Nazi Germany

My revision notes made using Layton's "From Kaiser to Fuhrer" coursebook. This is for the Nazi Road to Dictatorship until 1945. If there are any errors please let me know


The Road to Nazi Dictatorship

Who voted for the Nazis?

  • Protestants
  • Peasants and farmers - largest part of German society but majority didn't vote Nazi BUT still largest group of Nazi voters
  • Mittelstand (lower middle class - shopkeepers etc)
  • Established middle classes - teachers, white collar workers, public employees
  • The young - Depression hit just as they came of age - even if they had good qualifications, they had little chance of finding work, young unemployed people often joined the SA for something to do
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Nazi Political Methods


  • April 1940 - Goebbels in charge of propaganda
  • Canvassing - different types of propaganda for different people - different promises - unemployed promised work, farmers offered agricultural benefits etc
  • Technology - radio, film, records, loudspeakers all used. Expensive cars and planes gave Hitler a strong image
  • Mass Suggestion - idea that large groups of people can be unified by the atmosphere of an occasion - ie Nazi rallies were an assault on your senses - salutes, flags, uniforms, music, anthems, speeches etc
  • Scapegoats - jews, communists, November criminals
  • Unifying themes - Fuhrer cult (Hitler was messiah), Volksgemeinschaft, nationalism
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Nazi Political Methods


  • SA and ** were encouraged to use violence, persecution and intimidation
  • Expansion of SA - Rohm 1930-34 - mainly thuggery
  • SA responsible for most violence against opposition ie communists
  • July 1932 - 491 political riots in Prussia alone
  • Many died as a result of political violence - encouraged by Nazi officials
  • Stennes revolt - 1931 - Stennes was leader of Berlin SA and rebelled against Hitler's order to act legally - Hitler defeated the revolt with a small purge
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June 1932 - January 1933

  • Hitler wanted the position of Chancellor and nothing less - Schleicher and Papen only wanted Nazis in the cabinet in positions of limited power. A meeting between Hitler, Papen and Hindenburg on 13th August ended in deadlock
  • Papen needed Hindenburg's support to keep Hitler away from real power
  • Vote of no confidence in Papen's government on 12th Septemebr - he dissolved the Reichstag and called a new election - Hitler was still adament that he would only accept the position of Chancellor
  • Schleicher told Hindenburg that the army had no support for Papen so Hindenburg asked Papen to resign
  • Schleicher became Chancellor on 2nd December - he wanted to gain support from the left and split the nazi to work with their socialist side, led by Strasser, who would be offered the job of vice-Chancellor - The trade unions were suspicious of Schleicher and Strasser was forced to resign from the nazis as Hitler had more popularity
  • 4th January 1933 - Meeting of Papen and Hitler - decided that Hitler should be Chancellor with Papen as vice Chancellor if they could get Hindenburg's support
  • 28th January 1933 - Hindenburg withdrew his support of Schleicher and on 30th agreed to Hitler becoming Chancellor, thinking Hitler would be a puppet
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January - March 1933

Hitler's Limitations:

  • Only 3 Nazis in the cabinet and they had unimportant roles
  • Hitler's party didn't have a majority in the Reichstag so would find it difficult to pass any legislation
  • Hitler's security was based on whether Hindenburg liked him - Hindenburg hated him

Hitler's Strengths:

  • Leader of the largest political party in Germany - the alternative to Hitler was a civil war or communist coup
  • Nazi party had access to state resources - ie Minister of the Interior had responsibilty over police - used to harrass opponents
  • Papen was politically naive and Hitler could not be controlled
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The Reichstag Election, 5th March 1933

  • Within a day of becoming Chancellor, Hitler had called a new Reichstag election
  • In the run-up to the elections, most socialist and communist meetings were broken up by the Nazis - they were blamed for the poor economy in the "Appeal to the German People" 
  • 69 people died in the 5 week campaign
  • Nazi financial situation good - industrialists promised them 3 million marks as backing
  • The Reichstag Fire - 27th Feb 1933 - van der Lubbe (communist) - OR WAS IT?! - Possible Nazi involvement to make people believe there was an attempted communist coup to gain more support 
  • Hitler persuaded Hindenburg to pass an emergency decree - The Law for the Protection of the People and the State - this gave Hitler the power to arrest anyone suspected of plotting against the government
  • Despite this, the Nazis won only 43% of the vote so had to form a government with the National Party (8%) to get a majority.
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The Enabling Act (1933)

  • In March 1933, Hitler passed the Enabling Act, which allowed the Chancellor to make laws without the Reichstag for 4 years
  • The law was passed with 444 votes to 94
  • The only people to vote against it were Socialists who were brave enough to oppose it even though the SA and ** surrounded the polling station and voting booth.
  • Hitler started using his new powers quickly:
    • April 1933 - Nazi officials were in charge of all German states
    • May 1933 - Made trade unions illegal and banned strikes - workers had to join the German Labour Front instead
    • July 1933 - Law against the Formation of New Parties - all other parties were banned and their leaders imprisoned
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The Night of the Long Knives (1934) and becoming F

