vs. German Enabling Act: The Decrees of 1933
from Furniture for the People, May 25, 2005
(Posted here by Wes Penre, May 27, 2005)
1) How the Patriot Act
Compares to Hitler's Ermächtigungsgesetz (Enabling Act)
March 23, 1933, the newly elected members of the Reichstag met in the
Kroll Opera House in Berlin to consider passing Hitler's
The "Enabling Act" was officially called the 'Law for Removing the
Distress of the People and the Reich.'
Opponents to the
bill argued that if it was passed, it would end democracy in Germany and
establish a legal dictatorship of Adolf Hitler. To soften
resistance to the passing of the Enabling Act, the Nazis secretly caused
confusion in order to create an atmosphere in which the law seem
necessary to restore order.
On February 27, 1933, Nazis burned
the Reichstag building, and a seat of the German government, causing
frenzy and outrage. They successfully blamed the fire on the Communists,
and claimed it marked the beginning of a
widespread terrorism and unrest threatening the safety of the German
"Homeland." On the day of the vote, Nazi storm troopers gathered
around the opera house chanting, "Full powers - or else! We want the
bill - or fire and murder!"
The Nazis used the opportunity to
arrest 4,000 communists. Not only did the Nazis use the incident as a
propaganda against communists but they also arrested additional 40,000
members of the opposition. Consequently, the Nazis had achieved their
objective of eliminating democracy and ensuring their majority in the
After the fire on February 28, 1933, president
Hindenburg and Hitler invoked Article 48 of the Weimar Constitution,
which permitted the suspension of civil liberties during national
emergencies. Some examples of this Decree of the Reich President for the
Protection of the People and State abrogated the following
constitutional protections: Freedom of the press, free expression of
opinion, individual property rights, right of assembly and association,
right to privacy of postal and electronic communications, states´ rights
of self-government, and protection against unlawful searches and
Before the vote, Hitler made a speech
to the Reichstag in which he pledged to use restraint.
He also promised to end unemployment and promote
multilateral peace with France, Great Britain and the Soviet
In order to accomplish all this, Hitler
said, he first needed the Enabling Act.
Since this act would alter the German
constitution, a two-thirds majority was necessary. Hitler needed
31 non-Nazi votes to pass it. The Center Party provided these votes
after Hitler made a false promise to them. Four hundred and forty votes
were registered for the Enabling Act, while a mere 84 votes were opposed
– the social Democrats. In glory the Nazi Party stood to their feet and
sang the Nazi anthem, the Hörst Wessel song. The German Democratic party
had finally been eliminated, and Hitler’s dream for Nazi command became
closer to reality.
Enabling Act granted Hitler the power he craved and could use
without objection from the Reichstag. Shortly after the passing of The
Enabling Act all other political parties were
dissolved. Trade unions were liquidated and opposition clergy were
arrested. The Nazi party had, as Hitler said, become the state.
By August 1934, Hitler became commander-in-chief of the armed forces.
This was in addition to being President and Führer of the German Reich,
to whom every individual in the armed forces pledged unconditional
obedience. The Reichstag was no longer a place for debate, but rather a
cheering squad in favor of whatever Hitler might say.
2) A 21st Century Comparison of The Enabling Act and The Patriot Act
Last September, German Justice Minister Herta Daeubler-Gmelin pointed
out that George Bush is using Iraq to distract the American public from
his failed domestic policies. She capped her statement by reminding her
audience: "That's a popular method. Even Hitler did that." What was lost
in the reactions to Ms.
comments was that she wasn't comparing Bush to the Hitler of the late
1930s and early 1940s; but to the Hitler of the late 1920s and early
Most Americans have forgotten that Hitler came to power legally. He and
the Nazi Party were elected democratically in a time of great national
turmoil and crisis. They themselves had done much to cause the turmoil,
of course, but that's what makes the Bush comparison so compelling.
