HOW WAS HITLER ABLE TO STAY IN POWER?
(a) The Enabling Law, 23 March 1933
Hitler was not satisfied with the election result. He was determined that he must be dependent on nobody except his Nazi party. While President Hindenburg was still in shock after the Reichstag fire, Hitler apparently persuaded him that emergency legislation was vital to prevent a communist uprising. Known as the Enabling Law, this legislation was forced through the Reichstag on 23 March 1933, and it was this that provided the legal basis of Hitler’s power. It stated that the government could introduce laws without the approval of the Reichstag for the next four years, could ignore the constitution and could sign agreements with foreign countries. All laws would be drafted by the Chancellor and come into operation the day they were published. This meant that Hitler was to be the complete dictator for the next four years, but since his will was now law, he would be able to extend the four-year period indefinitely. He no longer needed the support of Papen and Hugenberg; the Weimar constitution had been abandoned. Such a major constitutional change needed approval by a two-thirds majority, yet the Nazis hadn’t even a simple majority.
How did the Nazis get the Enabling Bill through the Reichstag?
The method was typical of the Nazis. Since the election, the whole country had experienced a wave of unprecedented Nazi violence directed at political opponents and at Jews. Jewish synagogues were attacked and trashed by Hitler’s brownshirts (SA), and there were countless beatings and murders. Hundreds more were arrested and sent to newly set-up concentration camps. On 23 March, the day of the Enabling Law vote, The Kroll Opera House (where the Reichstag had been meeting since the fire) was surrounded by Hitler’s private armies. MPs had to push their way through solid ranks of SS troops to get into the building. The 81 communist MPs had either been arrested or were in hiding. Some of the socialists were simply not allowed to pass. Inside the building, rows of brownshirted SA troops lined the walls, and the SS could be heard chanting outside: ‘We want the Bill, or fire and murder.‘ It took courage to vote against the Enabling Bill in such surroundings. When the Catholic Centre Party decided to vote in favour of the Bill, the result was a foregone conclusion. Only the Social Democrats spoke against it, and it passed by 441 votes to 94 (all Social Democrats). The Nazi aim of killing off parliamentary democracy had been achieved, and by means that could in no way be called ‘legal’. The Papen/Schleicher/Hindenburg plan to control Hitler had failed completely, and Ludendorff’s prophecy was beginning to become reality.
Having effectively muzzled the Reichstag, Hitler immediately set about sidelining the Chancellery and the ministries. This was achieved by a policy known as Gleichschaltung (forcible co-ordination), which turned Germany into a totalitarian or fascist state. The government tried to control as many aspects of life as possible, using a huge police force and the notorious State Secret Police, the Gestapo. It became dangerous to oppose or criticize the government in any way.
The main features of the Nazi totalitarian state were:
- All political parties except the National Socialists were banned, so that Germany became a one-party state like Itay and the USSR. The Catholic Centre Party actually dissolved itself a week before the official ban was introduced.
- The separate state parliaments (Lander) still existed but lost all power. Most of their functions were taken over by a Nazi Special Commissioner, appointed in each state by the Berlin government, who had complete power over all officials and affairs within his state. There were no more state, provincial or municipal elections.
- The civil service was purged: all Jews and other suspected ‘enemies of the state’ were removed, so that it became fully reliable.
- Trade unions, a likely source of resistance, were abolished, their funds confiscated and their leaders arrested. They were replaced by the German Labour Front, to which all workers had to belong. The government dealt with all grievances, and strikes were not allowed.
- The education system was closely controlled so that children could be indoctrinated with Nazi opinions. School textbooks were often rewritten to fit in with Nazi theory, the most obvious examples being in history and biology. History was distorted to fit fr1 with Hitler’s view that great things could only be achieved by force. Human biology was dominated by the Nazi race theory. Teachers, lecturers .and professors were closely watched to make sure they did not express opinions which strayed from the party line, and many lived in fear in case they were reported to the Gestapo by children of convinced Nazis.
