP
Reich Minister for Church Affairs Hanns Kerrl16 July 193515 December 1941NSDAP
 Hermann Muhs (acting)15 December 194130 April 1945NSDAP
Reich Minister for Armaments and Munitions
(from 2 September 1943, for Armaments and War Production)
 Fritz Todt17 March 19408 February 1942NSDAP
 Albert Speer8 February 194230 April 1945NSDAP
Reich Minister for the Occupied Eastern Territories Alfred Rosenberg17 November 194130 April 1945NSDAP
Reich Ministers without Portfolio
(Reichsministers ohne Geschäftsbereich)
(before 1938)
 Hermann Göring (President of the Reichstag)30 January 193327 April 1933NSDAP
 Ernst Röhm(SA Stabschef (Chief of Staff)1 December 19331 July 1934NSDAP
 Rudolf Hess (Deputy Führer)1 December 193310 May 1941NSDAP
 Hanns Kerrl (First Deputy President of the Reichstag)17 June 193416 July 1935NSDAP
 Hans Frank (Governor-General of Occupied Poland from 1939)19 December 193430 April 1945NSDAP
 Hjalmar Schacht (President of the Reichsbank to 1939)26 November 193722 January 1943NSDAP[11]
 Hans Lammers (Chief of Reich Chancellery)1 December 193724 April 1945NSDAP
Reich Ministers
(from 1938)
 Konstantin von Neurath (Reich Protector of Bohemia-Moravia, 1939-43)4 February 193830 April 1945NSDAP
 Arthur Seyss-Inquart (Reichskommissar of the Netherlands from 1940)1 May 193930 April 1945NSDAP
 Wilhelm Frick (Reich Protector of Bohemia-Moravia, 1943-5)24 August 194330 April 1945NSDAP
 Konstantin Hierl (Chief of the Reich Labour Service)24 August 194330 April 1945NSDAP
Members with Cabinet Rank and Authority
but without formal title of Reichsminister
 Werner von Fritsch (Commander-in-Chief of the Army)20 April 19364 February 1938Independent[12]
 Erich Raeder (Commander-in-Chief of the Navy)20 April 193630 January 1943Independent[13]
 Otto Meissner (Minister of State and Chief of the Presidential Chancellery)1 December 193730 April 1945NSDAP[14]
 Wilhelm Keitel (Chief of the OKW)4 February 193830 April 1945Independent[15]
 Walther von Brauchitsch (Commander-in-Chief of the Army)4 February 193819 December 1941Independent[16]
 Martin Bormann (Chief of the Nazi Party Chancellery)29 May 194130 April 1945NSDAP[17]
 Karl Dönitz (Commander-in-Chief of the Navy)30 January 194330 April 1945Independent
 Karl Hermann Frank (Minister of State for the Protectorate of Bohemia-Moravia)24 August 194330 April 1945NSDAP[18]

Changes

End of cabinet

The last meeting of Hitler's cabinet took place on 5 February 1938. As the Third Reich government was disintegrating at the end of the Second World War and following Hitler's death on 30 April 1945, it was succeeded by the short-lived Goebbels Cabinet, which was itself replaced on May 2 by the Cabinet of Schwerin von Krosigk commonly known as the Flensburg government.

Postwar indictment and result of prosecutions

As part of the Reichsregierung (Reich Government) the Reich Cabinet was indicted as a criminal organization by the International Military Tribunal. It was ultimately adjudged at the conclusion of the Nuremberg trials not to be a criminal organization.[19]

With regard to the individual members, by the fall of the Nazi regime in May 1945 five members of the Reich Cabinet had committed suicide (Hitler, Bormann, Himmler, Goebbels & Rust). Six others had already died (von Eltz-Rübenach, von Fritsch, Gürtner, Kerrl, Röhm & Todt). However, 15 surviving members of the Cabinet were individually indicted and tried for war crimes by the IMT along with Martin Bormann who was tried in absentia as he was thought to be still alive. Eight were sentenced to death (Bormann, Hans Frank, Frick, Göring, Keitel, von Ribbentrop, Rosenberg & Seyss-Inquart) six were imprisoned (Dönitz, Funk, Hess, von Neurath, Raeder & Speer) and two (Schacht & von Papen) were acquitted.[20]

An additional four Cabinet members (Darré, Lammers, Meissner & Schwerin von Krosigk) were tried by a US military court in the subsequent Ministries Trial; all but Meissner were convicted and imprisoned. One (Schlegelberger) was tried in the Judges' Trial and imprisoned. One (Karl Hermann Frank) was tried by a Czech court and sentenced to death. Another five (Backe, von Blomberg, von Brauchitsch, Seldte & Thierack) died in Allied custody before being brought to trial. Finally, the remaining cabinet members, including some of those acquitted in the Allied trials, were brought before special German denazification courts which categorized their level of guilt and determined whether punishment was warranted.[21] Among those convicted under this process were Hierl, von Papen and Schacht.

