Hitler and the Nazis (Nazi Germany 1919-1939)

These cover most aspects of what is required for 2011 Germany Depth Study for the OCR IGCSE History.

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Modern World History - Ben Walsh 
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Hitler and the Nazis

Stresemann's government succeeded in stabilizing Germany. However the government's opponents had not disappeared, they were becoming stronger and were trying to increase their popularity. 

One of those extremist groups was the Nazi Party (German Worker's Party but renames itself: National Socialist German Worker's Party -  it was called this to attract the Nationalists, the Socialists and the everyday German citizens).  

The Nazi Party was led by Anton Dexler. In 1919 Hitler joined the Nazi party and Dexler soon realised Hitler's talent. Within months Dexler put Hitler in charge of propaganda and political ideas of the party, in 1920 the party released the Twenty-Five Point Programme. 

In 1921 Hitler removed Dexler as leader. Hitler's energy, commitment and his power as a speaker were soon attracting attention. Hitler had a clear and simple appeal. He gave scapegoats to blame for Germany's problems.

His meetings were so successful his opponents tried to disrupt them. By 1923 the Nazis were still a minority party, but Hitler had given them a high profile. 

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The Twenty-Five Point Programme

The most important points on the programme were: 

  • The abolition of the Treaty of Versailles
  • Union of Germany and Austria
  • Only "true" Germans to be allowed to live in Germany. Jews in particular were to be excluded
  • Large industries and businesses to be nationalised
  • Generous provision for old age pensioners
  • A strong central government in Germany
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The Munich Putsch, 1923

By November 1923 Hittler believed that the moment had come to topple the Weimar Government.  Stresseman had just called off passive resistance in the Ruhr. On November 8th, Hitler highjacked a local government meeting and announced he was taking over the government of Bavaria. Hitler was joined with the old war hero Lundendorff. The Nazi storm troopers were taking over official buildings. The next day, however, the Weimar government hit back, the polive rounded up the storm troopers and in a brief exchange of shots 16 Nazis were killed. The rebellion broke up in chaos. Hitler escaped in a car, while Lundendorff and others stayed to fight the police.  People did not rise up to support him as he expected.

He and other  leading Nazis were arrested and charged with treason. At the trial, however, Hitler gained enormous publicity for himself and his ideas. Hitler was given 5 years in prison, but was released after 9 months, even though the legal guidelines said hat high treason should carry a life sentence. 

(In his time in prison Hitler wrote Mein Kampf - My Struggle)

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The Depression and the rise of the Nazis

In 1929 the American stock market crashed and sent the USA into a disastrous economic depression. Countries all around the world began feeling the effects of this depression. 

Germany was particularly badly affected. American bankers asked German banks to repay the money they had borrowed in order to pay off their depts. The result was economic collapse in Germany. Businesses went bankrupt, workers were laid off and unemployment rocketed. 

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The Depression and the rise of the Nazis (continue

Hitler's ideas now had a special relevance: 

  • Is the Weimar Government indecisive? Then Germany needs a strong leader!
  • Are reparations adding to Germany's problems? Then kick out the Treaty of Versailles!
  • Is unemployment a problem? Let the  unemployed join the army, build Germany's armaments and be used for public works like road building!

The Nazi's 25 Point Programme was very appealing to the most vulnerable to the Depression.  

In the 1930 elections the Nazis got 107 seat. In November 1932 they got nearly 200, they did not yet have the majority but were the biggest single party. 

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Nazi Campaigning

Nazi campaigning methods were modern and effective. They relied on slogans rather than detailed policies. They talked about uniting the people of Germany behind one leader. They also talked about going back to tradition values, though they never were very clear about what this meant in terms of policies.

The Nazis repeated at every opportunity that they believed Jews, Communists, Weimar Politicians and the Treaty of Versailles were the causes of Germany's problems. 

Their posters were found everywhere. Their rallies impressed people with their energy, enthusiasm and organisation.

The Nazis also organised soup kitchens and provided shelter in hostels for the unemployed. 

The Nazi's greatest asset was Hitler, he was a powerful speaker, ahead of his time as a communicator, he ran for president in 1932, with 13 million votes to Hindenburg's 19 million. He travelled by plane and gave speeches and rallies across Germany, he was able to appear to be a man of the people, someone who knew and understood the people and their problems.

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Negative Cohesion

Not everyone was taken in by Nazi campaigning methods and Hitler's magnetism. But even some of the sceptics supported the Nazis. Negative Cohesion means that people supported the Nazis not because they shared Nazi views, but because they shared Nazi fears and dislikes. 

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How did Hitler become Chancellor in 1933?

After the Reichstag elections of July 1932 the Nazis were the largest single party. Hitler demanded the post of Chancellor from the President. However, Hindenburg was suspicious of Hitler and refused. 

Franz Von Papel (the Chancellor) was soon in trouble as he had virtually no support at all in the Reichstag and so yet another election in November 1932. The Nazis again came out as the largest single party, although their share of vote fell. Hitler regarded the elections as a disaster for the Nazis. He had lost more than 2 million votes and 38 seats in the Reichstag.

