Machtergreifung (ˈmaxtʔɛɐ̯ˌɡʁaɪfʊŋ) is a German
German language
German is a West Germanic language, related to and classified alongside English and Dutch. With an estimated 90 – 98 million native speakers, German is one of the world's major languages and is the most widely-spoken first language in the European Union....

 word meaning "seizure of power". It is normally used specifically to refer to the Nazi
Nazism, the common short form name of National Socialism was the ideology and practice of the Nazi Party and of Nazi Germany...

 takeover of power in the democratic Weimar Republic
Weimar Republic
The Weimar Republic is the name given by historians to the parliamentary republic established in 1919 in Germany to replace the imperial form of government...

 on 30 January 1933, the day Hitler
Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler was an Austrian-born German politician and the leader of the National Socialist German Workers Party , commonly referred to as the Nazi Party). He was Chancellor of Germany from 1933 to 1945, and head of state from 1934 to 1945...

 was sworn in as Chancellor of Germany
Chancellor of Germany
The Chancellor of Germany is, under the German 1949 constitution, the head of government of Germany...

, turning it into the Nazi German
Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany , also known as the Third Reich , but officially called German Reich from 1933 to 1943 and Greater German Reich from 26 June 1943 onward, is the name commonly used to refer to the state of Germany from 1933 to 1945, when it was a totalitarian dictatorship ruled by...

 (Third Reich) dictatorship.


The term Machtübernahme ("takeover of power") is also used for this event. Note that, when used in German, both Machtergreifung and especially Machtübernahme retain their more general meanings and the latter is not particularly related to the Nazis. Machtübernahme means any takeover 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 Hitler's appointment as chancellor was more a result of intrigue rather than of an active revolution
A revolution is a fundamental change in power or organizational structures that takes place in a relatively short period of time.Aristotle described two types of political 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, referring to the brown-coloured shirts that served as the uniform of the SA
The Sturmabteilung functioned as a paramilitary organization of the National Socialist German Workers' Party . It played a key role in Adolf Hitler's rise to power in the 1920s and 1930s...

, for which its members were known as "brownshirts".


The Nazis had learned from the failed Beer Hall Putsch
Beer Hall Putsch
The Beer Hall Putsch was a failed attempt at revolution that occurred between the evening of 8 November and the early afternoon of 9 November 1923, when Nazi Party leader Adolf Hitler, Generalquartiermeister Erich Ludendorff, and other heads of the Kampfbund unsuccessfully tried to seize power...

 of 9 November 1923 and developed a "Legalitätsstrategie" (legality strategy) for their "National Revolution" to formally observe the law.

After the huge success of the Nazi Party in the 1930 elections, the government of Heinrich Brüning
Heinrich Brüning
Heinrich Brüning was Chancellor of Germany from 1930 to 1932, during the Weimar Republic. He was the longest serving Chancellor of the Weimar Republic, and remains a controversial figure in German politics....

Centre Party (Germany)
The German Centre Party was a Catholic political party in Germany during the Kaiserreich and the Weimar Republic. Formed in 1870, it battled the Kulturkampf which the Prussian government launched to reduce the power of the Catholic Church...

) tried to keep the state and constitution alive through a minority government supported by the Social Democrats
Social Democratic Party of Germany
The Social Democratic Party of Germany is a social-democratic political party in Germany...

. Brüning pushed through a law proscribing the Nazi SS
The Schutzstaffel |Sig runes]]) was a major paramilitary organization under Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party. Built upon the Nazi ideology, the SS under Heinrich Himmler's command was responsible for many of the crimes against humanity during World War II...

and SA
The Sturmabteilung functioned as a paramilitary organization of the National Socialist German Workers' Party . It played a key role in Adolf Hitler's rise to power in the 1920s and 1930s...

paramilitary organizations, which had to be revoked in 1932 after pressure of right-wing forces around Kurt von Schleicher
Kurt von Schleicher
Kurt von Schleicher was a German general and the last Chancellor of Germany during the era of the Weimar Republic. Seventeen months after his resignation, he was assassinated by order of his successor, Adolf Hitler, in the Night of the Long Knives....

. Seen from an economic perspective, Brüning made unemployment worse through his rigid program of public budget balancing. On 1 June 1932 Reich President Paul von Hindenburg
Paul von Hindenburg
Paul Ludwig Hans Anton von Beneckendorff und von Hindenburg , known universally as Paul von Hindenburg was a Prussian-German field marshal, statesman, and politician, and served as the second President of Germany from 1925 to 1934....

, urged by Schleicher, appointed the non-partisan Franz von Papen
Franz von Papen
Lieutenant-Colonel Franz Joseph Hermann Michael Maria von Papen zu Köningen was a German nobleman, Roman Catholic monarchist politician, General Staff officer, and diplomat, who served as Chancellor of Germany in 1932 and as Vice-Chancellor under Adolf Hitler in 1933–1934...

 chancellor, who strove for collaboration with the Nazis to use their popularity with the masses for himself. A coalition between the centre, the German National People's Party
German National People's Party
The German National People's Party was a national conservative party in Germany during the time of the Weimar Republic. Before the rise of the NSDAP it was the main nationalist party in Weimar Germany composed of nationalists, reactionary monarchists, völkisch, and antisemitic elements, and...

 (DNVP), and the Nazis failed because of Hitler's demand for chancellorship. Since Papen had courted the Nazis, he did not forbid the NSDAP as a seditious party though the Boxheimer Dokumente written by Werner Best
Werner Best
Dr. Werner Best was a German Nazi, jurist, police chief, SS-Obergruppenführer and Nazi Party leader from Darmstadt, Hesse. He studied law and in 1927 obtained his doctorate degree at Heidelberg...

 in 1931 revealing plans for a putsch by the Nazis, could have given rise for stern measures.

The Machtergreifung was followed by the Gleichschaltung
Gleichschaltung , meaning "coordination", "making the same", "bringing into line", is a Nazi term for the process by which the Nazi regime successively established a system of totalitarian control and tight coordination over all aspects of society. The historian Richard J...

the period until around 1934 characterized by systematic elimination of non-Nazi organizations that could potentially influence people, such as trade union
Trade union
A trade union, trades union or labor union is an organization of workers that have banded together to achieve common goals such as better working conditions. The trade union, through its leadership, bargains with the employer on behalf of union members and negotiates labour contracts with...

s and political parties
Political Parties
Political Parties: A Sociological Study of the Oligarchical Tendencies of Modern Democracy is a book by sociologist Robert Michels, published in 1911 , and first introducing the concept of iron law of oligarchy...


Further reading

. |journal=Vierteljahrshefte für Zeitgeschichte (VfZ) |volume=31 |year=1983 |pages=136–145 }} . |publisher=Suhrkamp |location=Frankfurt am Main |year=1986 |series=Neue Historische Bibliothek |isbn=3518112708 }} .
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