Enabling Act

(Ermächtigungsgesetz)
   a term generally reserved for the Reichstag* vote of 23 March 1933 abrogating the legislative function and grant-ing Hitler* dictatorial powers for a period of four years. Only the ninety-four Social Democrats attending the session dissented; the seventy-two Center Party* deputies could have blocked passage. The vote was constitutional because it was based on a provision contained in Article 76 of the Constitution* whereby a two-thirds majority of the Reichstag could vote to temporarily eliminate the separation of powers. (Hitler subsequently violated the five restrictive provisos contained in the 1933 Enabling Act.) Article 76 was similarly used amidst the hyperinflation when the Reichstag passed an Enabling Act on 13 October 1923 giving Gustav Stresemann* authority to stabilize Germany's currency. A second act, effective 8 December 1923 to 15 February 1924, resulted in sixty-six emer-gency decrees, some of which brought significant and permanent changes in civil and criminal law. In both instances the restrictive logic of Article 76 was respected.
   Some have argued that under Article 76 the Weimar Constitution provided the means for its own destruction. In the absence of a strong President—one prepared to exercise his right to dismiss a Chancellor—Hitler succeeded in using a legitimate Enabling Act to terminate the Republic.
   REFERENCES:Bendersky, Carl Schmitt; Brecht, Political Education; Eyck, History of the Weimar Republic, vol. 1; Watkins, Failure of Constitutional Emergency Powers.

A Historical dictionary of Germany's Weimar Republic, 1918-1933. .

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