- The system was supplemented by the Hitler Youth, which all boys had to join at 14; girls joined the League of German Maidens. The regime was deliberately trying to destroy traditional bonds such as loyalty to the family: children were taught that their first duty was to obey Hitler, who took on the title Fuhrer (leader, or guide). The favourite slogan was ‘the Fuhrer is always right’. Children were even encouraged to betray their parents to the Gestapo, and many did so. These youth organizations worked on the assumption that the Nazi regime would remain in power for many generations; there was much talk of ‘the thousand-year Reich’. This is why the present generation of young people had to be thoroughly indoctrinated to provide a firm foundation for the regime. The vital element was: they must become steeped in militaristic values. In a speech in Nuremberg in September 1935, Hitler told the crowd: ‘What we look for from our German youth is different from what people wanted in the past. In our eyes, the German youth of the future must be slim and slender, swift as the greyhound, tough as leather, and hard as Krupp steel. We must educate a new type of man so that our people are not ruined by the symptoms of degeneracy of our day.’
- There was a special policy concerned with the family. The Nazis were worried that the birth rate was declining, and therefore ‘racially pure’ and healthy families were encouraged to have more children. Family planning centres were closed down and contraceptives banned. Mothers who responded well were awarded medals – the Cross of Honour of the German Mother; a mother of eight children gained a gold medal, six children a silver medal, and four children a bronze medal. On the other hand, people who were considered ‘undesirable’ were discouraged from having children. These included Jews, gypsies, and people deemed to be physically or mentally unfit. In 1935, marriages between Aryans and Jews were forbidden; over 300 000 people who were designated as ‘unfit’ were forcibly sterilized to prevent them having children.
- All communications and the media were controlled by the minister of propaganda, Dr Joseph Goebbels. Leni Riefenstahl, a briiliant young film director, was invited personall y by Hitler to work for the Nazis; she made an impressive film of the 1934 Nuremberg party rally. Using 30 cameras and a crew of 120, she produced a documentary the like of which had never been seen before. When it was released in March 1935 under the title Triumph of the Will, it was widely acclaimed; it even won a gold medal at the Venice Film Festival in 1935. But it was more than an ordinary documentary. In the words of Richard J. Evans, the ‘will’ in question was ‘not only that of the German people, but also and above all, the will of Hitler, whom her cameras almost invariably portrayed standing alone …. In the final stages of the film the screen was filled with columns of marching stormtroopers, and black-shirted, steel-helmeted SS men, leaving audiences no room for doubt. It was a propaganda film designed to convince Germany and the world of the power, strength and determination of the German people under Hitler’s leadership.’ No further films were made about Hitler himself – Triumph of the Will had said it all. However, the state gradually increased its control over the cinema so that only feature films approved by the regime could be shown. Radio, newspapers, magazines, books, theatre, music and art were all supervised. The government made cheap radios available so that by 1939 over 70 per cent of German households owned a ‘wireless’ set. But as John Traynor puts it: ‘While people may have appreciated the material benefit this represented, we cannot know for certain what they came to think of the relentless message that poured constantly from their radio set.’ A national book-burning day was held on 10 May 1933 when thousands of books by Jewish, socialist and other ‘suspect’ writers were publicly burned on huge bonfires in Germany’s university cities. By the end of 1934 about 4000 books were on the forbidden list because they were ‘un-German’. It was impossible to perform the plays of Bertolt Brecht (a communist) or the music of Felix Mendelssohn and Gustav Mahler (they were Jewish). American jazz was popular with young people, but Hitler hated it and tried to exclude it from Germany. But it was so widespread in nightclubs and dance halls that it proved impossible to eliminate it completely. Hitler had a special interest in art, having once tried to make a career as an artist. He was soon announcing that it was time for a new type of art – German art. The idea that art was international must be rejected out of hand because it was decadent and Jewish. A wide variety of artists was condemned and their works removed from galleries. They included Jewish, abstract, left-wing, modernist and all foreign artists, whatever their style. Hitler even condemned the French impressionists simply because they were not German. On 20 March 1939 about 5000 condemned paintings and drawings were burnt on a massive bonfire outside the central fire station in Berlin. Artists, writers and scholars were continually harassed until it became pointless to produce any artwork that did not win the approval of the regime, and it was impossible to express any opinion which did not fit in with the Nazi system. By these methods public opinion could be moulded and mass support assured, or so the Nazis hoped.
