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1934: Triumph of the Will
 pg. 75 
Adolf Hitler salutes a monument to fallen Nazi comrades at the Nuremberg Party rally.
Photo: Bundesarchiv/United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Photo Archive
Hitler loyalist Theodor Eicke (pictured) murdered SA leader Ernst Röhm during the Night of the Long Knives.
Photo: National Archives/United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Photo Archive
Speaking to the Reichstag on July 13, Hitler took responsibility for the purge, referring to himself as the "highest judge of the German people," and affirmed that "in the state there is only one bearer of arms, and that is the Army; there is only one bearer of the political will, and that is the National Socialist Party." The Army leadership's satisfaction in hearing that proclamation was matched by the Reichstag's applause as it passed a law legitimating the purge as "emergency defense measures of the state."

Hitler's good fortune continued. He received a congratulatory telegram from President Hindenburg, who wrote that Hitler had "nipped treason in the bud" and "saved the nation from serious danger." But an even bigger reward was his on the morning of August 2 when President Hindenburg died. With the plan already arranged, a government announcement was made within an hour of Hindenburg's death: The offices of president and chancellor were to be merged. Hitler would be Nazi Party chief, head of state, and supreme commander of the armed forces as well.

Hitler was now the nation's ultimate authority. Signaling that fact on the same day, German soldiers took a personal oath of loyalty to Hitler: "I swear before God this sacred oath: I will render unconditional obedience to Adolf Hitler, the Führer of the German nation and people, supreme commander of the Armed Forces, and will be ready as a brave soldier to risk my life at any time for this oath."

Less than three weeks later, the German people were given an opportunity to ratify Hitler's new position and title: Führer and Reich chancellor. The turnout for this plebiscite was more than 90 percent of the 45.5 million people who could vote. Thirty-eight million Germans--about 90 percent of the votes cast--said "yes." Not every German agreed, however. More than four million voted "no," and about 870,000 voting papers were defaced.

Hitler could go to the 1934 Nazi Party rally at Nuremberg a much more confident man than he was when the year began. As Hitler's confidence was bolstered and as Himmler's authority increased, the vise on Germany's Jews was tightening even if the year's major events in Germany had not been focused primarily on them. By no means, however, had the Jews been forgotten while Hitler and his loyal followers consolidated and expanded their power. "Paper violence" against Jews had continued.

One important measure, enacted on March 23, was the Law Regarding Expulsion from the Reich, which would pave the way for East European Jews to be expelled from the Reich. Other decrees were aimed particularly at removing Jews from German educational institutions and professions. In early February, for instance, "non-Aryan" medical students had been prohibited from taking state medical examinations. In early May tuition exemptions were discontinued for Jewish university students.

The year 1934 was a triumph of the will for Hitler and his followers. For the European Jews, that triumph would prove to be a catastrophe.

1934: Triumph of the Will
 pg. 75 
The Holocaust Chronicle
© 2009 Publications International, Ltd.