The Disaster of WW1
After the First World War, Germany was left crippled with huge debt and severe problems due to their expenses from the war, the Treaty of Versailles and the hyperinflation resulting in the worthlessness of the currency at the time. This meant that the newly formed Weimar Government had many issues it couldn't solve, and it became hugely unpopular with the people.
- Hitler is disappointed about Germany's defeat.
- Blames the Jews as backstabbers.
- Sent to a meeting by the army.
- Decides to join the Nazi Party.
- Starts as a propagandist and works his way up till he became the undisputed leader of the newly renamed party.
- The Weimar government tried to create lots of money by printing more.
- The currency became almost worthless.
- Prices of food rose at rocket speed.
- Simple objects such as wheelbarrows became more valuable than the currency.
- People took to bartering objects.
- Gustav Streseman solved this by scrapping the old currency and introducing a new one.
Hitler Changes Tactics
He decided that in order to gain more support from the German citizens, he needed a new and more efficient strategy:
- Introduced public speaking classes and public meetings so the message would spread faster and more effectively.
- Produced sensitive propaganda toying with people's ideals.
- Reorganised the party and officially relaunched them at a rally.
- Won the hearts of the working classes by making his message appealing to them and by trying harder.
- Wrote a manifesto in the form of Mein Kampf, and made sure it was readily availble for people.
- Increased party membership.
- Won over the middle classes, by making the party seem ideal to them.
Wall Street Crash 24/10/1929
- Complete decrease in share prices on the stock exchange.
- Resulted in mass depression.
- Many businesses went bankrupt.
- Huge numbers of unemployment.
- Loans from America (from Streseman) were recalled.
- Huge collapse in trade because of the loans being recalled.
- Unemployment rose to 5.5 million,15% of these received nothing.
The Great Depression 1929
This hit Germany soon after the Wall Street Crash, weakening the Weimar Government:
Unpopular Economic Policies
Not impressed that their economy was failing, as they judged their company by their economic climate. Government were unsure of how to solve this. One option was to print more money, but they did not want to cause a repeat of hyperinflation.Chancellor was forced to raise taxes, reduce wages, and reduce unemployment benefits.
Goverment collapsed because of the withdrawal of the the Social Democrats.Chancellor activated Article 48 of the Weimar Constitution, allowing special presidential authority. However, he was a corrupted old man.
The Rise of Extremism
Germany was very desperate.The citizens didn't believe in the government anymore. They turned to extremist parties for a resolution. Communists and Nazis were at each other's throats, both claiming to have a solution, which often led to political violence.
Gaining Widespread Support
By 1932, the Nazis had managed to gain lots of support from lots of German people:
- Opposing parties were weaker because they refused to unite against the Nazis, since they underestimated the Nazi Party and did not want another uprising.
- Nazi propaganda was popular and persuasive amongst people, as well as being everywhere.
- Gained the support of wealthy industrialists so they could fund their activities.
- The use of technology allowed the message to reach more parts of Germany, e.g. planes, radio, mass printing of posters.
- Promises to voters were popular and enticing.
- Flexible ideas, and dropped ones which weren't popular.
- Idolised Hitler, making him into some kind of superhero - he became a popular celebrity.
- The Depression meant that some of their opponents e.g. the Weimar Government and Communists were weakened.
- Traditional techniques made people feel nostalgic about the times when Germany was powerful and influential.
Political Manoeuvrings 1932-1933
These were a series of events which lead to Hitler becoming an influential member of the German Government:
- Hindenburg despised Hitler and appointed Franz von Papen as Chancellor.
- In the elections of July 1932 the Nazis won 37.3% of the vote and 230 seats, but they did not have a majority.
- Nazis were losing popularity because of the thuggery and intimidation of the Sturmabteilung (SA).
- In the elections of November 1932, their vote fell to 33.1% and they lost 34 seats. They started to lose hope.
- Because General von Schleicher decided he should stoop supporting von Papen and becom Chancellor himself, he is appointed by Hindenburg on the 3/12/1932
- Von Papen wants to win back popularity and power and agrees to work with Hitler to make Hitler Chancellor. In return, he will be on the cabinet.
- Franz von Papen asks Hindenburg to make Hitler Chancellor, but he refuses.
- Von Papen persuades Hindenburg that as long as the number of Nazis in the cabinet are limited, they will be able to resist the most extreme Nazi policies, so they will be able to controll Hitler as Chancellor.
- On the 28/01/1933, von Schleicher resigns because he has no support in the Reichstag.
