Germany 1918-1945

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Germany 1914

  • Before 1871, Germany was made up of seperate states
  • Prussia was the largest state
  • 1817, Prussia unites the states into one Reich (empire)
  • Ruled by Kaiser with a Reichstag and chancellor
  • The united Germany became a new industrial and militarial power on the European stage
  • The german population has distinct regional differences
  • Kiaser Wilhem was ambitious for germany. He wanted germany to be seen as a leading power in europe. He wanted a strong army and positioned a heirarchy in Germany. He could do anything
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Germany 1918

  • 4th october 1918 - prince mas ia appointed as chancellor of germany
  • 8th november 1918 - All 22 of germanys lesser kings, princes, grand dukes and ruling dukes had been overthrown
  • 9th november 1918 - Proclamation of the republic by phillip scheidemann, some hours later; also proclamation of the socialist republic by karl liebknecht
  • 9th november 1918 - Kiaser Wilhelm was told to abdicate, before he has a chance, prince max announced his abdication
  • 9th november 1918 - social democrates (biggest party in the national assembly) demands the government from Prince Max.
  • Friedrich Ebert becomes the chancellor
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Germany 1919

  • January 1919 - German governmant is moved from berlin to weimar
  • February 1919 - the natioanl assembly held metting in weimar
  • 11th August 1919 - The weimar constitution is announced
  • The allies ensured that germany got a new type of governmant at the end of the war

After ww1 - Germany was faced with an ABC's of crisis

A- Abdication of kaiser leaving the government without any clear authority

B - a Blockade by the british navey ment that many Germans were starving

C - Communists plotted revolutions meanwhile like the one that sweot russia two years earlier

D - Defeat of the first world war left many germans demoralised and bitter

E - Freidrich Ebert was elected the first president of the Weimar republic, he as very little experiecne and very little support, especially as he led the government which signed TOV

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opposition to the treaty

Opposition to the treaty immediatley by the people and they continued to hold the agreement to blame for all the problems germany faced.

Made by Lloyd (UK), Clemenceau (France) and Wilson (America). Germany on the 7th may 1919, issued an ontraged statement at the treaty and went home.

Germany had no choice and signed it on the 28th June 1919. The people felt they had no ay in the punishments and that it was a Diktat. The first 26 Articles of the treaty set out the covenant of the leaguue of nations; the rest of the 440 articles detailed Germany's Punishments

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Germany's Punishments

BRAT - Blame, Reperatino, Army, Territory

  • Germany had the accept blame for starting the war (clause 231). Vital as it provided justification for the rest...

  • had to pay £6, 600 million in reparation for damage
  • Germany’s army was reduced to 100,000 men; the army was not allowed tanks. She was not allowed an airforce She was allowed only 6 capital naval ships and no submarines The west of the Rhineland and 50 kms east of the River Rhine was made into a demilitarised zone (DMZ). No German soldier or weapon was allowed into this zone. The Allies were to keep an army of occupation on the west bank of the Rhine for 15 years.
  • Germany lost territory in Europe. Her colonies were given to britian and framce
  • Couldn't join LON
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Weimars unpopularity 1919 - 1923

There were a series of attempted revolutions in Germany. Some were carried out by communists to follow the expample of russia. Soem were by right winged nationalists whom blamed the countries woes on the governmant for accepting the TOV. Jan 1919 - communist Spartacist uprising led by KARL LIEBKNECHT AND ROSA LUXEMBURG, the revolt was put down by the intervention of the Freikorp. Returing soldiers asked to intervene by the struggling weimar gov. March 1920 THE FREIKORP THEMSELVES HAD A REVOLUTION in the KAPP PUTSCH LED BY WOLFGANG KAPT after the humiliation by TOV. ASSISTED BY GENERAL LUXBITTS whom led the Freikorp into a march in berlin and declaired a new rw gov. Unable to retaliate, Ebert called a gerneal strike to paralyse the putsch. Supplies ran low and the putsch failed and fled abroad.

