On this day in 1934, Adolf Hitler, already chancellor, was also elected president of Germany in an unprecedented consolidation of power in the short history of the republic. In February of 1933, Hitler blamed a devastating Reichstag fire on the communists (its true cause remains a mystery) and convinced then-president Paul von Hindenburg to sign a decree suspending individual and civil liberties, a decree Hitler used to silence his political enemies with false arrests.
Upon the death of Hindenburg in 1934, Hitler proceeded to purge the Brownshirts (his storm troopers), the head of which, Ernst Rohm, had begun voicing opposition to the Nazi Party’s terror tactics. Hitler had Rohm executed without trial, which encouraged the army and other reactionary forces within the country to urge Hitler to further consolidate his power by merging the presidency and the chancellorship. This would make Hitler commander of the army as well. A plebiscite vote was held on August 19. Intimidation and fear of the communists brought Hitler a 90 percent majority. He became, for all intents and purposes, dictator.
What made Hitler so evil and destructive? One thing, say historians. No accountability. Lord Acton was right when he said, “Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”
Be careful before seeking power. That might be the worst gift you ever receive.