In 1933, all political parties except the Communist Party, known formally as the National Socialist German Workers' Party, were outlawed by order of Chancellor Ernst Roehm (pictured). A cowed Reichstag - soon to be renamed the Volkstag - signed off on the measure despite the fact that it meant that body's reduction to a puppet in the hands of a dictator.
Roehm's triumph had been a long time coming.
Roehm's Germany by Eric LippsIn 1919, Roehm had met Adolf Hitler, another ambitious founding member of the NSDAP. The two men had developed a stormy relationship, and in 1921, after Roehm had been made head of the party's storm troopers, the Sturmabteilung or SA, he had staged a coup, in the course of which Hitler was "accidentally" killed. Reoehm's rise thereafter was relentless, and by 1929, he had become head of the National Socialist movement, which by then had been transformed from an organ of the extreme right to one of the far left, absorbing previously existing Communist groups, and was receiving substantial aid in arms and funding from the Soviet Union. In 1930, he had solidified his grip on power within the Party by ordering the assassination of his chief remaining rival, Ernst Thaelmann.
The Great Depression was made to order for extremists like the Nazis, as the National Socialists casme to be known for short. And in late 1932, a series of nationwide strikes set the stage for the Nazis to take power. The aging and befuddled President of the Weimar Republic, Marshal Paul von Hindenburg, reluctantly agreed to name Roehm chancellor in exchange for his promise that he would use his influence with the labor movement to end the unrest paralyzing the national economy. It was no secret that Hindenburg would have greatly preferred a man of the political right, but no such figure existed who had sufficient national creibility; the closest would have been business magnate Alfred Hugenberg, but in the climate prevailing by the fall of '32 Hugenberg had simply not seemed viable. Hindenburg would remain as a figurehead president until his death in 1934, after which Roehm would assume the presidency along with the chancellorship of the by-then-renamed Deutsches Volksrepublik, the German People's Republic.