Unstability and murders of 2 gov ministers, one of which signed the armistice. Number of extremists political parites were set up like the german workers party which Hitler took over  in 1921. The gov seemed WEAK as it was not able to deal effectively with the uprisings

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To stab (someone) in the back is to harm (someone) by treachery or betrayal of trust. The "stab in the back" legend asserted that Germany's fate was caused, not an overwhelming military defeat, but by treacherous internal forces. The famous legend of the stab in the back (Dolchstoss Legende / Dolch-stoß-Legende, literally "dagger stab") made its debut in public political discourse in the Autumn of 1919. Field Marshal Paul von Hindenburg told a committee of the the National Assembly investigating the defeat of Germany that an English general had said that "The German army was stabbed from behind." In his memoirs Out of My Life , Hindenburg wrote that "Just as Siegfried fell to the treacherous spear of terrible Hagen, so did our exhausted front line collapse. They tried in vain to draw new life from the dried-up well spring of the home front."

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Weimar doomed from the start

Ineffective constitution and Article 48 gave the predient full power in tims of crisis

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Germany 1923; bad year for weimar

  • new democratic government needed support as it was only just formed and needed to convince people it would work
  • army was not under full control
  • rebellions
  • TOV
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Invasion of the Ruhr

So Germany was reduced to economic chaos after the armistice. In 1920, prices plummeted around the world in a great deflation. Both price and wage deflation were reinforced by the economic policies of conservative governments. Germany's new Weimar Republic inherited the vast burden of debt and the crushing weight of reparations.  In Germany, tax revenues were low because the economy was so weak and outflow of payments in gold fueled inflation as the government began to sell inflated currency for gold on the foreign exchange market. And it quickly became apparent that Germany would be unable to meet its reparation obligations. In July 1920 the German mark plunged dramatically as the Weimar government informed the Allies that it could not meet the schedule of payments, but that it would continue disbursements of coal and other natural resources. With the U.S. pressuring Britain and France to repay their own war debts, the Allies grew all the more determined that Germany pay up. France's new premier, Raymond Poincare, accused Germany of deliberately withholding payments and trying to force the Allies to make concessions by ruining its own currency.  On January 11, 1923, French and Belgian troops (against the advice of the British) occupied the Ruhr, a region which furnished four-fifths of Germany's coal and steel production. The miners refused to work for the enemy and the Germans simply printed more money with which to pay them not to, allowing inflation to spiral completely out of control. The economy was strangled and the free fall in the mark was incredible.

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The order for workers to go on a general strike may have been patriotic but it had disastrous consequences for Germany as a whole. The Ruhr was Germany’s richest economic area and produced a great deal of wealth for the country as a whole. The huge Krupps steelworks was there. By not producing any goods whatsoever, Germany’s economy started to suffer. The striking workers had to be paid and the people expelled from their homes had to be looked after. To do this, the government did the worst thing possible – it printed money to cover the cost. This signalled to the outside world that Germany did not have enough money to pay for her day-to-day needs and whatever money may have been invested in Germany was removed by foreign investors.

Such a drop in confidence also caused a crisis in Weimar Germany itself when prices started to rise to match inflation. Very quickly, things got out of control and what is known as hyperinflation set in. Prices went up quicker than people could spend their money.

In 1922, a loaf of bread cost 163 marks. 

By September 1923, this figure had reached 1,500,000 marks and at the peak of hyperinflation, November 1923, a loaf of bread cost 200,000,000,000 marks.

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Impact of hyperinflation

People were paid by the hour and rushed to pass money to loved ones so that it could be spent before its value meant it was worthless.
People had to shop with wheel barrows full of money
Bartering became common – exchanging something for something else but not accepting money for it. Bartering had been common in Medieval times!
Pensioners on fixed incomes suffered as pensions became worthless.
Restaurants did not print menus as by the time food arrive…the price had gone up!
The poor became even poorer and the winter of 1923 meant that many lived in freezing conditions burning furniture to get some heat.
The very rich suffered least because they had sufficient contacts to get food etc. Most of the very rich were land owners and could produce food on their own estates.
The group that suffered a great deal – proportional to their income – was the middle class. Their hard earned savings disappeared overnight. They did not have the wealth or land to fall back on as the rich had. Many middle class families had to sell family heirlooms to survive. It is not surprising that many of those middle class who suffered in 1923, were to turn to Hitler and the Nazi Party. 

