On January 30, 1933, President Paul von Hindenburg named Adolf Hitler chancellor of Germany. Within days of Hitler’s appointment, the Nazis began to target their political opposition and those they considered enemies of the state, especially Communists and Jews.  Within months, they had transformed Germany into a dictatorship.  This chapter chronicles the National Socialist revolution that swept through Germany in 1933, and it examines the choices individual Germans were forced to confront as a result.

Essential Questions

  • What made it possible for the Nazis to transform Germany into a dictatorship during their first years in power?
  • What choices do individuals have in the face of an emerging dictatorship? What can they do to nurture democracy and help it survive?
  • What roles do institutions—such as the media, law enforcement, schools, churches, and industry—play in sustaining democracy or enabling its destruction?



Before exploring our readings on the Nazis' first year in power, get familiar with their central themes and historical context.

Reading 1 of 24

The Night of Hitler's Triumph

Read firsthand accounts of the day that Hitler took office as chancellor of Germany in 1933. 

Reading 2 of 24

Hitler's First Radio Address

Read the text of Hitler’s first speech to the German people as chancellor, in which he describes his vision for the future of Germany.

Reading 3 of 24

"The Battle for Work"

Learn about the Nazis’ job creation program during their first year in power, which pursued both reemployment and military rearmament.

Reading 4 of 24

Outlawing the Opposition

Learn about Hitler’s early measures against "enemies of the state," including the Enabling Act and the first concentration camp at Dachau.

Reading 5 of 24

Enabling Dictatorship

Read the text of the Enabling Act, the law many historians argue was the legal basis for Hitler’s dictatorship in Nazi Germany. 

Reading 6 of 24

Storm Troopers, Elite Guards, and Secret Police

Learn about the roles of the the SA, the SS, and the Gestapo in Nazi Germany.

Reading 7 of 24

Shaping Public Opinion

Read about the far-reaching efforts of Joseph Goebbels and the Ministry of Propaganda to generate enthusiasm for the Nazi party (Spanish available).

Reading 8 of 24

Working Toward the Führer

Consider how the Nazis leveraged Hitler’s public image in their pursuit to transform German society according to Nazi ideology.

Reading 9 of 24

Targeting Jews

Learn about the Nazis' boycott of Jewish-owned businesses, including a firsthand account from a German Jew (Spanish available).

Reading 10 of 24

"Restoring" Germany's Civil Service

Read a letter exchange between Adolf Hitler and President Paul von Hindenburg regarding a law that suspended Jews from positions of civil service in Nazi Germany (Spanish available).

Reading 11 of 24

A Test of Loyalty

Consider how two government employees in Nazi Germany chose to respond to the 1933 Civil Service Law, which suspended employment to Jews and others.

Reading 12 of 24

Controlling the Universities

Learn how the Nazis pushed their ideology onto German universities, and how academics like Heidegger and Einstein responded.  

Reading 13 of 24

A Wave of Discrimination

Review a list of anti-Jewish laws, policies, and decrees made in Nazi Germany in 1933.

Reading 15 of 24

Where They Burn Books...

Consider the significance of the public burning of books deemed in Nazi Germany in 1933 (Spanish available).

Reading 16 of 24

An Agreement with the Catholic Church

Learn about the concordat that Hitler and the Catholic Church signed in 1933, and the compromises and gains involved for both parties. 

Reading 17 of 24

Protestant Churches and the Nazi State

Consider the different ways that the German Christian movement and the Confessing Church movement navigated their relationships with the Nazi government.

Reading 18 of 24

Breeding the New German "Race"

Learn about the sterilization law in Nazi Germany and other measures taken by the Nazis to ensure the purity of the Aryan race.

Reading 19 of 24

No Time to Think

Reading 21 of 24

Isolating Homosexuals

Find out how Hitler strengthened enforcement of Paragraph 155, a law that made homosexuality a crime in Germany (Spanish available).

Reading 22 of 24

Pledging Allegiance

Compare the text of Germany's original military oath with Hitler’s new oath, and consider the implications of the oath's promise of allegiance to a single leader (Spanish available).

Reading 23 of 24

Do You Take the Oath?

Reading 24 of 24

The Empty Table

Read a German Jew’s firsthand account of being alienated by her friends her during the Nazis' first year in power.

Analysis & Reflection

Analysis & Reflection

Enhance your students’ understanding of our readings on the Nazis' first year in power with these follow-up questions and prompts.

Get Our Companion Unit: Teaching Holocaust and Human Behavior

Lead your middle and high school students through a thorough examination of the history of the Holocaust. Over the course of the unit, students will learn to:

  • Craft an argumentative essay
  • Explore primary sources, videos, and readings that lead them through an in-depth study of the Holocaust
  • Recognize the societal consequences of "we" and "they" thinking
  • Understand the historical context in which the Nazi party rose to power and committed genocide

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