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Machtergreifung ( ) is a German word meaning "seizure of power". It is normally used specifically to refer to the Nazi takeover of power in Weimar Germanymarker on January 30, 1933. This is the day Hitler was sworn in as Chancellor of Germany.

The term Machtübernahme ("takeover of power") is also used for this event. Note that when used in German, both Machtergreifung and Machtübernahme retain their more general meanings and are not particularly related to the Nazis. Machtübernahme can be used for any take over of power, whether peaceful and legitimate or violent and illegitimate.

The term Machtergreifung was first coined by the Nazis themselves in order to portray their accession to power as an active seizure (an alternative term used was Nationale Erhebung ("national rising"). Since Adolf Hitler's accession to power was more a result of intrigue rather than of an active revolution, the term has been criticized by historians and is sometimes replaced with the term Machtübertragung ("handing-over of power") or, more polemically, Machterschleichung ("sneaking into power").

Another name commonly used for the Nazi seizure of power in 1933 is the Brown Revolution .


The Nazis learned out of the failed Hitlerputschmarker of November 9th 1923 and developed a "Legalitätsstrategie" (legalisation strategy) for their "Nationale Revolution", to formally observe the law.

After the success in 1930 elections, the chancellor Heinrich Brüning (Centre Party ) tried to keep the state and constitution alive through a minority government lead by the sozial democracts. Brüning pushed through a law proscribing the SS and SA, which had to be abolished again in 1932 after pressure of Hindenburg and the right-national forces around Kurt von Schleicher. Seen from an economic perspective, Brüning made unemployment worse through his rigid program of budget balancing. Since 1932 the partyless chancellor Franz von Papen strived for a colaboration with the national socialists, to use their popularity with the masses for himself. A coalation between centre, DNVP and NSDAP failed because of Hitler's demand for chancellorship. Since Papen endeavored for the national socialists, he didn't forbid the NSDAP as a seditious party. The Boxheimer Documents of 1931, containing plans for a putsch by the Nazis could have given him the chance.

The Machtergreifung was followed by the Gleichschaltung, the period to around 1934 characterized by systematic elimination of non-Nazi organizations that could potentially influence people, such as trade unions and political parties.


  1. Toland, John. Hitler: The Pictorial Documentary of his Life (Garden City, New York: Doubleday & Sons, 1978) Chapter 5 "The Brown Revolution" p. 42-60


  • Richard J. Evans: Das Dritte Reich - Aufstieg, München 2004, ISBN 3-421-05652-8 . In English as The Coming Of The Third Reich, London: Allen Lane, 2003.
  • Norbert Frei: Machtergreifung. Anmerkungen zu einem historischen Begriff. In: Vierteljahrshefte für Zeitgeschichte. (VfZ) 31/1983, S. 136–145
  • Gotthard Jasper: Die gescheiterte Zähmung. Wege zur Machtergreifung Hitlers 1930-1934. Suhrkamp, Frankfurt am Main 1986 (Neue Historische Bibliothek), ISBN 3-518-11270-8

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