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Gustav Stresseman

In 1923, the Weimar Republic was on the verge of collapse, but, surprisingly, the crisis was the start of a period of stability and success. The period 1923-1929 was a time when the economy boomed and cultural life flourished in Germany.   This dramatic turnabout happened because Germany was saved by two people - Gustav Stresemann and Charles Dawes.

Gustav Stresemann had been a nationalist, but he realised that something needed to be done to save Germany. The most important thing he did in 1923 was to organise the Great Coalition of moderate, pro-democracy parties in the Reichstag. At last, Germany had a government that could make laws! Under Stresemann's guidance, the government called off the strike, persuaded the French to leave the Ruhr and even got the rest of the world to allow Germany to join the League of Nations in 1926.  Stresemann also introduced reforms to help ordinary people such as job centres, unemployment pay and better housing. Charles Dawes was the US budget director. In 1923, he was sent to Europe to sort out Germany's economy. Under his advice, the German Reichsbank was reformed and the old money was called in and burned. This ended the hyperinflation. Dawes also arranged the Dawes Plan with Stresemann, which gave Germany longer to pay reparations. Most importantly, Dawes agreed to America lending Germany 800 million gold marks, which kick-started the German economy.

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  • The dawes paln 1924- reparatino was spread over a long period oftime and USA lend germany 800  million marks to help its industires and make rep payments
  • The Locarno treaties 1925 - germany accepted it's western boarders with france and belgium as set out by the TOV
  • The young plan 1929 - this reduced germany's reparation payments
  • The Kellogg-Briand pact 1928 - 65 nationas agreed not the use force to settle disputs
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Problems upto 1929

  • Traditional germans dislikes the new art movement and culture
  • WG was still poltically unstable and relied heavily on coalition governemtns like USA and which struggled to coopeate
  • Without the USA, there is not MONEY
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October 1929

Crash of wallstreet led to the depression whcih took hold in the 1930's, resulting in DAWES PLAN FAILURE. America demanded its money back, leaving germany to fall into depression> Streseman dies a couple of months earlier so he wasn't there to fix it. By 1932, 6 mill unemployed. Desperacy led to extremist groups flourishing


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In 1929, the American Stock Exchange collapsed, and caused an economic depression. America called in all its foreign loans, which destroyed Weimar Germany. Unemployment in Germany rose to 6 million. The government did not know what to do. In July 1930 Chancellor Brüning cut government expenditure, wages and unemployment pay - the worst thing to do during a depression. He could not get the Reichstag to agree to his actions, so President Hindenburg used Article 48 to pass the measures by decree.  Anger and bitterness helped the Nazis to gain more support. Many workers turned to communism, but this frightened wealthy businessmen, so they financed Hitler's campaigns. Many middle-class people, alarmed by the obvious failure of democracy, decided that the country needed a strong government. Nationalists and racists blamed the Treaty of Versailles and reparations. In 1928, the Nazis had only 12 seats in the Reichstag; by July 1932 they had 230 seats and were the largest party. The government was in chaos. President Hindenburg dismissed Brüning in 1932. His replacement - Papen - lasted six months, and the next chancellor - Schleicher - only lasted two months. Hindenburg had to use Article 48 to pass almost every law. In January 1933, Hindenburg and Papen came up with a plan to get the Nazis on their side by offering to make Hitler vice chancellor. He refused and demanded to be made chancellor. They agreed, thinking they could control him. In January 1933, Hitler became chancellor, and immediately set about making himself absolute ruler of Germany using Article 48.

