History B GCSE UNIT 5 AQA (5.2)

How did Hitler change Germany from a democracy to a Nazi dictatorship, 1933-34

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The Reichstage Fire

  • 27 February 1933
  • Hitler blamed the Communists
  • Van der Lubbe, was caught on the scene, he was beheaded
  • The day after the fire Hitler persuaded Hindenburg to pass an emergency Decree for the law of 'The Protection of the People and the State', it gave Hitler the power to arrest anyone suspected of opposing the government
  • Ended personal liberty, freedom and expression and took control of the press
  • Gave Hitler the opportunity to act against his political opponents
  • Many were arrested
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Election of March 1933 and the Enabling Act

  • March 1933, although the Nazis were by far the largest party, they did not have overall majority, with just 44 per cent of seats
  • Hitler was disappointed
  • He won over the Centre Party with promises to protect the Catholic Church
  • The Reichstag members were ushered in by heavily-armed SA men
  • The Reichstag members passed the Enabling Act, which gave Hitler the power to make his own laws without the Reichstag
  • Germany had ceased to be a democracy
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The elimination of political opposition, 1933-34

  • Hitler's biggest threat, The Communist Party, had been banned after the Reichstag fire
  • Between May and July all the other parties were banned, including those that had helped him to become Chancellor
  • Using his powers after the Enabling Act, Hitler passed a new law against the formation of parties
  • This meant that the Nazi Party was the only political organisation allowed in Germany
  • Strong Socialists and Communists were arrested
  • Trade unions, which had held many communists were closed down in May 1933, and replaced by the Nazi's own union
  • In July 1933, Hitler also signed an agreement with the Pope, known as the Concordat
  • Catholics accepted Hitler's promise that he would not interfere with Catholicism in Germany
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Hitler's elimination of the SA

  • By the summer of 1933, Hitler's dictatorship was nearly complete
  • He was not fully in control of the SA (brownshirts)
  • Who were under the leadership of Rohm
  • The SA had a bad reputation and Hitler did not want them to give the Nazis a further bad name
  • Rohm had ambitions for the SA to become more powerful, Hitler seen this as a challenge to his power
  • So Hitler had the SS (blackshirts) and wanted them to replace the SA
  • On the night of 30 June 1934, Hitler used thhe SS to arrest and shoot leading members of the SA
  • Rohm was shot after refusing to commit suicide
  • The process continued for days and nights
  • Not all shot were SA members (200), for example von Schleicher was also shot
  • Hitler told the Reichstag he had acted swiftly to save the nation from civil war
  • The Reichstag accepted this without question
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The Fuhrer

  • August 2, 1934 President HIndenburg died
  • Hitler combined the offices of President and Chancellor and became the Fuhrer, or leader
  • The German armies swore a personal oath of loyalty to Hitler
  • He had gained TOTAL power in Germany
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One-Party State

  • Hitler was all-powerful, he was the Fuhrer
  • However he was lazy
  • Much of the detailed work and decision making was left to others
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Law and Order

  • The Nazis abolished the right to trial before imprisonment
  • The justice system became part of the Nazi state
  • Judges were replaced by Nazi supporters
  • The SS and the Gestapo could put people in concentration camps without trial
  • In 1934, Hitler set up the People's Court, which tried people for 'crimes against the State'
  • Any opponent of the Nazis was called an enemy of the State
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The SS and Gestapo

  • The SS had been formed in 1925, as Hitler's own personal bodyguard
  • By the early 1930s it had become the party's own police force
  • After the Night of the Long Knives in June 1934, it became the most important military group within the State under its leader Heinrich Himmler
  • The Gestapo was the secret police, first in the state of Prussia
  • Then over the whole of Germany from 1936
  • Reinhard Heydrich became its head
  • Its job was to search out opponents of the Nazis and it had the powers to arrest and imprison
  • It used informers to uncover any attempts to organise opposition
  • It used torture to extract information and confessions
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Concentration Camps

  • Anyone arrested by the Gestapo could be held in 'protective custody' in a concentration camp
  • When the camps were first established there were over 100,000 prisoners
  • Most of them were political opponents
  • Once the Nazis had consolidated their power over the German people, there were fewer political prisoners
  • The camps were run by SS guards, Death's Head Units, trained to be ruthless and cruel
  • Beatings were given for minor offences, anything more major resulted in execution without trial
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  • Josef Goebbels was the head of propaganda, he understood that it worked best if the German people were given simple ideas with short slogans and powerful visual images
  • therefore critising the Treaty of Versailles, making Germany great and blaming the Jews for Germany's disasters could be presented in posters, films, speeches and on the radio
  • The largest propaganda event was the Berlin Olympic Games in 1936 - all anti-jewish slogans were removed and Germany was presented as very positive to visitors
  • Propaganda was used to present Hitler as a powerful yet caring leader, he was photographed with children and dogs
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The Media

  • German radio was censored, it was under State control in 1934, all broadcasts were vetted by the propaganda ministry. Goebbels arranged for 6,000 loud speakers to be set up so people could hear the radio
  • The only source of news allowed was the State-controlled press agency. Detailed instructions were given at daily press conferences on how the news was to be presented
  • All newspapers were Nazi-run
  • The cinema provided a similar mixture of entertainment and politics.
  • Books not approved of by the Nazis were burnt. A huge bonfire organised by young Nazis in May 1933, resulted in 20,000 books being destroyed,the works of over 2,500 writers were offically banned
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Control of education

  • Learnt Nazi beliefs
  • Children were taught the Nazi version of history, e.g. that Germany had been stabbed in the back by German, Jewish politicans
  • Boys were taught military skills
  • Girls were taught housekeeping, cookery and how to be good mothers
  • A new subject was introduced - 'Eugenics' that is the study on how to improve the German race through selective breeding
  • All teachers who were Jewish were sacked
  • Others had to take an oath of loyalty to Hitler
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Youth Movements

  • Hitler wanted to control young Germans out of school as well
  • He initated youth organisations, which became compulsary after 1936
  • There were groups for children from 6-18
  • They were taught Nazi beliefs and given lots of physical exercise and training
  • The older boys were taught military discipline
  • Whilst the girls were aimed at to become strong German mothers
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Control of the churches

  • Hitler had no respect for Christianity
  • He talked about 'positive Christianity' and tried to appeal to both Catholics and Protestants
  • He knew the party's opposition to communism would help him gain support from Christains as communists were atheists
  • The Catholic Church should have benefited from the Concordat signed in 1933, however there was much interference in Catholic schools, and some teachers were dismissed
  • In the late 1930s many priests were arrested on unlikely charges
  • The Protestant churches were grouped together by the Nazis into the Reich Church
  • Many accepted this, however some objected and formed their own separate church
  • This was a challenge to Nazi power and several hundred pastors were arrested
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