2 May 1933: Dissolution of German Trade Unions

On 2 May 1933, just three months after Adolf Hitler’s appointment as Chancellor of Germany, the SA and police occupied the offices of German Trade Unions, seizing control of them.

Dissolution of German Trade Unions © Bundesarchiv, Bild 146-1970-005-28

The Nazis aimed to establish a state guided by racist, antisemitic and authoritarian principles, and as such deemed it necessary to bring all areas of civic life under government control. Following a major celebration of May Day all Trade Unions were closed down, their headquarters and records were seized, and their leaders attacked and imprisoned.

German workers were forced to join a German Labour Front which controlled deductions for taxation and the ‘Strength through Joy’ programme. This provided compulsory activities for workers’ leisure time, with the aim of keeping people too busy to take part in anti-state activism.

Gustav Schiefer, Chairman of the Munich branch of the German Trade Union Association was arrested, beaten and imprisoned in Dachau Concentration Camp.

At the end of the war he testified against the Nazis, concluding with the statement:

‘We bore witness, and still bear witness today, for human dignity and justice.’

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