Hitler is Chancellor 1933
On the 30/01/1933, President Hindenburg appoints Adolf Hitler as Chancellor and Franz von Papen as Vice-Chancellor. Whilst the Nazis celebrate, Hitler knew he still had a lot to do before he could be sure of his victory.
There are five main reasons as to why Hitler became Chancellor:
- Nazi tactics allowed him to cause chaos in the government, and gain the support of the right people.
- The Depression left many people in need and resulted in a rise of extremism.
- The weakness of the Weimar Republic allowed Hitler to gain more support and made getting into the Reichstag a little easier, as Hindenburg was corrupt.
- Hitler's leadership skills allowed his tactics to become successful.
- The political manoeuvrings in the government allowed Hitler a chance to strike against the government.
The Reichstag Fire 1933
On the night of 27/02/1933, it was reported that the Reichstag was set on fire by a Communist supported. No-one really knows whether it was a one-person attack, a communist plot or a Nazi plot.
Hitler used this attach as an excuse to imprison 4000 Communist leaders on the charge of plotting against his government. He then persuaded Hindenburg to pass the Emergency Decree, suspending all articles of the Weimar Constitution that guaranteed personal liberty and freedom of assembly.
These were the effects of the Emergency Decree. All restricted privacy and human rights and so, as a result, in the March 1933 elections, the Nazi Party had 288 seats. However they still did not have a majority:
- Opposing politicians were arrested and imprisoned.
- Enemies of the Nazis were imprisoned.
- The SA could search and ransack the homes of suspected enemies.
- Many opponents were driven to exile.
- Nazis intimidated voters as they crossed their ballot papers
The Transformation from Democracy to Dictatorship
Hitler knew his hold on power was extremely fragile, as he was one of just 3 Nazis in the Reichstag, and so he called for another election on the 5/03/1933.
This time, Hitler was determined to get an absolute majority, and so, to aid him, he asked Hindenburg to pass a decree to supposedly ensure a free and fair election. In reality,the decree permitted the Nazis to break up all other opposition meetings. Germany became a one party state.
The Enabling Act
- This was an act which would effectively allow Hitler to extablish a dictatorship.
- It gave him the power to rule for 4 years alone (without the approval of the Reichstag or the President).
- At the end of this time, if he still thought Germany was in crisis, he could renew the Act.
- He needed two thirds of the Reichstag to vote in favour in order to pass this act.
- He achieved this by banning Communists from the Reichstag, and intimidated the members of the other parties.
- This gave the Nazis and the Nationalists a combined overall majority. The Reichstag had voted itself out of existance.
Hitler secures his position
The following events helped Hitler to start securing his position and to help start his war against the Jewish community:
- The 1/04/1933 was an official one day boycott of Jewish stores, lawyers and doctors all over Germany.
- Trade unions were banned sometime in May 1933.
- Hitler eliminated political opposition by banning the Communists and all other parties between May and July, passing an act which prevented the formation of new parties (with the Enabling Act), arresting prominent Socialists, closing down trade unions and replacing them with a Nazi one and signing the Concordat with the Pope.
- From 1934, anti-Jewish propaganda was increased.
The Night of the Long Knives
On the 30/06/1934, the Night of the Long Knives took place. This was a massacre of the SA in order to redeem the support of the army in order to become President. He needed to strike soon, since Hindenburg was weak, and it was clear he would die.
This was after he faced a dilemma when choosing between the SA and the army. Hitler needed the support of the army, but they were very proud and they looked down on Hitler and the SA, whom they thought of as lower class thugs. However, the SA were Hitler's original supporters, and some were his oldest friends. He wanted to merge them with the army, but they did not want this. Also, the SA wanted to put into practice early socialist ideas which were disagreeable with rich businessmen who funded the Party.
So on this night, Hitler ordered the SS to arrest and shoot the leaders of the SA. Over 400 were shot. Hitler did this without consulting anyone on his own orders. Because the SA were reduced in power, the army were more ready to accept Hitler as President. Every single soldier swore an oath of personal loyalty to Hitler, giving him lots of control.
Hitler takes on the title of Fuhrer, meaning leader.
Hitler becomes President
On the 2/08/1934, Hindenburg dies. Hitler seized this opportunity and, on the 19/08/1934 with the support of the army, Hitler became President of Germany. He had three main ideas which he wanted to implement in Germany.
A Racial Germany: To destroy all races except the Aryans.
- Jews removed from positions of power and people with undesirable qualities were removed. Ideas/organisations opposing the Nazis were disbanded.
- Women not allowed to marry men of non-Aryan races and were asked to have as many children as possible.
