Otto Wels, 23rd March 1933

On 23rd March 1933 the Reichstag passed the Nazis’ Enabling Act. The Leader of the Social Democrats was Otto Wels. He told the Reichstag:

“At this historic hour, we the German Social Democrats pledge ourselves to the principles of humanity and justice, of freedom and Socialism. No Enabling Law can give you the power to destroy ideas which are eternal and indestructible…from this new persecution too, German Social Democracy can draw new strength.

“We send greetings to the persecuted and oppressed. We greet our friends in the Reich. Their steadfastness and loyalty deserve admiration. The courage with which they maintain their convictions and their unbroken confidence guarantee a brighter future.

“You can take our lives and our freedom, but you cannot take our honour. We are defenceless but not honourless.”

Within weeks, the SPD had been banned. Wels went into exile, and died in Paris in mid-September 1939, shortly after World War II broke out.

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