Germany Section C

How was life like during the war

Life in the early years

The initial effect This was the successful period of the war for Germany:

Military success – the Blitzkrieg tactics pushed the army forward to Poland in 1939, and Holland, Belgium, Luxembourg, Denmark, Norway and France in 1940

No effect on the civilan population

Germany takes resources from the lands of the countries that they occupied.

Foreign workers in their factories.

But remember, not everyone supported the war, as they remembered the atrocities of the First World War.

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  • Food rationing – ensuring that everyone ate a balanced diet. Many ate even better during the war. Artificial goods were used, eg ersatzkaffee - a coffee made from acorn and barley seeds.
  • November 1939 - started to ration clothes.
  • People were only allowed to use warm water twice a week – as a way of saving fuel.
  • Soap rationing
  • No toilet paper

The result of rationing was that a flourishing black market developed, to exchange goods.

In September 1940, arrangements were made to move children from Berlin because of air raids by the Allies. This wasn't very successful, as many stayed in Berlin.

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The change in the role of women


The Nazis tried to:

  • Increase the birth rate, but without much success
  • Encourage women to go out to work, but without much success

The propaganda of the 1930s had been a success. Women wanted to stay at home. Therefore, a new propaganda campaign had to be organised.

Women’s health suffered during the war

  • Food shortage
  • Bombings
  • They were worried about their children and their husbands who were in battle

1943 – The Nazis tried to force 3 million women aged 17–45 to work. Only 1 million went in to work. This was one of the reasons why they lost the war. Foreign workers represented 21 per cent of Germany's workforce.

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The use of propaganda on the home front

The purpose of propaganda was to keep people's spirits up and maintain their support for the war. It was announced that Germans had contributed 1.5 million items of fur and 67 million items of wool to ensure a sufficient supply of warm clothes for the soldiers on the Eastern front. The propaganda played on the Germans' fear of Communism.

The propaganda also persuaded the people to:

  • to save fuel
  • to work harder
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Life during the final years, 1942–1945


June 1941: the start of the Barbarossa campaign - the attack on Russia. The turning point came in 1942 with Germany’s defeat in Stalingrad. This was a shock for the people of Germany, as the war propaganda had said that they were winning.

Preparing for Total War

It was therefore clear that the war wasn't going in Germany’s favour. Every aspect of Germany's economy and society was contributing to the war campaign. As a result, there were no:

  • professional sports
  • magazines
  • sweet shops.

There was no shop opened that didn’t help with the war effort. Exchange centres were opened and more women were working in the factories. Working hours increased.

The Hitler Youth Movement arranged for children to be moved to Austria and Bavaria.

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Shortages and the black market

  • 1939: 700 grams of meat for each person per week.
  • 1945: only 250 grams of meat for each person per week.
  • In 1943, the zoo animals were slaughtered!

Allied bombings

The aim of the Allies' intensive bombing programme in May 1943 was to kill people's spirits and force the war to end. Germany's large cities were bombed:

- Berlin    - Köln    -Hamburg    -Dresden     -Hamburg again    

Around 800,000 civilians were killed by Allied bombing raids, despite the fact that they were not very accurate. Around 50 per cent of the bombs fell on residential areas, and 12 per cent on factories and war industries.

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The effect of the bombing

  • Many fled to the safety of the countryside
  • The population of the villages increased quickly
  • People had to share their homes
  • Germans saw that they were losing the war

Therefore, support for the Nazis was weakening in the villages.

The People's Home Guard (Volksstrum)

1944 – the Volksstrum was just propaganda, and its aim was to raise the Germans’ spirits. The members were inexperienced, untrained and were either too old or too ill to join the Wehrmains.

The members' duties:

  • Boys - working with the fire service, postmen, distributing ration cards, guides during blackouts, collecting metals, bones, kitchen waste, clothes.
  • Girls - helping out in kindergartens and elderly people's homes, distributing coal and food for homeless people, widows and refugees, singing in choirs to provide entertainment to ill and injured people.
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How Jews were treated during the war years

As Germany invaded Poland in 1939, three million Jews came under Germany's control. This is how Germany dealt with the Jewish people.

Developing ghettos

Poland – Ghettos were developed in Warsaw and Lodz. Jews weren't allowed to leave a part of the city – soldiers and barbed wire prevented them. Around 500,000 died as a result of disease and starvation.

The Jewish population was increasing, and the Nazis used them to work in factories.

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Special operation squads


As Germany went into Russia in June 1941, even more Jews came under the Nazis’ control. One of the sections of the SS, called the Einsatzgruppen, was used to gather Jews, shoot them and throw them into mass graves. Around 750,000 were killed in this way. In the eyes of the Nazis, this process was too slow for them to be able to deal with the number of Jews they had under their control.

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The reasons for the Final Solution and its impleme

In July 1941, Goering ordered Heydrich to prepare a plan to find the Final Solution to the problem. The result was the construction of concentration camps.