A Strong Germany: To strengthen Germany's leadership, armed forces and economy.
- Forceful, decisive leader needed to strengthen German industries and rearm Germany.
- Lay aside the Treaty of Versailles and beat France in a war if necessary.
A People's Community: To ensure all Aryans feel part of a large and patriotic community.
- Family loyalties were second place, and all other loyalties (e.g. religion) were removed.
- No room for freedom of speech and ideas opposing the Nazis were dismissed.
Hitler used several techniques to try and achieve his ideals:
- The SS, who used to be his private army, had been transformed into an elite force of 50,000 Aryan super-men, who were ruthless and fiercly loyal. Their role was to be the main means of terrorising or intimidating Germans into obedience, as they had almost unlimited power to punish unloyal Germans. They were led by Heinrich Himmler.
- Concetration Camps were started as temporary prisons to take overflow from the main prisons or to deal with special causes such as youth crime. Opposition were taken for questioning, torture, hard labour and 're-education'.
- The Gestapo were the state secret police, who spied on everyone in Germany, ensuring that anyone who opposed in the slightest of ways was severely punished. Probably the most feared Nazi organisation, as they could strike anywhere at any time.
- The police, courts and prisons were controlled by the Nazis, and they used them to prosecute their enemies severely. The number of crimes with the death penalty rose from 3 - 46 from 1933 - 1943.
- Jewish Army Ban prevented Jews from joining the army.
- Informers would regularly check up on families in designated areas of each town known as blocks, and would then write reports to the leaders of the party, depicting the families' political reliability.
Propaganda and the Anti-Jewish Campaign
Goebbels took over propaganda on behalf of the Nazis, using it strongly to persuade people to the Nazi ideas and beliefs. There are several ways in which Goebbels did this:
- Censorship of films so that they always showed ideas supporting Nazism.
- Put controls on what people and publishers could write in newspapers so that they always showed ideas supporting Nazism.
- Formed the Reich Radio Company, and distributed cheap radios so that people could only pick up German broadcasts.
- Created new important days about Nazi ideals and encouraged Germans to celebrate them.
- All music was German and monitored by the Reich Chamber of Culture.
- All plays were in line with Nazism and monitored by the Reich Chamber of Culture.
- Drew up a list of banned novels, and demonstrated the ideal novel by writing his own.
However, all the anti-Jewish messages being put across through the propaganda was llulled during the Olympic Games in Berlin 1935. Anti-Jewish signs were taken down.
Indoctrination of the Youth
Hitler used many tactics in order to indoctrinate the youth of German to Nazism, and to prepare them for military service on behalf of the state.
- Modified the curriculum so boys were encouraged to be perfect Nazi armymen.
- Taugh subjects that inspired a sense of patriotism and racism to non-Aryan races such as Race Studies and Party Beliefs.
- Girls encouraged to be physically strong.
- Their curriculum looked into the home economics side of life e.g. Houskeeping.
- Through subjects such as Eugenics, they were taught to bear pure Aryan children and were taught other motherly duties.
- Extra curricular activities such as the Hitler Youth and the League of German Maidens were established.
- These encouraged the ideas of the Volk.
- Included regular excursions, hometraining and reading the Nazi newspaper (Der Sturmer) in order to prepare them for a life in service to Germany.
New Policies and Laws 1935
One new policy and one new law were put in place in 1935; these were the Nuremburg Laws and Autarky.
The Nuremburg Laws
- The law for the protection of German blood and honour.
- Banned marriages beetween Jews and Aryans.
- Forbade them to have sexual relationships outside of marriage.
- Reich Citizenship Law meant that Jews were 'subjects' rather than citizens. This meant they lost certain rights.
- This was a policy to make Germany self-sufficient on all food, raw materials and manufactures.
- Farmers received government help, but were forced into the Reich Food Estate, and were subjected to the Nazi policies of that industry.
- Industrialists were asked to find substitutes for items that Germany had to import.
Schacht and the New Plan 1935
A plan was devised to solve Germany's problems whilst rearming them in preparation for war.
- Difficult to export goods, as world trade had collapsed during the Depression.
- Germany was short of essential raw materials and couldn't afford to pay for more imports.
- To reduce unemployment from 6 million in 1933.
- To rearm Germany and enlarge military forces.
- To make Germany self-sufficient economically.
Four Year Plans
- Imports limited, increase in prodution, trade agreements made, government spend more on industries including more industrial plants and tightened controls on prices and wages.
- Political opponents and Jews were dismissed.
