Reichstag fire - Hitler used the fire to his advantage in two ways:
- It gave him an opportunity to imprison many communist leaders, which stopped them campaigning during the election.
- It allowed the Nazis to say that the country was in danger from the communists during its election campaign.
Both these actions helped the Nazis to win more seats in the election. When the courts convicted Dutch Communist van der Lubbe, but did not convict other Communist leaders, Hitler was furious and replaced the courts with the Nazi People's Courts. Reichstag Fire Decree/Law for the Protection of German People and State bans communist parites and starts censorship.
General Election - Although it did not give the Nazis the majority that Hitler had hoped for in the Reichstag, it gave them enough seats (288 seats) after Hitler had arrested all the communist deputies and the other parties had been intimidated by the SA to get the Enabling Act passed, which is all Hitler needed to do.
Enabling Act - Gave Hitler absolute power to make his laws, passed through SA intimidation and banning of communists.
Trade unions - Abolishing the trade unions, on the 2nd May 1933, allowed Hitler to destroy a group that might have opposed him. It also gave Hitler the opportunity to set up the German Labour Front, which gave him control over German workers.
Political parties - Banning political parties made Germany a one-party state and destroyed democracy in the country. After this action, Germans could no longer get rid of Hitler in an election. Law against the Formation of New Parties meant the external opposition removed.
Night of the Long Knives - This destroyed all opposition within the Nazi Party. It gave power to the brutal SS. It also showed the rest of the world what a tyrant Hitler was and removed internal opposition.
Führer - After Hindenburg died, Hitler became the absolute ruler of Germany and the Army swore an oath to him.
The Nazi party aimed to control every aspect of people's political, social and working lives. It maintained control through a mixture of propaganda and intimidation.
The way Hitler consolidated power in 1933-1934 meant that the Nazis had absolute control of national and local government.
- Hitler became Führer
- Enabling Act
- Local government reorganised
- Political parties banned
- Non-Nazi Catholic priests and Protestant pastors such as Mart
- Jews and Jehovah's Witnesses were openly persecuted.in Niemöller and Dietrich Bonhöffer were sent to concentration camps.
- Hitler set up a state Reich Church, which banned the Bible and the cross.
- Nazis encouraged people to revive the old Viking myths and ceremonies.
Nazi State 2
- The Nazis dictated what people were allowed to do in their social and private lives:
- Artists had to produce acceptable paintings that portrayed Nazi values.
- Jazz music was banned.
- Books written by Jews were publicly burned.
- Homosexuals were persecuted; they did not fit the Nazi image of the ideal family.
- The Olympic Games of 1936 were a huge Nazi propaganda success.
Education and youth
- Measures were imposed to make sure that schools and youth associations became Nazified:
- Non-Nazi teachers and university professors were sacked; teachers had to join the National Socialist Teachers' League.
- Textbooks were re-written to include Nazi political and racial ideas.
- History was taught to glorify Germany.
- There was a concentration on physical fitness.
- Girls were taught cookery; boys were taught science and maths.
- The Hitler Youth was compulsory; it indoctrinated boys and prepared them for war.
- The Nazi Girls' youth organisation - the BDM - was compulsory; it indoctrinated girls and prepared them for church, children and cooking.
Nazi State 3
- The following points are examples of how the Nazis took control of workers lives:
- The RAD (National Labour Service) sent young men on public works.
- Hitler introduced conscription in 1936; most men went into the army after the RAD.
- The DAF (German Labour Front) controlled workers' conditions at work.
- The KdF (Strength through Joy) movement regulated their leisure time.
- The Nazi state intimidated and terrorised those who were opposed to it, using:
- SS and Gestapo investigations.
- Blockleiters in each block of flats and street informed on 'grumblers'.
- Arrests of thousands of people terrified opponents.
- Set up Nazi people's courts.
- Concentration camps.
Nazi State 4
- The Propaganda Ministry worked hard to ensure that people were persuaded to adopt the Nazi point of view:
- Mass rallies at Nuremberg.