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Events leading to Hitlers power

  • 27 Feb 1933 - Reichstag Fire - the Reichstag building is set on fire. A Dutch Communist, van der Lubbe, is caught red-handed in the burning building
  • 5 Mar 1933 - General Election - only 44 per cent of the population vote for the Nazis, who win 288 seats in the Reichstag
  • 23 Mar 1933 - Enabling Act - the SA intimidates all the remaining non-Nazi deputies. The Reichstag votes to give Hitler the right to make his own laws.
  • 26 April 1933 - Local government is reorganised - the country is carved up into 42 Gaus, which are run by a Gauleiter. These Gaus are separated into areas, localities and blocks of flats run by a Blockleiter. Hitler sets up the Gestapo.
  • 2 May 1933 - Trade unions are abolished and their leaders arrested
  • 20 June 1933 - Concordat - Hitler makes an agreement with the Pope who sees him as someone who can destroy communism. This agreement allows Hitler to take over political power in Germany as long as he leaves the Catholic Church alone.
  • 14 July 1933 - Political parties are banned - only the Nazi party is allowed to exist.
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Events leading to Hitlers power continued...

  • 24 April 1934 - People's Courts - Hitler sets up the Nazi people's courts where judges have to swear an oath of loyalty to the Nazis.
  • 30 June 1934 - Night of the Long Knives - some SA leaders are demanding that the Nazi party carry out its socialist agenda, and that the SA take over the army. Hitler cannot afford to annoy the businessmen or the army, so the SS murders perhaps 400 of the SA members, including its leader Röhm, along with a number of Hitler's other opponents.
  • 19 Aug 1934 - Führer - when Hindenburg dies, Hitler declares himself jointly president, chancellor and head of the army.
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Structure of control in Nazi Germany

1. Government (political)

The way Hitler consolidated power in 1933-1934 meant that the Nazis had absolute control of national and local government.

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.

3. Culture (social)

Hitler ordered Nazification - the imposition of Nazi values - on all aspects of German life.

4. Work (working)

Dr Robert Ley, head of the DAF, boasted that he controlled workers' lives from the 'cradle to the grave'.

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Structure of control in Nazi Germany continued

5. Education and youth (working)

The lives of young people were controlled both in and out of school to turn them into fanatical Nazis.

6. Terror (method of control)

Germany became a country where it was unsafe to do or say anything critical of the government.

7. Propaganda (method of control)

Josef Goebbels controlled the Propaganda Ministry, which aimed to brainwash people into obeying the Nazis and idolising Hitler.

This page summarises the main aspects of life where the Nazis took control, and the methods they used to maintain control. The rest of of this Revision Bite will look into these aspects in more detail.

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Political life


The following points allowed Hitler to gain control of the government:

Enabling Act

Local government reorganised

Political parties banned

Hitler became Führer

When you have a lot of information to remember, it sometimes helps to make up a mnemonic - a sentence or word - to remind you of what you should be thinking about for this topic. If you rearrange the points above, the first letters of each point spell out the word HELP.

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The following points are examples of how the Nazis took control of religion:

Non-Nazi Catholic priests and Protestant pastors such as Martin Niemöller and Dietrich Bonhöffer 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

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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.

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Education and youth

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.

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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 (German Labour Front) controlled workers' conditions at work.

The KdF (Strength through Joy) movement regulated their leisure time.

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Methods of control


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.

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Methods of control continued


The Propaganda Ministry worked hard to ensure that people were persuaded to adopt the Nazi point of view:

Mass rallies at Nuremberg.

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.

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The role of women

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 'Ks':




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The role of women continued

Goebbels said: "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. The Nazis even considered making it law that families should have at least four children. Girls did keep fit in the BDM to make themselves healthy for childbirth, but they 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.

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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 Cologne Pirates (the Edelweiss Pirates based in Cologne) killed the Gestapo chief, so the Nazis publicly hanged 12 of them.

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Opposition continued

Many Protestant pastors, led by Martin Niemöller, formed the Confessional Church in opposition to Hitler's Reich Church. Niemöller was held in a concentration camp during the period 1937-1945. Another Protestant pastor, Dietrich Bonhöffer, 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.


von Galen/ 'With Burning Concern' - the Pope's message/White Rose Group/Reichsbanner/Eidelweiss Pirates/Confessional Church/ Kreisau Circle

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Who did the Nazis persecute?