In December 1932 he chose Kurt von Schleicer, one of his own advisers in the position of Chancellor.  However within a month he was forced to resign, it was clear that the Weimar system was not working. 

And on 30th January 1933 Hindenburg offered Hitler the position of Chancellor. They were confident that they could limit Hitler's influence and resist his extremist demands.  

Both Hindenburg and Von Papen were sure that they could control Hitler. Both were very wrong. 

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Hitler's Consolidation of Power: Reichstag Fire

After becoming Chancellor in January 1933, few people thought he would hold on to power for long.

He called another election for March 1933 to try to get overall Nazi majority in the Reichstag. Germany's cities again witnessed speeches, rallies, processions and street fighting.

Then on 27 February the Reichstag building burnt down. Hitler blamed the Communists and declared that the fire was the beginning of a Communist uprising; he demanded special emergency powers to deal with the situation ad was given them by President Hindenburg. The Nazis used these powers to arrest Communists, break up meetings and frighten voters. 

There have been many theories about what caused the fire, including that it was an accident the work of a madman, or a Communist plot. Many Germans at the thought that Nazis might have started the fire themselves. 

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Hitler's Consolidation of Power: The Enabling Act

In the election, the Nazis won their largest-ever share of the votes. Using the S.A. and the S.S., he then intimidated the Reichstag into passing the Enabling Act, on 24th March 1933, which allowed him to make laws without consulting the Reichstag. 

For the next four years if he wanted to pass a new law he could pass it. There was nothing President Hindenburg or anyone else could do about it. 

Even now, Hitler was not secure. He was not yet strong enough to remove his opponents, so he set about a clever policy that mixed force, concessions and compromise. 

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Hitler's Consolidation of Power: The Night of Long

Hitler acted quickly. Within a year any opponents (or potential opponents) of the Nazis had either left Germany or been taken to special concentration camps run by the **. Other political parties were banned. 

The leading officers in the army were not impressed by him and were particularly suspicious of Hitler's SA and its leader Ernst Rhom. Hitler feared that Rhom's control over the 4 million SA men made him a potential dangerous rival. 

On the weekend 29-30 June 1933, squads of ** men broke into the homes of Rhom and other leading figures in the SA and arrested them. Hitler accused Rhom of plotting to overthrow and murder him. Over the weekend Rhom and possibly as many as 400 others were executed. 

The SA was not disbanded afterwards, it remained as a Nazi paramilitary organisation. The ** never regained the influence of 1933, many of the SA members were absorbed by the army and the **. 

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Hitler's Consolidation of Power: Der Fuhrer

Soon after The Night of Long Knives, Hindenburg died and Hitler took over as Supreme Leader (Fuhrer) of Germany. On August 2 1934 the entire army swore an oath of personal loyalty to Adolf Hitler as Fuhrer of Germany.

Hitler spent vast sums on rearmament, brought back conscription and made plans to make Germany a great military power again.

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Nazi Control of Germany, 1933-1945 - The **

The ** was formed in 1925 from fanatics loyal to Hitler. After virtually destroying the SA in 1934, it grew into a huge organisation with many different responsibilities. It was led by Heinrich Himmler. ** mean were all Aryans and had primary responsibility for destroying opposition to Nazism and carrying  out the racial policies of the Nazis.

Two important sub-divisions of the ** were the Death's Head units and
Waffen-**. The Death's Head units were responsible for concentration camps and the slaughter of Jews. The Waffen-** were special ** armoured regiments which fought alongside the regular army.

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Nazi Control of Germany, 1933-1945 - The Gestapo

The Gestapo (secret state police) was the force which was perhaps most feared by the ordinary German citizen. Under the command of Reinhand Heydrich, Gestapo agents has sweeping powers. They could arrest citizens on suspicion and send them to concentration camps without trial or even explanation. 

Modern research has shown that Germans thought the Gestapo were much more powerful than they actually were. As a result many ordinary Germans informed on each other because they thought the Gestapo would find out anyway. 

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Nazi Control of Germany, 1933-1945 - The police an

The police and courts also helped prop up the Nazi dictatorship. Top jobs in local police forces were given to high ranking Nazis reporting to Himmler. As a result, the police added political 'snooping' to their normal law and order role. They were, of course, under strict instructions to ignore crimes committed by Nazi agents. Similarly, the Nazis controlled magistrates, judges and the courts, which meant that opponents of Nazism rarely received trial. 

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Nazi Control of Germany, 1933-1945 - Concentration

Concentration camps were the Nazi's ultimate sanction against their own people. They were set up almost as soon as Hitler took power. The first concentration camps in 1933 were simply makeshift prisons is disused factories and warehouses. Soon these were purpose-built. These camps were usually in isolated rural areas and run by ** Death's Head units. Prisoners were forced to do hard labour. Food was very limited and prisoners suffered harsh discipline, beatings and random executions. By the late 1930s, deaths in the camps became increasingly common and very few people emerged alive from them. Jews, Socialists, Communists, trade unionists, churchmen and anyone else brave enough to criticise the Nazis, ended up there. 

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Why was there little oposition?

The Nazis faced relatively little open opposition during their 12 years in power. 