- The economic life of the country was closely organized. Although the Nazis (unlike the communists) had no special ideas about the economy, they did have some basic aims: to eliminate unemployment and to make Germany self-sufficient by boosting exports and reducing imports, a policy known as ‘autarky’. The idea was to put the economy onto a war footing, so that all the materials necessary for waging war could be produced, as far as possible, in Germany itself. This would ensure that Germany would never again be hamstrung by a trade blockade like the one imposed by the Allies during the First World War. The centrepiece of the policy was the Four-Year Plan introduced in 1936 under the direction of Hermann Goering, the head of the Luftwaffe (the German air force). Policies included:
- telling industrialists what to produce, depending on what the country needed at that moment; and closing factories down if their products were not required;
- moving workers around the country to places where jobs existed and labour was needed;
- encouraging farmers to increase agricultural yields;
- controlling food prices and rents;
- manipulating foreign exchange rates to avoid inflation;
- introducing vast schemes of public works – slum clearance, land drainage and autobahn (motorway) building;
- forcing foreign countries to buy German goods, either by refusing to pay cash for goods bought from those countries, so that they had to accept German goods instead (often armaments), or by refusing permission to foreigners with bank accounts in Germany to withdraw their cash, so that they had to spend it in Germany on German goods;
- manufacturing synthetic rubber and wool and experimenting to produce petrol from coal in order to reduce dependence on foreign countries;
- increasing expenditure on armaments; in 1938-9 the military budget accounted for 52 per cent of government spending. This was an incredible amount for ‘peacetime’. As Richard Overy puts it: ‘this stemmed from Hitler’s desire to turn Germany into an economic and military superpower before the rest of the world caught up’.
- Religion was brought under state control, since the churches were a possible source of opposition. At first Hitler moved cautiously with both Roman Catholics and Protestants.
- The Roman Catholic Church: In 1933 Hitler signed an agreement (known as the Concordat) with the pope, in which he promised not to interfere with German Catholics in any way; in return they agreed to dissolve the Catholic Centre Party and take no further part in politics. But relations soon became strained when the government broke the Concordat by dissolving the Catholic Youth League because it rivalled the Hitler Youth. When the Catholics protested, their schools were closed down. By 1937 Catholics were completely disillusioned with the Nazis, and Pope Pius XI issued an Encyclical (a letter to be read out in all Roman Catholic churches in Germany) in which he condemned the Nazi movement for being ‘hostile to Christ and his Church’. Hitler was unimpressed, however, and thousands of priests and nuns were arrested and sent to concentration camps.
- The Protestant Churches: Since a majority of Germans belonged to one or other of the various Protestant groups, Hitler tried to organize them into a ‘Reich Church‘ with a Nazi as the first Reich bishop. But many pastors (priests) objected and a group of them, led by Martin Niemoller, protested to Hitler about government interference and about his treatment of the Jews. Once again the Nazis were completely ruthless – Niemoller and over 800 other pastors were sent to concentration camps (Niemoller himself managed to survive for eight years until he was liberated in 1945). Hundreds more were arrested later and the rest were forced to swear an oath of obedience to the Fuhrer. Eventually the persecutions appeared to bring the churches under control, but resistance continued, and the churches were the only organizations to keep up a quiet protest campaign against the Nazi system. For example, in 1941 some Catholic bishops protested against the Nazi policy of killing mentally handicapped and mentally ill people in German asylums. Over 70 000 people were murdered in this ‘euthanasia’ campaign. Hitler publicly ordered the mass killings to be stopped, but evidence suggests that they still continued.
- Above all, Germany was a police state. The police, helped by the SS and the Gestapo, tried to prevent all open opposition to the regime. The law courts were not impartial: ‘enemies of the state’ rarely received a fair trial, and the concentration camps introduced by Hitler in 1933 were full. They contained ‘political’ prisoners – communists, Social Democrats, Catholic priests, Protestant pastors. Other persecuted groups were homosexuals and above all, Jews; perhaps as many as 15 000 homosexual men were sent to the camps, where they were made to wear pink triangle badges. However, recent research in Germany has shown that the police state was not as efficient as used to be thought. The Gestapo was understaffed. They had to rely heavily on ordinary people coming forward with information to denounce others. After 1943, as people became more disillusioned with the war, they were less willing to help the authorities, and the Gestapo’s job became more difficult.