On 20 January 1942, at a Conference in Wannsse, Berlin, Himmler was given the task of extending the concentration camps and developing more effective ways of dealing with the problem. Therefore, gas chambers were constructed in camps such as Sobibor, Treblinka, Maidank and Auschwitz-Birkenau in Poland.

In Auschwitz I it was possible to put 700-800 Jews in one gas chamber, and Auschwitz-Birkenau's chambers were even bigger. It would take between three and 15 minutes for them to be killed. The Nazis killed 6 million Jews – this was the Holocaust. The gas used in the chambers was called Zyklon B

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Civilian opposition (ordinary people)

Young people

  • The Edelweiss pirates: Barthel Schink, leader of the Köln Pirates – he was hanged in November 1944, aged 16.
  • The Swing Kids: Middle class. Inspired by the music of Britain and the USA – especially jazz. Swing clubs were opened where people danced the jitterbug. They listened to music that had been banned.
  • The White Rose group: Students at Munich University - Hans and Sophie Scholl, and Christopher Probst. Their opposition was non-violent. 18 February 1934 – they were arrested by the Gestapo for distributing anti-Nazi leaflets, displaying posters and writing graffiti. They were tortured and hanged.
  • Left Wing: The Red Orchestra: An espionage network which provided information to the Soviet army. The leader was Anton Saelfhow. Activity: vandalism, organising strikes, encouraging soldiers to flee from the army. Conservatives: The Kreisau Circle The Kreisau Circle included officers, noblemen, right wing people, academics and professionals.
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The actions of religious groups

Martin Niemöller:

Founded the Confessing Church.

Von Galen, Munster's Catholic Archbishop:

Criticised the Nazi euthanasia policy of killing people with mental illness.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Protestant minister:

He opposed the Nazis' policies on racism and helped Jews to escape. He was executed by the Nazis at the Flössenburg concentration camp during the final month of the Second World War. He had been arrested two years earlier for helping 14 Jews to flee to Switzerland.

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Opposition by the armed forces

The causes and effects of the July Bomb Plot

  • General Ludwig Beck resigned from the army after Germany defeated Austria. He led the conspiracy against Hitler within the armed forces, together with Karl Goerdeler. They made an unsuccessful attempt to assassinate Hitler in March 1943.
  • The Bomb Plot took place in July 1944. The aim of Operation Valkyrie was to kill Hitler and take control of Berlin using the army.
  • On 20 July 1944, Colonel Claus von Staffenburg, a senior officer in the army, left a leather bag under a table in Hitler's headquarters in east Berlin.
  • When Hitler arrived, Staffenburg left the room and the bomb exploded.
  • Four people were killed.
  • Hitler suffered minor injuries. The conspirators were too slow. The soldiers didn't move and didn't take over the radio stations or phones.

The result: Around 5,000 people who were suspected of being part of the plot to kill Hitler were executed, including 19 Generals and 26 Colonels.

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Germany's defeat

The allied invasion of Germany

The Soviet Union invaded east Germany, and USA and Britain invaded from the west. Millions of German refugees fled to avoid the bombing and Russian soldiers. Two million died from the cold, disease and tiredness.

The fall of Berlin and death of Hitler

  • 24 March 1945 - The Allies cross the Rhine River.
  • 22 April 1945 - Russia's Red Army enters Berlin from the east.
  • 29 April 1945 - Hitler marries Eva Braun in the early hours of the morning.
  • 30 April 1945 - Then, Hitler commits suicide by shooting himself, but not before poisoning his new wife. His officers cremate his body, as ordered by Hitler himself. During his last days, Hitler began to rant about the Jews, blaming them for everything. He showed no sign of remorse.
  • 7 May 1945 - Karl Doenitz had been authorised by Hitler to control Germany. Doenitz agreed that Germany surrendered unconditionally. Germany had lost the war.
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The division of Germany

The Treaty of Versailles had not managed to prevent Germany from going to war, so there was a need to think carefully about how to punish Germany this time.

Germany was divided into sections, and Allied soldiers were put in place to keep order.

East and West Prussia came under the control of Poland.

Austria was separated from Germany and placed under the control of the four powers (USA, Britain, Russia and France).

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The punishment of Germany

The Nuremberg Trials

Those who stood trial in Nuremberg include:

  • Hermann Goering - Tried at the Nuremberg Trials and found guilty. He was sentenced to hanging, but committed suicide (poisoned himself) whilst waiting to be executed.
  • Rudolf Hess - Was senteced to life imprisonment for war crimes.
  • Dr Robert Ley - Committed suicide during the Nuremberg Trials.
  • Albert Speer - Was sentenced to 20 years in prison for crimes against peace and humanity.

A total of 10 people were hanged. Their evidence indicated that they had 'obeyed authority'.

Some senior Nazis died before the Nuremberg trials, including:

  • Joseph Goebbels - Died with his wife and family in the bunker with Hitler in Berlin on 1 May 1945.
  • Heinrich Himmler - Was arrested on 23 May 1945 (committed suicide).
  • Reinhard Heydrich - Was killed in Prague in May 1942.
  • Ernst Röhm - Was killed on the Night of the Long Knives.
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