Similar to the Bush administration, the Nazis were funded and ultimately
ushered into power by wealthy industrialists looking for government
favors in the form of tax breaks, big subsidies, and laws to weaken the
rights of workers. When the Reichstag (Germany's Parliament building)
was set ablaze in 1933 (probably by Nazis), the Nazis framed their
political rivals for it. In the general panic that followed, the German
Parliament was purged of all left-wing representatives who might be soft
on communists and foreigners, and the few who remained then VOTED to
grant Chancellor Hitler dictatorial powers. A long, hideous nightmare
History teaches us that it is shockingly easy to separate reasonable and
intelligent people from their rights. A legally elected leader and party
can easily manipulate national events to whip up fear, crucify
scapegoats, gag dissenters, and convince the masses that their liberties
must be suspended (temporarily, of course) in the name of restoring
order. Consider the following two statements, and see if you can
identify the authors.
Statement Number One: "The people can
always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you
have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the
pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It
works the same way in any country."
Statement Number Two: "To those who scare
peace-loving people with phantoms of lost liberty, my message is this:
Your tactics only aid terrorists, for they erode our national unity and
diminish our resolve."
The first statementis a quote from Hitler's right hand
man, Hermann Goering, explaining at his war crimes trial
how easily he and his fellow Nazis hijacked Germany's democratic
government. The second statementis a quote from Bush's right hand
man, John Ashcroft, defending the Patriot Act and
explaining why dissent will no longer be tolerated in the age of
terrorism. If that doesn't send chills down your spine, nothing will.
When the shooting started at Lexington Green in 1775, those calling
themselves patriots were the men and women who refused to yield their
rights to an increasingly oppressive government. Today, according to
John Ashcroft and his Patriot Act of 2001, a patriot is someone who
kneels down in fear, and hands over his or her rights to the government
in the name of fighting terrorism. Isn't the hypocrisy of this all too
obvious? The Bush administration wants us to fight in Afghanistan, to
fight in Iraq, and to fight wherever terrorists may be hiding. And what,
pray tell, are we fighting for? Well, according to the White House,
we're fighting for freedom. Yet freedom is exactly what the White House
is demanding that we now SURRENDER in the name of fighting terrorism.
So what's really going on? Well, it's all a lie, of course. The Bush
administration isn't any more interested in protecting our freedom from
terrorists than Hitler was in protecting Germans from communists, Jews,
and all the other groups he scapegoated. The Bush administration is
fighting only to protect itself and its corporate sponsors. It hides
behind a veil of national security and behind non-stop war headlines of
its own creation. And behind that smokescreen, Bush, Inc. is pursuing
Hitler’s old agenda from the 1920s and 1930s: serving the interests of
the corporate industrialists who brought it to power.
There is a name for governments
that serve the interests of Big Business at the expense of their own
citizens: fascist. Here's a short list of the rights we've already
surrendered since the September 11 attacks. Most
of these abuses are from a single piece of legislation called the
Patriot Act of 2001, which was rushed through Congress with no debate in
the aftermath of the attacks. Many of the Congressmen who voted for it
later admitted that they hadn't even read it at the time.
3) Ten Key Dangers of The Patriot Act
That Every American Should Know
The government can conduct "sneak and peek" searches in which agents
enter your home or business and search your belongings without informing
you until long after.
No. 2: Government agents can force
libraries and bookstores to hand over the titles of books that you1ve
purchased or borrowed and can demand the identity of anyone who has
purchased or borrowed certain books. The government can also prosecute
libraries and bookstores for informing you that the search occurred or
even for informing you that an inquiry was made. According to ACLU staff
attorney Jameel Jaffer, such "searches could extend to doctors offices,
banks and other institutions which, like libraries, were previously
off-limits under the law." Chris Finan, President of the American
Booksellers group adds: "The refusal of the Justice Department to tell
Congress how many times it has used its powers is even more unsettling
because it naturally leads to the suspicion that it is using them a
No. 3: Federal agents are authorized to use
hidden devices to trace the telephone calls or emails of people who are
not even suspected of a crime. The FBI is also permitted to use its
Magic Lantern technology to monitor everything you do on your
computer--recording not just the websites you visit but EVERY SINGLE
KEYSTROKE as well.
No. 4: Government agents are permitted to
arrest and detain individuals "suspected" of terrorist activities and to
hold them INDEFINITELY, WITHOUT CHARGE, and WITHOUT an ATTORNEY. (That
could be you or me for sending or receiving this Email, by the way)
No. 5: Federal agents are permitted to
conduct full investigations of American citizens and permanent legal
residents simply because they have participated in activities protected
by the First Amendment, such as writing a letter to the editor or
attending a peaceful rally.
