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File:Reichstag members 1933 memorial.jpeg

Memorial in Berlin. Each slate plate corresponds to one of the 96 Reichstag members eliminated by the Nazis after they grasped power in 1933

Machtergreifung (German pronunciation: [ˈmaxtɐˌɡʁaɪfʊŋ]  (File:Speaker Icon.svg listen)) is a German word meaning "seizure of power". It is normally used specifically to refer to the Nazi takeover of power in Weimar Germany on 30 January 1933. This is the day Hitler was sworn in as Chancellor of Germany.

The term Machtübernahme ("takeover of power") is also used for this event. Note that, when used in German, both Machtergreifung and Machtübernahme retain their more general meanings and are not particularly related to the Nazis. Machtübernahme can be used for 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 Adolf Hitler's accession to power was more a result of intrigue rather than of an active 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 .[1]


The Nazis learned from the failed Hitlerputsch of 9 November 1923 and developed a "Legalitätsstrategie" (legalisation strategy) for their "National Revolution" to formally observe the law.

After the success in 1930 elections, the chancellor Heinrich Brüning (Centre Party (Germany)) tried to keep the state and constitution alive through a minority government lead by the social democracts. Brüning pushed through a law proscribing the SS and SA, which had to be abolished again in 1932 after pressure of Hindenburg and the right-national forces around Kurt von Schleicher. Seen from an economic perspective, Brüning made unemployment worse through his rigid program of budget balancing. After 1932 the party-less chancellor Franz von Papen strove for collaboration with the National Socialists, to use their popularity with the masses for himself. A coalition between centre, DNVP, and NSDAP failed because of Hitler's demand for chancellorship. Since Papen had courted for the National Socialists, he did not forbid the NSDAP as a seditious party. The Boxheimer Documents of 1931, containing plans for a putsch by the Nazis, could have given him grounds for this.

The Machtergreifung was followed by the Gleichschaltung, the period until around 1934 characterized by systematic elimination of non-Nazi organizations that could potentially influence people, such as trade unions and political parties.


  1. Toland, John. Hitler: The Pictorial Documentary of his Life (Garden City, New York: Doubleday & Sons, 1978) Chapter 5 "The Brown Revolution" p. 42-60


  • Richard J. Evans: Das Dritte Reich - Aufstieg, München 2004, ISBN 3-421-05652-8 (German). In English as The Coming Of The Third Reich, London: Allen Lane, 2003.
  • Norbert Frei: Machtergreifung. Anmerkungen zu einem historischen Begriff. In: Vierteljahrshefte für Zeitgeschichte. (VfZ) 31/1983, S. 136–145 (German)
  • Gotthard Jasper: Die gescheiterte Zähmung. Wege zur Machtergreifung Hitlers 1930-1934. Suhrkamp, Frankfurt am Main 1986 (Neue Historische Bibliothek), ISBN 3-518-11270-8 (German)

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