- The worst aspect of the Nazi system was Hitler’s anti-Semitic (anti-Jewish) policy. There were only just over half a million Jews in Germany, less than one per cent of the total population, but Hitler decided to use them as scapegoats for everything – the humiliation at Versailles, the depression, unemployment and communism. He began by talking in terms of racial purity – the Aryan race, especially the Germans, must be kept free from contamination by the non-Aryan Jews. This is why they must be cleared out of Germany.
In fact the Jewish community played an important role in the cultural, scientific and business life of Germany, but Hitler would allow them no credit for that. In many speeches before he became Chancellor he spoke about them in the most extreme language. As soon as he became Chancellor, his supporters took it as a licence to begin persecuting the Jews. However, when the government declared a boycott of Jewish shops for 1 April 1933, the expected mass support was not forthcoming. The general public seemed apathetic, and some people even showed sympathy for the Jewish shops. Hitler decided that restraint was called for; clearly people’s main concerns were elsewhere. Consequently further boycotts were cancelled and the focus moved to attempts to strengthen the economy.
By 1935 Hitler’s attitude had hardened again and he claimed that there was a world Jewish/communist plot to take control. He seemed to assume that communism was a Jewish movement, probably because many of the leading Russian Bolsheviks were Jewish. This, Hitler believed, would plunge the world into a new Dark Age, unless the Germans were able to thwart the plot. Lots of Germans were in such a desperate situation that they were prepared to accept the propaganda about the Jews and were not sorry to see thousands of them removed from their jobs as lawyers, doctors, teachers and journalists. Robert Gellately (in Backing Hitler, 2001) shows that many ordinary Germans actively participated in the atrocities against the Jews, helped themselves to stolen Jewish property and happily took jobs vacated by Jews. Gotz Aly also asked the question: ‘What drove ordinary Germans to tolerate and commit historically unprecedented crimes against humanity?’ His answer is that ordinary Germans co-operated in genocide because they benefited from it in material terms. The anti-Jewish campaign inside Germany was given legal status by the Nuremberg Laws (1935), which deprived Jews of their German citizenship, forbade them to marry non-Jews (to preserve the purity of the Aryan race), and ruled that even a person with only one Jewish grandparent must be classed as a Jew.
Until 1938 Hitler still proceeded relatively cautiously with the anti-Jewish policy, probably because he was concerned about unfavourable foreign reaction. Later the campaign became more extreme. In November 1938, he authorized what became known as Kristallnacht (the ‘Night of Broken Glass‘), a vicious attack on Jewish synagogues and other property throughout the whole country. When the Second World War began, the plight of the Jews deteriorated rapidly. They were harassed in every possible way; their property was attacked and burnt, shops looted, synagogues destroyed, and Jews themselves herded into concentration camps. Eventually the terrible nature of what Hitler called his ‘Final Solution‘ of the Jewish problem became clear: he intended to exterminate the entire Jewish race. During the war, as the Germans occupied such countries as Czechoslovakia, Poland and western Russia, he was able to lay his hands on non-German Jews as well. It is believed that by 1945, out of a total of 9 million Jews living in Europe at the outbreak of the Second World War, about 5.7 million had been murdered, most of them in the gas chambers of the Nazi extermination camps. The Holocaust, as it became known, was the worst and most shocking of the many crimes against humanity committed by the Nazi regime.
(c) Hitler’s policies were popular with many sections of the German people
It would be wrong to give the impression that Hitler hung on to power simply by terrorizing the entire nation. True, if you were a Jew, a communist or a socialist, or if you persisted in protesting and criticizing the Nazis, you would run into trouble; but many people who had no great interest in politics could usually live quite happily under the Nazis. This was because Hitler took care to please many important groups in society. Even as late as 1943, when the fortunes of war had turned against Germany, Hitler somehow retained his popularity with ordinary people. Gotz Aly (in Hitler’s Beneficiaries, 2007) argues that the Nazis were as much socialist as they were nationalist, and that they genuinely tried to make life better for ordinary Germans. Hitler told a reporter that his ambition was to raise the general standard of living and make the German people rich.