No. 6: Law enforcement agents are permitted
to listen in on discussions between prisoners and their attorneys, thus
denying them their Constitutional right to confidential legal counsel.
No. 7: Terrorism suspects may be tried in
secret military tribunals where defendants have no right to a public
trial, no right to trial by jury, no right to confront the evidence, and
no right to appeal to an independent court. In short, the Constitution
does not apply.
No. 8: The CIA is granted authority to spy
on American citizens, a power that has previously been denied to this
international espionage organization.
No. 9: In addition to the Patriot Act, the
Bush administration has given us Operations TIPS, a government program
that encourages citizens to spy on each other and to report their
neighbors activities to the authorities. It's EXACTLY the kind of thing
for which we used to fault East Germany and the Soviet Union, and for
which we currently fault Red China and North Korea. Fortunately,
Operation TIPS (or AmeriSnitch, as it's known to its many detractors)
seems to have been recalled to the factory--at least for now.
(Incidentally, in a clever variation of "two-can-play-at-that-game”,
Brad Templeton has set up a website at
where you can report people you suspect of being informants for
Operation TIPS. It's an interesting and amusing site, well worth a
No. 10: In the wake of Operation TIPS came
something even worse: Total Information Awareness. TIA is a program of
the Defense Department that when fully operational will link commercial
and government databases so that the DOD can immediately put its finger
on any piece of information about you that it wants. New York Times
columnist William Safire writes: "Every purchase you make with a credit
card, every magazine subscription you buy and medical prescription you
fill, every Web site you visit and e-mail you send or receive, every
academic grade you receive, every bank deposit you make, every trip you
book and every event you attend all these transactions and
communications will go into what the Defense Department describes as a
virtual, centralized grand database." And that's not all. Who did our
president appoint to head the TIA? Who gets to be Big Brother himself?
Why it's none other than John Poindexter, a man convicted in 1990 on
five counts of lying to Congress, destroying official documents, and
obstructing congressional inquiries into the Iran-contra affair. Another
Hermann Goering, if there ever was one.
4) BILL MOYERS'
NOW COMMENTS ON THE PATRIOT ACT
At the same time the Bush administration is probing into your private
life, it is shielding itself from all public scrutiny. It has shredded
the Freedom of Information Act; it has locked away presidential records
not only of the current administration but of administrations going all
the way back to Reagan as well; and it has even locked up George W.
Bush's gubernatorial records so that the people of Texas can't see what
he did to them while serving as their governor.
Not surprisingly, the Bush administration is also using anti-terror
legislation and executive orders to protect its corporate sponsors from
scrutiny and from prosecution. The drug company Eli Lilly, for instance,
was recently granted immunity from all cases brought against it-–even
those initiated long before the war on terrorism--related to a vaccine
it manufactured that turned out to cause autism in many children. (Eli
Lilly contributed over $3 million in the last two election campaigns.)
The Bush administration also protected the Bayer Corporation1s patent on
the antibiotic Cipro throughout the anthrax scare, whereas other
countries, such as Canada, broke that patent so that other companies
could make cheaper versions of the drug in case of emergency.
It is interesting to note that during WWII Bayer was part of the I.G.
Farben conglomerate, the top financial contributor to the Nazi Party.
I.G. Farben produced petrol and rubber for the Nazi war machine and it
manufactured the Zyklon B gas that was used to exterminate millions of
Jews and other "enemies of the state." In exchange for these services,
the Nazis provided Farben (and Bayer) with lucrative government
contracts and with slave labor from concentration camps.
Under George W. Bush's kinder, gentler fascism, U.S. corporations are
now allowed to do business with the Homeland Security Department even if
they cheat the government out of vast amounts of tax revenues by setting
up offshore business fronts in the Caribbean Islands. It used to be that
tax-evaders were tracked down and punished. Now they're rewarded with
fat government contracts. Could the slave labor be far behind?
