History GCSE, life in Germany

Government of the Third Reich

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  • Created by: naomi
  • Created on: 13-04-12 15:03

Section Summary

Step by step, from 1932-34, Hitler made  himself dictator of Germany then set out to create the perfect Nazi state (the Third Reich) using the same combination of terror and propaganda he had used to gain power. 

The Gestapo and the SS found, and punished, 'enemies of the state'. the number of arrests, imprisonments and executions(with, or increasinly, without trial) rose. At the same time, propaganda surrounded the German people daily, aimed at getting them to love and obey Hitler.

Despite the propaganda, there was opposition to Hitler throughout the period. Youth groups (e.g. the Edelweiss Pirates) opposed the Hitler Youth. the churches' reaction was divided, but there was always some church opposition. The army began by supporting the Naziz. By 1944, there was enough army opposition to organise a plot to kill Hitler.

Hitler for president? In March 1932, Hitler ran for president. The existing president, Hindenburg won by 19.4 million vots to Hitler's 13.4 million. It was a setback, but Hitler's votes showed he had wide German support. 

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Step One

  • The Reichstag: In the Reichstag election of July 1932, Nazis won 230 seats, becoming biggest parrty. The Chancellor, von Papen (centre party), held another election in November, hoping to gain votes. Both his party and the Nazis lost seats, but the Nazis still had a majority with 196.
  • Role of Hindenburg: Hitler demanded to become chancellor in July 1932, when the Nazis had a Reichstag majority. Hindenburg did not trust Hitler or the Nazis. He spent months keeping Hitler out, during which time, power of the Nazis in the Reichstag and the country became increasingly clear.
  • Stalemate: Between May and December 1932, there were three chancellors: Bruning (out May 1932), von Paper (out December 1932) and Von Schleicher (resigned January 1933). Neither Von Papen nor Von Schleicher could get Reichstag support, because of the Nazi majority.
  • Role of Van Papen: In 1932, Chancellor von Paper only had 68 Reichstag supporters = ineffective. He asked Hindenburf to close the Reichstag and rule by decree. Insetead, he was replaced by von Schleicher.
  • Hitler and von Papen: In November 1932, Hitler made a deal with von Papen to help him becoe chancellor if he made von Papen vice-cahncellor. When von Schleicher resigned, von Papen persuaded Hindenburg there would be a civil war if Hitler was not appointed. 
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Step Two

  • Hitler as Chancellor: In January 1933, Hindemburg was forced to appoint Hitler as chancellor. the nazis had much German support. People wanted a stable, effective government to deal with the economic crisis.
  • The Reichstag fire: On 27 February 1933, the Reichstag building burned down. the nazis may have started the fire. A young Dutch communist, Marius van de Lubbe, confessed to the crime. He went on trial with four German communists (arrested later) and was executed. 
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Step Three

  • Emergency Decree: Hitler persuaded Hindenburg the Reichstag fire was a communist plot. Hindenburg passed an emergency decree that gave the police the power to search houses, arrest people (including the communists in the Reichstag), and hold them for trial for as long as they wanted.
  • March 1933 election: In the March 1933 election, the Nazis won 288 seats in the Reichstag. Even without the communists, this was still not the two-thirds of seats Hitler needed in order to change the consitution.
  • The New Reichstag: Met in March 1933; the SA surrounded the building where it met. They stopped opponents going in; the rest felt threatended. Hitler had made deals with the Centre and National parties to gain their support.
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Step Four

  • The Enabling Act (March 1933): The Enabling Act gave Hitler the power to make laws, even if they were against constitution, without the consent of the Reichstag for 4 years. The promises he had made, and the threat of the SA outside, meant this was passed by 444 votes to 91.
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Step Five

  • Removal of powerful groups: Hitler quickly removed groups that could challenge him in politics or in running Germany: local governemtn, trade unions and political opponents.
  • Local Government: Hitler closed local parliaments (made own laws) on 31st March 1933. He re-organised them with Nazis in control, then abolished them in 1934. He didn't want Germans to have local loyalties.
  • Trade Unions: Were a threat because they could organise strikes and many did not support the NAzis. On May 1933, Nazis broke into trade union offices all over the country and arrested many officials. The unions were moved into a single Nazi-controlled union: The German Labour Front.
  • Political Parties: On 10th May 1933 the Nazis tok over the offices of the Social Democrat Party (its largest rival), destroying its newspapers and taking is funds. the same happened to the Communist Party two weeks later. On 14th July, all political parties except the Nazis were banned.
  • The SS: (Schutsstaffel) were set up as Hitler's personal bodyguard. They grew in size and power with the Nazi Party. They became the Nazis's political police, able to arrest people and imprison them without ttrial. They ran the concentration camps and later the death camps. 
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Step Six

