How did the use of Article 48 (of the Weimar Republic's constitution) help Hitler's rise to power?

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rrteacher | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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Article 48 of the Weimar constitution authorizes the President to assume certain powers when faced with a state emergency:

In case public safety is seriously threatened or disturbed, the Reich President may take the measures necessary to reestablish law and order, if necessary by force.

In particular, the President could suspend civil liberties and rights, including due process rights. The article was designed to prevent a revolution such as the one that occurred in Russia that led to the establishment of a communist state. But Hitler, once elected Chancellor, was able to cynically exploit the provision. (The President, von Hindenburg, essentially signed off on Hitler's actions.) Claiming that the state faced the specter of a Bolshevik revolution, he used Article 48 to justify the overthrow of the elected Prussian government as well as a series of raids on Communist leaders (as well as a few of his own rivals.) After the Reichstag fire of Feburary 1933, Hitler invoked Article 48 again, claiming the power to run the government essentially by decree. The Reichstag passed enabling legislation that allowed Hitler to impose dictatorial rule on Germany. When von Hindenburg died in 1934, Hitler was able to further consolidate his power, which he continued to claim (at least while such claims were still useful) was based on the Weimar Constitution.

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