If only this were the extent of the Bush administration's ramble down
the road to fascism. Way back in November of 2001, William Safire
accused the Bush administration of "seizing dictatorial power." Well,
Mr. Safire, you ain't seen nothing yet. Just when you thought it
couldn't get any worse, just when you thought we can't lose any more of
our liberties and still call ourselves a "free society," we learn that
the Bush administration wants to take away even more of our rights. A
secret document was just leaked out of John Ashcroft's Justice
Department and turned over to the Center for Public Integrity. Titled
the Domestic Security Enhancement Act of 2003, this document turns out
to be a draft of new anti-terrorism legislation, a vastly more muscular
sequel to Patriot Act. If passed, it would grant the executive branch
sweeping new powers of domestic surveillance, and it would eliminate
most of the few remaining checks and balances that protect us from
It's the Patriot Act on steroids. Charles Lewis of the Center for Public
Integrity shared this document with Bill Moyers, who examined it on NOW,
his weekly PBS program. That episode aired Friday, February 7, yet even
now no mainstream news broadcaster has picked up this incredible story.
Read the NOW transcript and see the document itself online at
http://www.pbs.org/now/. You can also read the Center for Public
Integrity's analysis of the document at
Dr. David Cole, a Law professor at Georgetown University and author of
Terrorism and the Constitution assessed the document, saying, "I think
this is a quite radical proposal. It authorizes secret arrests. It would
give the Attorney General essentially unchecked authority to deport
anyone who he thought was a danger to our economic interests. It would
strip citizenship from people for lawful political associations."
"Secret arrests”? Did we hear that right? It seems that the Homeland
Security Department (HSD) is about to become the KGB. The first Patriot
Act already allows for people to be locked up indefinitely without a
lawyer and without being charged with a crime. If Patriot Act II passes,
then arrests would also be secret. That means that dissenters (or anyone
else, for that matter) could disappear without a trace, just as they did
in Nazi Germany, in Stalinist Russia, and in Pinochet's Chile.
Patriot Act II would also grant even more immunity to Big Business. A
corporation could pour toxins into your local river, for instance, and
you wouldn't know about it until all the fish died and your neighbor’s
kids were born with missing limbs. And then when you went to court and
demanded to know what
the company was dumping in your river, the company could deny you that
information on the grounds that it's a national security secret.
Jim Hightower put it this way: "All a company has to do to shield
anything it wants to keep from the public eye--say, an embarrassing
chemical spill--is give the documents to the Homeland Security
Department and call them "critical infrastructure information."
Ah, but there's even more to be concerned about here. The document was
created back in early January, but so far it appears that the only
members of Congress who even know of its existence are House Speaker
Dennis Hastert and Vice-president Dick Cheney. (The Vice-president
presides over the Senate, which makes him a member of the legislative
branch as well as the executive branch.) This raises a troubling
question: Why has the White House been sitting on this bill for a month?
If the CEOs down at Bush, Inc. really believe that they need these broad
new powers to protect us from terrorists, why not roll out that bill and
start the debate? The answer is all too plain. In all likelihood, the
Bush administration was planning to avoid debate entirely by springing
this bill on the American people in the midst of a perceived national
crisis. Perhaps during the war with Iraq, for instance. Or perhaps in
the aftermath of the next terrorist attack. Or perhaps right after the
Had some courageous soul not leaked this document out of the Justice
Department, the White House might easily have succeeded in passing it
through Congress without debate in the midst of our next perceived
national crisis, much as it did with the first Patriot Act in the
aftermath of the September 11 attacks. A thorough debate of this bill
right now, under fairly stable circumstances, would defuse it and
prevent its passage even under more frightening circumstances later on.
There's just one problem. The debate can't begin until more Americans
know about this bill, but so far the Washington Post is the only major
news outlet to even MENTION this story since Bill Moyers broke it on
Here's what you can do to help
First, forward this email to everyone you know. Second, send an email to the Center for Public
Integrity and to the producers of NOW thanking them for
breaking this story. Here's a sample message that you can use or modify:
I am writing
to express my heartfelt thanks and admiration to the Center for Public
Integrity, to Bill Moyers, to the producers of NOW, and especially to
the brave unnamed patriot who valued the Bill of Rights over his or her
own personal well-being and, at great personal risk, leaked a draft of
the Domestic Security Enhancement Act of 2003 out of the Justice