- Newspapers were censored.
- People's radios were sold very cheaply, but broadcasts were controlled.
- Films were controlled to make films that glorified war and pilloried the Jews.
- Loudspeakers in public places blared out Nazi propaganda.
- Cult of personality - Hitler's picture was everywhere, and he was portrayed as Germany's saviour.
Hitler had very clear ideas about the woman's role in the Nazi state - she was the centre of family life, a housewife and mother. Hitler even introduced a medal for women who had eight or more children!
The role of women
The Nazis had clear ideas of what they wanted from women.
Women were expected to stay at home and look after the family. Women doctors, teachers and civil servants were forced to give up their careers. Even at the end of the war, women were never asked to serve in the armed forces.
Their job was to keep the home nice for their husband and family - their life should revolve round the three 'Ks':
- children (Kinder)
- church (Kirche)
- cooking (Kuche)
Goebbels said: "The mission of women is to be beautiful and to bring children into the world."
Hitler wanted a high birth rate, so the population would grow. The Nazis even considered making it law that families should have at least four children. Girls did keep fit in the BDM to make themselves healthy for childbirth, but they were discouraged from staying slim, because it was thought that thin women had trouble giving birth.
The Law for the Encouragement of Marriage gave newly wed couples a loan of 1,000 marks, and allowed them to keep 250 marks for each child they had. Mothers who had more than eight children were given a gold medal. Unmarried women could volunteer to have a baby for an Aryan member of the SS.
Women were supposed to emulate traditional German peasant fashions - plain peasant costumes, hair in plaits or buns and flat shoes. They were not expected to wear make-up or trousers, dye their hair or smoke in public.
Those who spoke out against Hitler and his policies faced intimidation and threats from the Gestapo, or imprisonment and in some cases execution. However, there were some brave individuals and groups who openly opposed Hitler and his policies - a few survived, but many were killed.
Who opposed Hilter?
The Catholic Archbishop of Munster, von Galen, led a successful campaign to end euthanasia of mentally-disabled people.
Some Catholic priests opposed Hitler. In 1937, the Pope's message 'With Burning Concern' attacked Hitler as 'a mad prophet with repulsive arrogance' and was read in every Catholic church.
The White Rose group was formed by students at Munich University. They published anti-Nazi leaflets, but were discovered and executed in 1943.
A paramilitary wing of the Social Democratic Party, called the Reichsbanner, sabotaged railway lines and acted as spies.
During the war, 'swing' groups were formed. These were young people who rejected Nazi values, drank alcohol and danced to jazz. More violent groups were called the Edelweiss Pirates. They daubed anti-Nazi slogans, sheltered deserters and beat up Nazi officials. In 1944, the Cologne Pirates (the Edelweiss Pirates based in Cologne) killed the Gestapo chief, so the Nazis publicly hanged 12 of them.
Many Protestant pastors, led by Martin Niemöller, formed the Confessional Church in opposition to Hitler's Reich Church. Niemöller was held in a concentration camp during the period 1937-1945. Another Protestant pastor, Dietrich Bonhöffer, took part in the 1944 bomb plot and was executed.
In 1944, a group of army officers and intellectuals called the Kreisau Circle tried to bomb Hitler. The bomb was planted by Colonel Stauffenberg. It exploded, but Hitler survived. In retaliation, 5,000 people were executed.
Hitler had firm racial policies and believed that non-Germans should not have any citizenship rights. There were many groups of people who were targeted by Hitler's policies, but none more so than the Jews.
Who did the Nazis persecute?
The Nazis believed that only Germans could be citizens and that non-Germans did not have any right to the rights of citizenship.
The Nazis racial philosophy taught that some races were untermensch (sub-human). Many scientists at this time believed that people with disabilities or social problems were genetic degenerates whose genes needed to be eliminated from the human bloodline.
- Tried to eliminate the Jews.
- Killed 85 per cent of Germany's Gypsies.
- Sterilised black people.
- Killed mentally disabled babies.