The Nazis believed that only Germans could be citizens and that non-Germans did not have any right to the rights of citizenship. The Nazis racial philosophy taught that some races were untermensch (sub-human). Many scientists at this time believed that people with disabilities or social problems were genetic degenerates whose genes needed to be eliminated from the human bloodline. The Nazis, therefore:

  • Tried to eliminate the Jews.
  • Killed 85 per cent of Germany's Gypsies.
  • Sterilised black people.
  • Killed mentally disabled babies.
  • Killed mentally ill patients.
  • Sterilised physically disabled people and people with hereditary diseases.
  • Sterilised deaf people.
  • Put homosexuals, prostitutes, Jehovah's Witnesses, alcoholics, pacifists, beggars, hooligans and criminals - who they regarded as anti-social - into concentration camps.
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How the Nazis persecuted the Jews: key dates


  • Boycott of Jewish businesses.
  • Jewish civil servants, lawyers and teachers sacked.
  • Race Science lessons to teach that Jews are untermensch.


  • 'Jews not wanted here' signs put up at swimming pools etc.
  • Nuremberg laws (15 September) Jews could not be citizens. They were not allowed to vote or to marry a German.


  • Jews could not be doctors.
  • Jews had to add the name Israel (men) or Sarah (women) to their name.
  • Jewish children forbidden to go to school.
  • Kristallnacht (9 November) - attacks on Jewish homes, businesses and synagogues.
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How the Nazis persecuted the Jews: key dates conti


  • Jews were forbidden to own a business, or own a radio.
  • Jews were forced to live in ghettoes.


  • Army Einsatzgruppen squads in Russia started mass-shootings of Jews.
  • All Jews were forced to wear a yellow star of David.


  • Wansee Conference (20 January) decided on the Final Solution, which was to gas all Europe's Jews. The main death camps were at Auschwitz, Treblinka and Sobibor.
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Economic policy summary

Hitler's economic policy had four main ideas:

Full employment - the idea that everyone should have a job. By 1939, there was virtually no unemployment in Germany.

Beauty of Work - the Nazis set up the SdA (Beauty of Work) to help Germans see that work was good, and that everyone who could work should. In fact - because the Nazis had abolished the trade unions, banned strikes, and given more power to the industrialists - real wages fell and hours were longer under Hitler.

Re-armament begun in 1935 - the idea of 'guns before butter'.

Autarky - there was an unsuccessful attempt at making Germany self-sufficient.

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The good life in Nazi Germany

  • Everybody had a job, and a wage. To people who had been unemployed and starving, 'work and bread' was a wonderful blessing worth every civil liberty they lost.
  • The Nazis set up KdF (Strength through Joy), which gave workers rewards for their work - evening classes, theatre trips, picnics, and even free holidays.
  • The Nazis devised a scheme to allow workers to buy a Volkswagen Beetle car for a small weekly payment.
  • The autobahns improved transport and travel.
  • People appreciated the public works - eg new schools and hospitals.
  • The streets were safe and there was no crime.
  • Germany was strong and successful in world affairs.
  • Nazi rallies provided colour and fun.
  • Nazi Youth groups provided activities and holidays for young people.
  • Nazi ideology gave people hope and confidence
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How Hitler increased employment

Hitler introduced many policies to fulfil his goal of full 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. The construction of the autobahns created work for 80,000 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. By 1939, 1.4 million men were in the army, so they were not counted as unemployed.
  • Many Jews were sacked and their jobs given to non-Jews.
  • Many women were sacked and their jobs given to men.
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Did Germany become self-sufficient?

The policy of autarky was a failure. In 1937, Göring was made Economics Minister with the job of making Germany self-sufficient in four years. However, the measures he introduced were not successful:

Controls were put on imports, but, if anything, imports of luxuries increased.

Scientists tried to make oil from coal and to find substitutes for rubber, petrol, cotton and coffee.

Farmers were subsidised to produce more food, and food imports were reduced.

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