- His arrival in power in January 1933 caused a great wave of enthusiasm and anticipation after the weak and indecisive governments of the Weimar Republic. Hitler seemed to be offering action and a great new Germany. He was careful to foster this enthusiasm by military parades, torchlight processions and firework displays, the most famous of which were the huge rallies held every year in Nuremberg, which seemed to appeal to the masses.
- Hitler was successful in eliminating unemployment. This was probably the most important reason for his popularity with ordinary people. When he came to power the unemployment figure still stood at over 6 million, but by the end of 1935 it had dropped to just over two million, and by 1939 it was negligible. How was this achieved? The public works schemes provided thousands of extra jobs. A large party bureaucracy was set up now that the party was expanding so rapidly, and this provided thousands of extra office and administrative posts. There were purges of Jews and anti-Nazis from the civil service and from many other jobs connected with law, education, journalism, broadcasting, the theatre and music, leaving large numbers of vacancies. Conscription was reintroduced in 1935. Rearmament was started in 1934 and gradually speeded up. Thus Hitler had provided what the unemployed had been demanding in their marches in 1932: work and bread.Q. How Hitler increased employment?
- He stopped paying reparations and invested the money in German companies.
- He began a huge programme of public works including planting forests, and building hospitals and schools. He also built public buildings such as the 1936 Olympic Stadium. These created work for men.
- Rearmament created jobs in the armaments industry.
- The introduction of national service meant all young men spent six months in the RAD and then they were conscripted into the army.
- Many Jews were sacked and their jobs given to non-Jews.
- Many women were sacked and their jobs given to men.
- Care was taken to keep the support of the workers once it had been gained by the provision of jobs. This was important because the abolition of trade unions still rankled with many of them. The Strength through Joy Organization (Kraft durch Freude) provided benefits such as subsidized holidays in Germany and abroad, cruises, skiing holidays, cheap theatre and concert tickets and convalescent homes. Gotz Aly looked at documents from the former East German archives which show in detail that the Nazis passed scores of laws extending and increasing social security provision, doubling workers’ holiday entitlement, with pay, and making it more difficult for landlords to increase rents and evict tenants. According to Aly, the Nazi dictatorship was built not on terror but on a mutual calculation of interest between leaders and people.
- Wealthy industrialists and businessmen were delighted with the Nazis in spite of the government’s interference with their industries. This was partly because they now felt safe from a communist revolution, and because they were glad to be rid of trade unions, which had constantly pestered them with demands for shorter working hours and increased wages. In addition they were able to buy back at low prices the shares they had sold to the state during the crisis of 1929-32, and there was promise of great profits from the public works schemes, rearmament and other orders which the government placed with them.
- Farmers, though doubtful about Hitler at first, gradually warmed towards the Nazis as soon as it became clear that farmers were in a specially favoured position in the state because of the declared Nazi aim of self-sufficiency in food production. Prices of agricultural produce were fixed so that they were assured of a reasonable profit. Farms were declared to be hereditary estates, and on the death of the owner, had to be passed on to his next of kin. This meant that a farmer could not be forced to sell or mortgage his farm to pay off his debts, and was welcomed by many farmers who were heavily in debt as a result of the financial crisis.
- Hitler gained the support of the Reichswehr (army), which was crucial if he was to feel secure in power. The Reichswehr was the one organization which could have removed him by force. Yet by the summer of 1934, Hitler had won it over:
- Although some of the generals thought that Hitler was a contemptible upstart, on the whole the officer class was well-disposed towards him because of his much publicized aim of setting aside the restrictions of the Versailles Treaty by rearmament and expansion of the army to its full strength.
- There had been a steady infiltration of National Socialists into the lower ranks, and this was beginning to work through to the lower officer classes.
- the army leaders were much impressed by Hitler’s handling of the troublesome SA in the notorious Rohm Purge (also known as ‘the Night of the Long Knives‘) of 30 June 1934.
