As the Nazis worked to consolidate their power and build a cohesive “national community,” suppression of dissent played a key role. In 1933, the Nazis issued a decree that required Germans to turn in anyone who spoke against the party, its leaders, or the government (see reading, Outlawing the Opposition in Chapter 5). That decree, “For the Defense against Malicious Attacks against the Government,” stated:
- Whoever purposely makes or circulates a statement of a factual nature which is untrue or grossly exaggerated or which may seriously harm the welfare of the Reich or of a state, or the reputation of the National government or of a state government or of parties or organizations supporting these governments, is to be punished, provided that no more severe punishment is decreed in other regulations, with imprisonment of up to two years and, if he makes or spreads the statement publicly, with imprisonment of not less than three months.
- If serious damage to the Reich or a state has resulted from this deed, penal servitude may be imposed.
- Whoever commits an act through negligence will be punished with imprisonment of up to three months, or by a fine.
To enforce the decree, the Nazis set up special courts to try people who were accused of “malicious attacks.” In December 1934, the government replaced the decree with the “Law against Malicious Attacks on State and Party,” adding a clause that criminalized “malicious, rabble-rousing remarks or those indicating a base mentality” against the Nazi Party or high-ranking government or party officials.