It was terror - All the Nazis' main opponents had been killed, exiled or put in prison. The rest had been scared into submission. However it takes more than terror to explain why there was little opposition to the Nazis. 

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Why was there little opposition? (continued)

"It's all for the good of Germany" - Nazi successes 

  • Many Germans admired and trusted HItler
  • Economic recovery was deeply appreciated
  • Many felt that the Nazis were bringing some much needed discipline back to Germany by restoring traditional values and clamping down rowdy Communists
  • Between 1933 and 1938 HItler's successes in foreign affairs made Germans feel that their country was a great power again after the humiliations of the First War War and the Treaty of Versailles. 
  • For many Germans, the dubious methods of the Nazis may have been regrettable but necessary for the greater good of the country.
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Why was there little opposition? (continued)

"I don't want to lose my job" - Economic fears

  • Germans feared losing their jobs if they did express opposition. Germany had been hit so hard by the Depression that many were terrified by the prospect of being out of work again.
  • Businesses that did not contribute to Nazi Party funds risked losing Nazi business and being bankrupt, and so in self-defence they conformed well.
  • "Keeping your head down" became a national obsession. 
  • The ** and its special security service (SD) went to great lengths to find out what people were saying about the Nazi regime - your job could depend on silence.
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Why was there little opposition? (continued)

"Have you heard the good news?" - Propaganda 

  • Underlying the whole regime was the propaganda machine. This ensured that many Germans found out very little about the bad things that were happening, or if they did, they only heard them with a positive, pro Nazi slant.
  • Propaganda was particularly important in maintaining the image of Hitler. 
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The July Bomb Plot

In July 1944, some army officers came close to removing Hitler. By this stage of the war, many army officers were sure that the war was lost and that Hitler was leading Germany into ruin. On July 10th Count von Stauffenberg left a bomb in Hitler's conference room. The plan was to kill Hitler, close down the radio stations, round up the other leading Nazis and take over Germany. It failed on all counts, for the revolt was poorly planned and organised. Hitler survived and the Nazis took a terrible revenge, killing 5000 in reprisal. 

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How did the Nazis deal with the Churches?

The Nazis and the Churches had a complicated relationship. In the early stages of the Nazi regime, there was some co-operation between the Nazis and the Churches. 

Hitler signed a Concordat in 1933, agreeing to leave the Catholic Church alone and allowed it to keep control of its schools. In return the Church had to stay out of politics. 

Catholic Bishop Galen criticised the Nazis throughout the 1930s. In 1941 he led a popular protest against Nazi policies of killing mentally ill and physical disabled people, forcing the Nazis temporarily to stop. He had strong support and the Nazis dicided that it was too risky to try and silence him because they did not want trouble whilst Germany was at war.

Pastor Martin Niemoller also criticised the Nazi regime, he spent years 1938-1945 in a concentration camp.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer became involved with member's of the army's secret intelligence services which secretly opposed HItler, he helped Jews escape from Germany, he was arrested in October 1942 and hanged shortly before the end of the war in April 1945. 

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Propaganda and Mass Media in Nazi Germany

  • Joseph Goebbels was Minister for Enlightenment and Propaganda. Goebbels passionately believed in Hitler as the saviour of Germany, his mission was to make other believe this too. 
  • He aimed to use every resource available to him to make people loyal to HIlter and the Nazis.
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Propaganda and Mass Media in Nazi Germany (continu

The Nuremberg rallies

  • Goebbels organised rallies, marches, torchlit processions and meetings. 
  • There were bands, marches, flying displays and HItler's brilliant speeches.
  • The rallies brought some colour and excitement into people's lives.
  • Germans fully supported the Nazis
  • Goebbels also recognised that one of the Nazis' main attractions was that they created order out of chaos and so the whole rally was organised to emphasise order. 
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Propaganda and Mass Media in Nazi Germany (continu

The 1936 Olympics

  • One of Goebbels' greatest challenge
  • Hitler and Goebbels thought that the Olympics could be a showcase for their doctrine that the Aryan race was superior to all the other races. However, there was international pressure for nations such as USA to boycott the Games in protest against the Nazis' repressive regime and anti-Jewish politics. In response the Nazis included one token Jew in their team.
  • He brought in television cameras for the first time. 
  • No expense was spared. 
  • Some people were shocked and appalled by the almost fanatical devotion of the people to Hitler and by the oppressive **.
  • Germany came at the top of the medal table, way ahead of other countries. However a black athlete, Jesse Owens, became the star of the Games, he won 4 gold medals and broke 11 world records.
  • Games appeared to present all the qualities they valued in the Nazis.
  • However, to many foreign visitors who were not used to such blatant propaganda it backfired on the Nazi regime.
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Propaganda and Mass Media in Nazi Germany (continu

The media

  • No books could be published without Goebels' approval
  • Only Nazi-approved artists could show their works
  • They were not allowed to print anti-Nazi ideas
  • ALL films where to carry a pro-Nazi message
  • Jazz music was banned
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Really great notes, loads of detail! =D



Really great notes, loads of detail! =D

Nicole Chelmis


Thank you :) Hope you did well in your exam!



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