- The background to this was that the SA, under their leader Ernst Rohm, a personal friend of Hitler from the early days of the movement, was becoming an embarrassment to the new Chancellor. Rohm wanted his brownshirts to be merged with the Reichswehr and himself made a general. Hitler knew that the aristocratic Reichswehr generals would not hear of either; they considered the SA to be little more than a bunch of gangsters, while Rohm himself was known to be a homosexual (which was frowned on in army circles as well as officially among the Nazis) and had criticized the generals in public for their stiff-necked conservatism. There were also divisions within Nazi ranks: some leading Nazis, including Gregor Strasser and Rohm himself, repeatedly urged Hitler to be more radical and socialist in his policies. Again, this was something that would not be to the taste of the Nationalists and the army. Rohm had enemies in the party; Hermann Goering and Heinrich Himmler, who were both busy building up their own power bases, also felt that Rohm was getting too powerful. Himmler told Hitler that Rohm was planning to use his SA to seize power from Hitler. Apparently this caused Hitler to make up his mind – for all these reasons Rohm must be removed.
- Hitler’s solution to the problem was typkaft of Nazi methods – ruthless but efficient; he used one of his private armies to deal with the other. Rohm and most of the SA leaders were murdered by SS troops, and Hitler seized the opportunity to have a number of other enemies and critics murdered who had nothing to do with the SA. For example, two of Papen’s advisers were shot dead by the SS because ten days earlier Papen had made a speech at Marburg criticizing Hitler. Papen himself was probably saved only by the fact that he was a close friend of President Hindenburg. It is thought that at least 400 people were murdered during that one night or soon afterwards. Hider justified his actions by claiming that they were all plotting against the state.
- The German historian Lothar Machtan, in his book The Hidden Hitler (2000), suggested that Hitler was a homosexual who had a series of relationships with young men during his early days in Vienna and Munich, which Rohm and his friends knew an about. If Machtan is right, then another explanation for the purge was the need for Hitler to safeguard his reputation, as the rift between himself and Rohm widened.
- Whatever Hitler’s true motives, the purge had important results: the Reichswehr were relieved to be rid of the troublesome SA leaders and impressed by Hitler’s decisive handling of the problem. When President Hindenburg died only a month later, the Reichswehr agreed that Hitler should become president as well as Chancellor ,(though he preferred to be known as the Fuhrer). The Reichswehr took an oath of allegiance to the Fuhrer.
- In 1938, army leaders hoped Hitler’s plan to conquer the Sudetenland would fail and give them an opportunity to depose him. When he succeeded, their attempt to get rid of him fell apart, and Hitler dismissed the chief of staff and 60 other generals. Thereafter, the army was also subservient to Hitler.
- Finally, Hitler’s foreign policy was a brilliant success. With each successive triumph, more and more Germans began to think of him as infallible.
Women in the Nazi state
The Nazis had clear ideas of what they wanted from women. Women were expected to stay at home and look after the family. Women doctors, teachers and civil servants were forced to give up their careers. Even at the end of the war, women were never asked to serve in the armed forces. Their job was to keep the home nice for their husband and family – their life should revolve round the three ‘Cs’:
The mission of women is to be beautiful and to bring children into the world. Hitler wanted a high birth rate, so the population would grow. Girls were discouraged from staying slim, because it was thought that thin women had trouble giving birth.
The Law for the Encouragement of Marriage gave newly wed couples a loan of 1,000 marks, and allowed them to keep 250 marks for each child they had. Mothers who had more than eight children were given a gold medal. Unmarried women could volunteer to have a baby for an Aryan member of the SS.
Women were supposed to emulate traditional German peasant fashions – plain peasant costumes, hair in plaits or buns and flat shoes. They were not expected to wear make-up or trousers, dye their hair or smoke in public.
Q. Who opposed Hilter?
- The Catholic Archbishop of Munster, von Galen, led a successful campaign to end euthanasia of mentally-disabled people.
- Some Catholic priests opposed Hitler. In 1937, the Pope’s message ‘With Burning Concern‘ attacked Hitler as ‘a mad prophet with repulsive arrogance’ and was read in every Catholic church.
- The White Rose group was formed by students at Munich University. They published anti-Nazi leaflets, but were discovered and executed in 1943.
- A paramilitary wing of the Social Democratic Party, called the Reichsbanner, sabotaged railway lines and acted as spies.
- During the war, ‘swing’ groups were formed. These were young people who rejected Nazi values, drank alcohol and danced to jazz. More violent groups were called the Edelweiss Pirates. They daubed anti-Nazi slogans, sheltered deserters and beat up Nazi officials. In 1944, the Edelweiss Pirates killed the Gestapo chief, so the Nazis publicly hanged 12 of them.