  • Night of the Long Knives: On 30th July 1934, the SS arrested Rohm and 100 other SA leaders. This pruge was because the leader of the SS (Himmlet) and Rohm were struggling for power; Rohm (with an SA of about 2 million) was a threat to Hitler, the Nazis needed the SA less than they had done. 
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Step Seven

  • Death of Hindenburg: In August 1934, Hindenburg died. Hitler made himself Fuhrer, sole leader of the Nazi Party in Germany
  • The Cult of Fuhrer: Nazi Propaganda always showed Hitler as a great leader. Once he was Fuhrer, propaganda increased. All images of him, all of his public appearances, were carefully managed to show him as a hard-working leader, a man of the people who put his country first.
  • Methods of Control: The Nazis wanted total, willing obedience from people. This would take time; until they used restrictive laws, terror and indoctrination to control people. Nazi Party wardens (responsible for about 40 households each) gave out propaganda and spied on people. 
  • The Nazi Police State: was based on the Gestapo(Secret police)who spied and used informers against anyone 'suspicious'. They reported political 'crimes' to the SS. 'enemies of state' were held without trial, often in concentration camps. In trials, Nazi-picked judges gave Nazi verdicts.
  • Concentration Camps: Political prisoners were, at first, held in large, disused buildings, but the Nazis soon set up an ever growing systen of SS-run concentration camps. The first was at Dachau, opened in June 1933. They were increasinly used for 'undesirables', not just political prisoners.
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Step Seven Continued

  • 'Undesirables' to the Nazis: Included black people, beggars, gypsies, the disabled, sexual offenders (the Nazis included homosexuals in this group), religious groups and, more undesirable than any other group to the Nazis, Jewish people. 
  • Censorship: Controlled the information people had. Books were burned, radio producers, playwrights, film-makers and newspapers were told what to say. The ministry of Propaganda, run by Joseph Goebbels, was in charge.
  • Propaganda: Was on the radio (about 70% of homes had one by 1939), on posters, in the cinema, at the theatre, in newspapers and at rallies. Hitler felt that repeating messages, over and over, make people believe them.
  • The Berlin Olympics(1936): Were the Nazis chance to show the world how successful and popular they were. They built a huge new stadium (it held 110,000 people). Germany won the most fold medals (33), but Jesse Owens, a black US athlete, won four gold medals. Hitler refused to present them. 
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The Nazis and Religion

The Nazis were very anti-Jewish, but they were also opposed to all forms of religion, they wanted people to be totally loyal to Hitler and the Third Reich - any religion might bring a conflict of loyalty (e.g. the Catholic church had a Catholic Youth organisation)

Catholic condordat: About two-thirds of Germans were Catholic. In July 1933, Hitler and the Pope signed a concordat (agreement). Hitler agreed to Catholics being ale to worship freely if the Pop did not interfere in German politics. But the Nazis took Christian symbols out of school, then closed Catholic schools.

Catholic protest: In 1937, the Nazis made the Catholic Youth illegal. Priests made protests about Nazi actions, hundreds were sent to concentration camps. The Pope felt Hitler had broken the concordat. In 1937, he published a statement 'With Burning Anxiety' criticising the Nazis, but the persecution went on. 

Protestants: When the Nazis took power, about 2,000 Protestant churches formed a Reich church (supporting the Nazis). Over 6,000 churches joined the Confessional Church, led by Pastor Niemoller, which spoke out against Nazi policies. Niemoller, and many others, were sent to camps.

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The Nazis and Hitler

The Edelweiss Pirates was a resistance group set up in opposition to the Hitler Youth. They wore checked shirts and dark trousers, read and listened to censored material, wrote anti-Nazi graffiti on walls, and later, helped the resistance movement in the Second World War.

The White Rose Group was set up by Professor Huber and two students (Hans and Sophie Scholl) at Munich University in 1941. They leafleted people about German army actions on the Eastern Front in the Second World War (e.g. murder of whole villages), urding them not to support the war.

The Scholls were caught by the Gestapo in February and many group members were then caught and brought to trial. All three leaders were executed, along with many others. 

Army opposition to the Nazis grew after the defeats on the Russian Front. Many soldiers also reacted against the brutality of the SS.

The July Plot on 20th July 1944, von Stauffenberg tried to blow up Hitler at a military conference. The bomb exploded but Hitler was only wounded. Over 5,500 were executed for plotting, including von Stauffenberg.

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