Protest during the 1936 Reichstag Election

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The Nazi regime had the populace vote on its approval of German troops’ occupation of the demilitarized zone of the Rhineland and on its present policy in a combined plebiscite und Reichstag election on March 29, 1936. Only the NSDAP’s candidates were admitted to the Reichstag election in the form of a unified list of candidates. Only a Yes vote could be cast; the ballot did not include any place for a No.

Unmarked ballots were counted as Yes votes, which only became known after the election. According to official results, the NSDAP’s unified list received 99 percent of the votes.

Only a few had dared to write a No on their ballots, to cast a blank ballot or not go to the election at all in order to thusly give expression to their protest against Nazi policy. Above all, the combination of a foreign policy vote with approval of the current domestic policy was criticized.

The Rhenish pastor Johannes Koch was one of the few. He explained his action in a courageous letter to Adolf Hitler: Agreeing with Hitler’s foreign policy course, he nevertheless had reservations about the weltanschauung, cultural, church, school and educational policy of the last three years. He also criticized the compulsory nature of the plebiscite and the insignificance of the Reichstag. As a result of his abstention from voting, he was publicly subjected to coarse abuse and attacks.

Paul Schneider, a Rhenish pastor of the Confessing Church, and his wife Margarete also boycotted the 1936 Reichstag elections. Schneider explained his actions to his congregation, stating that his vote could be construed as approval of the state’s anti-Christian weltanschauung policy. His parsonage was defaced in the night before Easter.

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