- Many Protestant pastors, led by Martin Niemoller, formed the Confessional Church in opposition to Hitler’s Reich Church. Niemoller was held in a concentration camp during the period 1937-1945. Another Protestant pastor, Dietrich Bonhoffer, took part in the 1944 bomb plot and was executed.
- In 1944, a group of army officers and intellectuals called the Kreisau Circle tried to bomb Hitler. The bomb was planted by Colonel Stauffenberg. It exploded, but Hitler survived. In retaliation, 5,000 people were executed.
Q. Explain the structures of control in the Nazi state.
- Hitler introduced many policies and measures to ensure the Nazis remained in control, once he declared himself Führer (leader or guide). These measures dealt with political opponents, as well as ordinary people, who suddenly found their private, social and working lives controlled by the Nazis. It maintained control through a mixture of propaganda and intimidation.
Seven key structures
1. Government (political)
- The way Hitler consolidated power in 1933-1934 meant that the Nazis had absolute control of national and local government.
- The following points allowed Hitler to gain control of the government:
- Enabling Act
- Local government reorganised
- Political parties banned
- Hitler became Führer
2. Religion (social)
- Hitler believed that religion was a threat to the Nazis’ control over people’s minds, so he tried different ways to reduce the power of the church over people.
The following points are examples of how the Nazis took control of religion:
- Non-Nazi Catholic priests and Protestant pastors were sent to concentration camps.
- Jews and Jehovah’s Witnesses were openly persecuted.
- Hitler set up a state Reich Church, which banned the Bible and the cross.
- Nazis encouraged people to revive the old Viking myths and ceremonies.
3. Culture (social)
- Hitler ordered Nazification – the imposition of Nazi values – on all aspects of German life.
- The Nazis dictated what people were allowed to do in their social and private lives:
- Artists had to produce acceptable paintings that portrayed Nazi values.
- Jazz music was banned.
- Books written by Jews were publicly burned.
- Homosexuals were persecuted; they did not fit the Nazi image of the ideal family.
- The Olympic Games of 1936 were a huge Nazi propaganda success.
4. Work (working)
- Dr Robert Ley, head of the DAF (German Labour Front), boasted that he controlled workers’ lives from the ‘cradle to the grave’.
The following points are examples of how the Nazis took control of workers lives:
- The RAD (National Labour Service) sent young men on public works.
- Hitler introduced conscription in 1936; most men went into the army after the RAD.
- The DAF controlled workers’ conditions at work.
- The KdF (Strength through Joy) movement regulated their leisure time.
5. Education and youth (working)
- The lives of young people were controlled both in and out of school to turn them into fanatical Nazis.
Measures were imposed to make sure that schools and youth associations became Nazified:
- Non-Nazi teachers and university professors were sacked; teachers had to join the National Socialist Teachers’ League.
- Textbooks were re-written to include Nazi political and racial ideas.
- History was taught to glorify Germany.
- There was a concentration on physical fitness.
- Girls were taught cookery; boys were taught science and maths.
- The Hitler Youth was compulsory; it indoctrinated boys and prepared them for war.
- The Nazi Girls’ youth organisation – the BDM – was compulsory; it indoctrinated girls and prepared them for church, children and cooking.
6. Terror (method of control)
- Germany became a country where it was unsafe to do or say anything critical of the government.
The Nazi state intimidated and terrorised those who were opposed to it, using:
- SS and Gestapo investigations.
- Blockleiters in each block of flats and street informed on ‘grumblers’.
- Arrests of thousands of people terrified opponents.
- Set up Nazi people’s courts.
- Concentration camps.
7. Propaganda (method of control)
- Josef Goebbels controlled the Propaganda Ministry, which aimed to brainwash people into obeying the Nazis and idolising Hitler.
- The Propaganda Ministry worked hard to ensure that people were persuaded to adopt the Nazi point of view:
- Mass rallies.
- Newspapers were censored.
- People’s radios were sold very cheaply, but broadcasts were controlled.
- Films were controlled to make films that glorified war and pilloried the Jews.
- Loudspeakers in public places blared out Nazi propaganda.
- Cult of personality – Hitler’s picture was everywhere, and he was portrayed as Germany’s saviour.