References

Informational notes

  1. ^ The Enabling Act was supposed to be effective for four years, but each time it expired, it was simply renewed.

Citations

  1. ^ Kershaw, Ian (2010). Hitler: A Biography. New York: Norton. p. 253. ISBN 9780393075625.
  2. ^ The Brown Plague: Travels in Late Weimar & Early Nazi Germany
  3. ^ Evans, Richard J. (2005). The Third Reich in Power. New York: Penguin Books. p. 645. ISBN 0-14-303790-0.
  4. ^ "Nazi Conspiracy and Aggression, Volume II, Chapter XV: Criminality of Groups and Organizations, pp. 91-94" (PDF). Office of United States Chief of Counsel For Prosecution of Axis Criminality. 1946. Retrieved 30 March 2021.
  5. ^ "Nazi Conspiracy and Aggression, Volume II, Chapter XV: Criminality of Groups and Organizations, p. 95" (PDF). Office of United States Chief of Counsel For Prosecution of Axis Criminality. 1946. Retrieved 5 May 2021.
  6. ^ "Nazi Conspiracy and Aggression, Volume IV, pp. 704-705, Document 2075-PS" (PDF). Office of United States Chief of Counsel For Prosecution of Axis Criminality. 1946. Retrieved 5 May 2021.
  7. ^ Broszat, Martin (1981). The Hitler State: The Foundation and Development of the Internal Structure of the Third Reich. New York: Longman Inc. pp. 87–88. ISBN 0-582-49200-9.
  8. ^ Zentner, Christian; Bedürftig, Friedemann (eds.) (1997). The Encyclopedia of the Third Reich. New York: Da Capo Press. p. 231. ISBN 0-306-80793-9.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
  9. ^ Broszat, Martin (1981). The Hitler State: The Foundation and Development of the Internal Structure of the Third Reich. New York: Longman Inc. pp. 312–18. ISBN 0-582-49200-9.
  10. ^ Stackelberg, Roderick (2002). Hitler's Germany: Origins, Interpretations, Legacies. New York: Routledge. p. 109. ISBN 9780203005415.
  11. ^ Nuremberg Judgement on Schacht, retrieved 16 March 2021
  12. ^ "Nazi Conspiracy and Aggression, Volume V, pp. 542-543, Document 2879-PS" (PDF). Office of United States Chief of Counsel For Prosecution of Axis Criminality. 1946. Retrieved 30 March 2021.
  13. ^ "Nazi Conspiracy and Aggression, Volume V, pp. 542-543, Document 2879-PS" (PDF). Office of United States Chief of Counsel For Prosecution of Axis Criminality. 1946. Retrieved 30 March 2021.
  14. ^ "Nazi Conspiracy and Aggression, Volume IV, p. 724, Document 2097-PS" (PDF). Office of United States Chief of Counsel For Prosecution of Axis Criminality. 1946. Retrieved 30 March 2021.
  15. ^ "Nazi Conspiracy and Aggression, Volume IV, pp. 552-553, Document 1915-PS" (PDF). Office of United States Chief of Counsel For Prosecution of Axis Criminality. 1946. Retrieved 30 March 2021.
  16. ^ "Nazi Conspiracy and Aggression, Volume IV, p. 725, Document 2098-PS" (PDF). Office of United States Chief of Counsel For Prosecution of Axis Criminality. 1946. Retrieved 30 March 2021.
  17. ^ "Nazi Conspiracy and Aggression, Volume IV, pp. 725-726, Document 2099-PS" (PDF). Office of United States Chief of Counsel For Prosecution of Axis Criminality. 1946. Retrieved 30 March 2021.
  18. ^ "Gestapo Rule in Germany, Himmler's New Post". The Times (London). 25 August 1943. p. 4.
  19. ^ "Nazi Conspiracy and Aggression, Opinion and Judgment, Chapter VII: The Accused Organizations, pp. 104-105" (PDF). Office of United States Chief of Counsel For Prosecution of Axis Criminality. 1946. Retrieved 30 March 2021.
  20. ^ Zentner & Bedürftig 1997, pp. 656-658.
  21. ^ Zentner & Bedürftig 1997, pp. 189-190.