- Compulsory labour services, conscription to the army in 1935 and work creation (autobahns).
Issues with the Churches
The churches were causing problems for the Nazis because they were a distraction to the Volk. It was not a simple matter to just get rid of them; much of the population had religious beliefs.
Hitler decided not to oppose the churches until he was sure he could win. On the 20/06/1933, the Catholics signed a Concordat (understanding) with Hitler, both promising to stay out of each other's way. He united all the Protestant churches under a pro-Nazi bishop to become the German Christians of the Reich Church.
However, some people still opposed this. The Confessional Church was an alternative church for people, founded by Martin Niemoller, who ws a prominent critic of the German Christians.
There was much interference in the curriculum of Catholic schools and some teachers were dismissed.
The German Faith Movement was the Nazis' alternative to Christianity. It involved pagan style worship of nature centred on the Sun. The movement flag was a gold Sun on a blue background, often with a Nazi symbol attached.
The Nazi often claimed that they were drastically improving the German economy, but was this really the case?
The Nazis did improve in some sectors. but not necessarily the most important ones. They succeeded in reducing unemployment, investing some money in industry, and repaired the damage of the Depression to some extent, but they did not improve the differentiation between exports and imports, spending money wisely or increasing wages. Overall, whilst rearmament paid off in WWII, it was not very practical for German citizens.
The Nazis introduced the DAF or Deutsche Arbeitsfront to regulate the lives of the workers of Germany. This was divided into two main sections; 'Beauty of Labour', designed to persuade employers to improve the working conditions in factories, and 'Strength through Joy', which organised the leisure of the workers.
Whilst small businesses and large businesses did benefit from the Nazi regime, due to an increase in industry, and the reduction of competition, the unskilled workers did not improve much at all. Their lifeline in the form of a 6 month labout requirement was their only option and their rewards for participation were little. Farmers were part way in between; they did benefit from a rise in food pricing, but they despised the Nazi meddling.
HItler felt that a woman's place was in the home, and so the Nazis campaigned to make all pure Aryan women mothers of the country.
- Hitler devised the Law of the Reduction of Unemployment, which allowed newly-wed couples to take out interest-free loans. Every time a child was born, a quarter of the loan would be cancelled.
- Productive mothers were rewarded with special medals.
- Laws against abortion were strictly enforced.
- Germans women who held positions of responsability were sacked.
- There were several campaigns to restrict how women dressed and looked.
There were often contradictions between Nazi policies, because the Nazis soon realised that they needed women to work whilst the men were at war.
Hitler classed many people as undesirables because they were unable to contribute to society or they were of different races. Below is a list of all those classed as undesirables in the Reich society:
- Juvenile delinquants
- Disabled people
- Simple-minded people
- Mental people
- Handicapped/maimed people
- People suffering from long term illnesses
- Unhealthy and weak people
Often these people were rejected from society and imprisoned. In more 'serious' cases, they would be hurt, sterilized (so they could not have children) and even killed.
Hitler versus the Jews
Before 1933, there was some evidence of anti-Semitism; firstly in the Nazi Party Policies, but also in Hitler's book 'Mein Kampf'. In 1933, they began to up this hatred by using various airds such as Social Darwinism (the idea that some races are better than others, developed from natural selection). Below is a list of events which increased this belief up till Kristallnacht.
- In 1937, Hitler made an outspoken attack on Jews. The Aryanisation of businesses was stepped up and more Jewish busiinesses were confiscated,
- In 1938, Jews had to register their property, making it easier to confiscate.
- Also in 1938, there was a ban on the treatment of Aryans by Jews. Hence Jewish doctors, dentists and lawyers were forbidden to treat Aryans.
- Again in 1938, a new stamp was introduced. Jews had to have the red letter 'J' stamped on their passport.
On the 9/11/1938, the Nazis launched Kristallnacht, in which they destroyed synagogues, Jewish homes and shops.
The aftermath was such that on the 12/11/1938, there was a decree to eliminate Jews from economic life. Much of the property damaged on Kristallnacht was only rented by the Jews from German owners. The Nazis 'fined' the Jews one billion Reichmarks for the damage.
Hitler versus the Jews II
The treatment of Jews after Kristallnacht became much worse.
- In 1938, there was a widespread abolishment of Jews in schools, which meant that Jews could only attend Jewish schools.
- in 1939, all Jews had to add new first names - Sarah for women and Israel for men. The Reich Office for Jewish Emigration was established to promote emigration 'by any means necessary'.
World War II
On the 01/09/1939, war broke out between Germany and the other countries (the Allies). This was World War II.