National Socialist Tyranny

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Frankfurt am Main 1945
Frankfurt am Main 1945

While the National Socialist German Workers Party (NSDAP) was able to obtain 27 of the 70 parliamentary seats thus becoming the strongest party in the State parliament, it was not able to oust the People’s State’s democratic government. This only happened after the National Socialists took over power 1933, on the basis of the “Gesetz über den Neuaufbau des Reiches” (Law on the reconstruction of the Empire). The gauleiter, the leader of the NSDAP in Hesse-Nassau, was appointed as the Reichsstatthalter, i.e. the Reich’s Governor. He was in charge of dissolving the ministries and transforming them into administrative departments. The “Gleichschaltung”, i.e. the control and coordination over all aspects of society, and the suppression of the democratic parties were thus achieved. The rulers of the Third Reich, were of course unable to entirely break all resistance against their regime.

Amongst the many people who remained true to their political convictions despite all persecution, Wilhelm Leuschner and personalities such as Heinrich Fulda, Ernst von Harnack, Theodor Haubach, Johanna Kirchner, Carlo Mierendorff, Adolf Reichwein and Ludwig Schwamb stand out. They all remained true to Wilhelm Leuschner’s declaration: “that we remain what we were”. Yet, they paid for their engagement for a democratic Germany with their lives. However, their spirit and their ideas served as an inspiration for the formation of the new Hessen after 1945.

In the spring of 1945, the allied forces made their way further into Germany. On March 25, American troops occupied Darmstadt, on March 28, Wiesbaden and one day later Frankfurt/Main. On April 4, they eventually reached Kassel. The very same spring, the American military government in Kassel and Wiesbaden appointed new district presidents. At the same time the Americans put in place a “German Government of the State of Hessen”, which had its seat in Darmstadt. Professor Ludwig Bergsträsser became head of this government, which was to resume the traditions of the People’s State of Hesse.