Thursday, March 23, 2017

March 23, 1933

Eighty-four years ago today the German Reichstag passed the Ermächtigungsgesetz (enabling act) with the necessary two-thirds majority that gave unlimited power to the National Socialists and their Führer Adolf Hitler. Only the deputies of the social democrats voted against. The reasons were presented by Otto Wels, leader of the SPD:

©Wikipedia
Die Wahlen vom 5. März haben den Regierungsparteien die Mehrheit gebracht und damit die Möglichkeit gegeben, streng nach Wortlaut und Sinn der Verfassung zu regieren. Wo diese Möglichkeit besteht, besteht auch die Pflicht ...

Die Verfassung der Weimarer Republik ist keine sozialistische Verfassung. Aber wir stehen zu den Grundsätzen des Rechtsstaates und der Gleichberechtigung, des sozialen Rechtes. Wir deutschen Sozialdemokraten bekennen uns in dieser geschichtlichen Stunde feierlich zu den Grundsätzen der Menschlichkeit und der Gerechtigkeit, der Freiheit und des Sozialismus. Kein Ermächtigungsgesetz gibt Ihnen die Macht, Ideen, die ewig und unzerstörbar sind, zu vernichten ...

Das Sozialistengesetz hat die Sozialdemokratie nicht vernichtet. Auch aus neuen Verfolgungen kann die deutsche Sozialdemokratie neue Kraft schöpfen ...


(The elections of March 5, 1933, gave the governing parties the majority and hence the possibility to govern stringently according to our constitution. Where there is the possibility there is the obligation too ...

The constitution of the Weimar Republic is no socialist constitution but we are standing for the principles of the constitutional state and the equality of social rights. In this historic moment we German social democrats declare the fundamental principles of humanity and justice, of freedom and socialism. No enabling act will give you the power to destroy ideas that are eternal and indestructible ...

[Bismark's] Anti-Socialist Law did not destroy social democracy. The German social democracy will again draw strength from new persecutions).

And then still attached to nineteen century thinking Wels added: Freiheit und Leben kann man uns nehmen, die Ehre nicht! (You can take our freedom and lives, but you can't take our honor!)

Eventually the Reichstag passed the law with 444 against 94 votes of the social democrats giving dictatorial power to the Nazis. The separation of power was wiped out. Detention of social democrats started already the day after. Wels escaped to Prag. He was deprived of his German citizenship in August 1933. In 1938 when the Nazis threatened the Czech Republic he fled to Paris where he died in exile in September 1939.

Separation of power is the base of democracy. Today Red Baron read in the NYT about @POTUS' ideas for Republicans not voting Trumpcare: Trump Warns House Republicans: Repeal Health Law or Lose Your Seats. Will @POTUS start baking his own deputies?

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