A month later, on 2 August 1934, the 86-year-old president died. The night before, Hitler visited him and the old man, now senile and mistaking Hitler for the old kaiser, called him ‘Your Majesty’. Immediately after Hindenburg’s death Hitler took the opportunity to combine the posts of chancellor and president, adopting the title Führer, and, as president, inherited the post of supreme commander of the armed forces. Blomberg ordered that the armed forces swear an oath of personal allegiance to Hitler himself, rather than to the president or state. In a referendum on 19 August over 90 per cent of Germans approved of Hitler’s absolute power and the merging of the two most important posts. In a mockery of an election the following year, in which the Nazis were the only party allowed to stand, Hitler won a 99 per cent approval.
Nazi Party membership rocketed. By 1939, 25 per cent of the adult population were members. But the pre-1933 members considered the more recent ones with disdain suspecting that their joining up was less to do with conviction than expediency and self-advancement.