  • Hitler had to either side with the army or the SA - the SA wanted to take over the army and the army saw the SA as fake soldiers
  • In order to gain the support of the army (who were more important if Hitler wanted to become President as well as Chancellor), Hitler had to turn on the SA
  • In June 1934, over 400 SA soldiers, including its leaders (ie Rohm), were killed by the ** in what became known as "The Night of the Long Knives"
  • One month later, Hindenburg died and Hitler combined the roles of Chancellor and President to become the Fuhrer (leader) of Germany. on the same day, the German army all swore a personal oath of loyalty to Hitler.
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The Nazi Revolution (1933-34)

  • Terror - violence without legal restriction - arrests of communists, Night of the Long Knives, local level to intimidate people
  • Legality - meant the Nazis seemed more justified - emergency decrees, enabling law
  • Propaganda - Goebbels, myths developed
  • Weak opposition - Weimar, communists, social democrats
  • Right wing sypathy - traditional interests - accepted Night of the Long knives

Was there a revolution?

  • Destruction of autonomy of federal states (government became more centralised)
  • Intolerance of political opposition
  • Reichstag became useless
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The Nazi Economy (1933-39)

Schacht's strategy:

  • President of Reichsbank and Minister of Economics
  • Deficit financing introduced through different measures:
    • Interest rates lowered by banks
    • Protection for farmers - taxes on imported goods to help German farmers compete, subsidies
    • Investment in public works - reforestation, motorways, public buildings
  • Led to a decrease in unemployment from 6 million in 1932 to 2.1 million in 1936
  • There were still problems in 1936 as there was fear of inflation and the emergence of a balance of trade deficit (more in than out imports)
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The Nazi Economy (1933-39)

Schacht's "New Plan"

  • Law 3rd July 1934 - gave Schacht dictatorial powers over the economy
  • "New Plan" introduced September 1934
  • Economic priorities were set by a number of measures:
    • Bilateral trade treaties - often barter agreements, often in South-East Europe (Balkans) so the Nazis had sway there even before they had political and military control
    • Only Reichsmarks could be used to buy back German goods (and the Reichsmark had over 300 different values depending on the country!)
    • Mefo bills - were like government money bills, disguised govvernment spending
  • By 1936:
    • Unemployment was at 1.5 million
    • Industrial production had increased 60% from 1933
    • GNP had grown from 1933 by 40%
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The Nazi Economy (1933-39)

The Four-Year Plan (1936):

  • Under Hermann Goring
  • Aims and objectives:
    • Hitler wanted the German army operational and the economy fit for war in 4 years
    • Regulate imports and exports, prioritising things like chemicals and metals
    • Control key sectors of the labour force to prevent price inflation
    • Increase production of raw materials like steel to reduce the costs of importing
    • To develop substitute products (oil instead of coal, artificial rubber)
    • Increase agricultural production to reduce the costs of importing
  • Effects:
    • Goring convinced inustrialists that it was no longer a question of producing economically, but just producing - this was reckless
    • Schacht's influence was decreasing so he resigned in 1937 - replaced by Funk (but Goring really in charge)
    • Production of aluminium and explosives increased dramatically - but a long way off targets for rubber, oil and armaments
    • Germany's reliance on imports did not rise
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Nazi Society (1933-39)

Industrial Workers:

  • From May 1933 - the DAF (German Labour Front) replaced trade unions - responsible for wages, discipline, training, supervising working conditions, Strength through Joy 
  • Wages only rose by 1938 - and then they had to pay lots in DAF membership and taxes
  • Working hours increased

Peasants and small farmers:

  • Many farm debts were written off and small farmers were often given tax breaks 
  • Many incentives so Germany relied less on imports
  • Reich Entailed Farm Law 1933 - forbade divisions of farms to promote efficiency
  • Agricultural production increased by 20% from 1928-38


  • Voted in the largest proportion for the Nazis
  • Nazis tried to kep their support by giving them lower interest rate loans, and protecting small craftsmen with new trading regulations
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Nazi Society (1933-39)


  • Education was aimed to indoctrinate the youth with the ideologies of National Socialism
  • 1934 law gave control of schools to the Reich Ministry of Education
  • "Unreliable teachers" (ie communists and jews) were removed
  • Women were encouraged to return to the home (trad roles)
  • By 1937, 97% of teachers had been on a course teaching about the importance of Nazism in the curriculum
  • What was taught changed too - less emphasis on RE, but a lot more emphasis on PE, German, Biology and History, which were all used to emphasise Nazi beliefs
  • there were some "elite" schools for the best of the German youth to prepare them for future party leadership
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Nazi Society (1933-39)

Hitler Youth:

