Further elections were called soon after Hitler became Chancellor, but this was a publicity exercise. The primary objectives were to follow. Goering and Goebels had formulated a plan to set fire to the Reichstag building, and blame communists for the action, causing panic within government. Their plan was helped by the presence on the night in question of a deranged communist Marinus Van Der Lubbe. It seems likely that both Lubbe and Nazi storm troopers torched the building, and Lubbe was arrested at the scene. The crises were used to ignite panic regarding communist activity, and at cabinet on 28th February, Hitler’s demand for an emergency decree met little resistance from the cabinet. The “decree for the Protection of the People and the State” was readily signed by Hindenberg, and effectively made the act of campaigning against the Nazis illegal.
In the last free elections, the Nazis got 44 per cent of the vote. They failed to achieve the two thirds majority required for a legally established dictatorship, but once again, this was very much a propaganda exercise, as the real events were to follow soon after. On March 23rd, the Reichsgstag met to vote on an enabling act, an act which would establish the legal dictatorship of Hitler. A vote of 441 for, 84 against the act is only part of the story. The other part is the massive presence of Nazi storm troopers around the Reichstag building on the day. It is generally accepted that their presence was designed to intimidate any opposition, some who were prevented from entering the building to vote. Importantly, to the public, the German Democratic Republic had been brought down legally.