- Killed mentally ill patients.
- Sterilised physically disabled people and people with hereditary diseases.
- Sterilised deaf people.
- Put homosexuals, prostitutes, Jehovah's Witnesses, alcoholics, pacifists, beggars, hooligans and criminals - who they regarded as anti-social - into concentration camps.
persecution of jews
- Boycott of Jewish businesses.
- Jewish civil servants, lawyers and teachers sacked.
- Race Science lessons to teach that Jews are untermensch.
- 'Jews not wanted here' signs put up at swimming pools etc.
- Nuremberg laws (15 September) Jews could not be citizens. They were not allowed to vote or to marry a German.
- Jews could not be doctors.
- Jews had to add the name Israel (men) or Sarah (women) to their name.
- Jewish children forbidden to go to school.
- Kristallnacht (9 November) - attacks on Jewish homes, businesses and synagogues.
persecution of jews 2
- Jews were forbidden to own a business, or own a radio.
- Jews were forced to live in ghettoes.
- Army Einsatzgruppen squads in Russia started mass-shootings of Jews.
- All Jews were forced to wear a yellow star of David.
- Wansee Conference (20 January) decided on the Final Solution, which was to gas all Europe's Jews. The main death camps were at Auschwitz, Treblinka and Sobibor.
Many German people had suffered during the First World War and the Depression, so welcomed Hitler's economic policies with open arms. There was full employment, new public works and ordinary workers even had the opportunity to purchase a car to drive on the new autobahns.
Economic policy summary
Hitler's economic policy had four main ideas:
- Beauty of Work - the Nazis set up the SdA (Beauty of Work) to help Germans see that work was good, and that everyone who could work should. In fact - because the Nazis had abolished the trade unions, banned strikes, and given more power to the industrialists - real wages fell and hours were longer under Hitler.
- Autarky - there was an unsuccessful attempt at making Germany self-sufficient.
- Re-armament begun in 1935 - the idea of 'guns before butter'.
- Full employment - the idea that everyone should have a job. By 1939, there was virtually no unemployment in Germany.
Despite the loss of political and religious freedom, life improved in Germany for many ordinary people who were prepared to 'toe the line' and look the other way.
- Hitler opening a new Volkswagen factory.
- Everybody had a job, and a wage. To people who had been unemployed and starving, 'work and bread' was a wonderful blessing worth every civil liberty they lost.
- The Nazis set up KdF (Strength through Joy), which gave workers rewards for their work - evening classes, theatre trips, picnics, and even free holidays.
- The Nazis devised a scheme to allow workers to buy a Volkswagen Beetle car for a small weekly payment.
- The autobahns improved transport and travel.
- People appreciated the public works - eg new schools and hospitals.
- The streets were safe and there was no crime.
- Germany was strong and successful in world affairs.
- Nazi rallies provided colour and fun.
- Nazi Youth groups provided activities and holidays for young people.
- Nazi ideology gave people hope and confidence.
How Hitler increased employment
- Hitler introduced many policies to fulfil his goal of full employment:
- He stopped paying reparations and invested the money in German companies.
- He began a huge programme of public works including planting forests, and building hospitals and schools. He also built public buildings such as the 1936 Olympic Stadium. The construction of the autobahns created work for 80,000 men.
- Rearmament created jobs in the armaments industry.
- The introduction of national service meant all young men spent six months in the RAD and then they were conscripted into the army.
- By 1939, 1.4 million men were in the army, so they were not counted as unemployed.
- Many Jews were sacked and their jobs given to non-Jews.
- Many women were sacked and their jobs given to men.
Did Germany become self-sufficient?
- The policy of autarky was a failure. In 1937, Göring was made Economics Minister with the job of making Germany self-sufficient in four years. However, the measures he introduced were not successful:
- Controls were put on imports, but, if anything, imports of luxuries increased.
- Scientists tried to make oil from coal and to find substitutes for rubber, petrol, cotton and coffee.
- Farmers were subsidised to produce more food, and food imports were reduced.