The 23rd of March 1933, and the Reichstag was on the verge of passing the Enabling Act, which would effectively surrender its political powers to the Nazi dominated cabinet and Hitler. The Centre Party and National People's party capitulated, voting for the bill and thereby destroying the Weimar republic. The eighty-one Communist deputies were 'absent', on account of being imprisoned, assassinated, forced into hiding or exiled. Some of the Socialists had been taken into 'protective custody', but there were enough present to make the bill legal by the constitution, and not enough to oppose it effectively. Nevertheless the Socialists, who had been responsible in many ways for the collapse of the Weimar Republic, made a final gesture of defiance:
"We German Socialists pledge ourselves solemnly in this historic hour to the principles of humanity and justice, of freedom and socialism. No enabling act can give you the power to destroy such ideas which are eternal and indestructible" .
However well put this speech was, it did not fully represent the standpoint of the SPD (alias Socialists or Social Democrats), who had been the initiators of the doomed Weimar Republic. They had been ruthlessly suppressed before World War One, even though they were mostly benign trade-unionists. They were the main writers of the constitution, and they refused to side either with the pre-war Aristocracy or the radical revolutionaries. There position was strictly moderate, and they did little to change the traditional structure of Germany, except allow unions and increase spending on public services. Its failure to unite with either the far left or the other central parties made its resistance to the enabling Act academic.
The Communists or KPD had boycotted the first election, protesting that the general disorder after the abdication of Kaiser Wilhelm had not turned into a German...