  • By 1939 membership was compulsory and all other youth groups were abolished
  • Used for political indoctrination and to reenforce gender stereotypes - boys did PE and military exercises and girls did cooking
  • For poorer children, the HJ offered real opportunities they wouldn't have had otherwise
  • By the late 1930's, rapid expansion meant that units could not not be run efficiently
  • Studies show that by 1939, many had still not been won over by the regime - there was a youth section of the secret police and a youth concentration camp
  • Swing Youth and Edelweiss Pirates - opposed the Nazi regime and formed there own groups to rival the HJ
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Nazi Society (1933-39)


  • Hitler believed that he thought "One is either a Christian or a German. You can't be both"
  • The German Faith Movement promoted Teutonic Paganism instead which focused on non-Christian beliefs of ancient Germans
  • Nazi government realised they had to be wary of the Church and respect it - agreement with the Papacy signed in 1933 - gave the Catholics religious freedom and agreed that the Catholics would not interfere in the Nazi government - initially a successbut by the end of 1933 it was clear that Nazi interference in religious affairs was causing resentment in the Church
  • Ministry of Church Affairs set up with aims to close Church schools, stop youth groups, confiscate Church funds, remove crucifixes from schools, arrest more and more priests and pastors
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Nazi Society (1933-39)

Women and the Family:

  • German population growth had slowed down nd there were more women in employment
  • Nazi view of women:
    • Have children and take responsibilty for bringing them up
    • Care for the house and their husbands
    • Stop paid employment except for specialist jobs like midwifery
    • Kinder, Kuche, Kirche - Children, kitchen and church
  • Only 10% of university places could be for women
  • Women were banned from professions like medicine, law and the civil service
  • From 1933, all young women who left work to get married recieved 600 marks
  • NSF and DFW were set up for women to spread Nazi ideologies
  • Marriage loans - worth half a years earnings and for every child a couple had 25% didn't have to be repayed
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Nazi Society (1933-39)


  • Ideological opponents - anyone who disagreed with the regime, communists, socialists, religious opponents
  • Biologically inferior - Gypsies, Jews, Slavs, mentally and physically disabled (sterilisation of those with hereditory illnesses - over 350,000), after 1939, euthanasia of those with illnesses such as Down's Syndrome - over 70,000 1940-41 but stopped after public rumours
  • Asocials - alcoholics, prostitutes, criminals, tramps, workshy, homosexual men
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Nazi Society (1933-39)


  • Nazi approach was gradualist - no indication of the final result
  • 1st boycott 1st April 1933
  • Number of laws from 1933-39 - Jews banned from marrying germans, jobs in civil service, having German citizenship, being doctors; they had curfews, were banned from schools and universities, they had to sell their shops and businesses
  • Propaganda - posters, newspapers, cinema
  • Terror and violence - damage to property, physical attack, Kristallnacht - destruction of homes buisinesses and synagogues and deportation of 20,000 to concentration camps
  • Forced emigration - many left voluntarily - Reich Central Office for Jewish Emigration set up in Jan 1939
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Germany at war (1939-45)

Military war:

  • Initial victories - Poland defeated by Blitzkrieg, meant Germany had  more raw materials
  • Phoney war - no real fight on the Western Front until may 1940 - prompting the name
  • The Low Countries and France were defeated in 6 weeks- led to hitler ruler in these countries and the Reich was surrounded by their friends - Spain, Italy and the USSR
  • The Battle of Britain - Germany needed to secure air dominance to invade Britain - took place in autumn 1940 - failed as hitler starting to defeat the USSR before Britain had been defeated
  • Operation Barbarossa - December 1940 - plan to defeat the USSR quickly - took place June 1941 - Blitzkrieg used and was an initial success - by Nov 1941 German troops were close to Moscow
  • Why they succeeded at first:
    • France and UK didn't support Poland
    • Blitzkrieg was effective
    • French defensive strategy was weak
    • Expansion meant Geramny had more workers
    • USSR weren't prepared
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Germany at war (1939-45)

The turn of the tide:

  • Pearl Harbour in 1941 brought America into the war - more soldiers fighting against Germany
  • British success in Africa
  • German defeat at Stalingrad and surrender of 300,000 German troops there
  • By the end of 1943, the Allies had a hold of the South of Italy and the Soviets had reclaimed most of the Ukraine
  • Attempted assassination of Hitler 1944
  • D-Day 1944
  • Soviets reached Berlin 30th April 1945, when Hitler committed suicide
  • German surrender 7th-8th May 1945
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Germany at war (1939-45)

The Nazi War Economy:

  • Military expenditure doubled in the period 1939-41 but Britain's trebled
  • Despite Germany increasing their spending, their armaments, aircraft etc only increased slightly while Britain's aircraft increased three-fold
  • Many major projects weren't due to be ready until 1942-43
  • Originally was no central control of production so different companies worked independently and often against each other
  • After Speer was appointed Minister of Armaments in Feb 1942, Germany's war production got better - he set up the Central Planning Board in April so the businesses were not at odds with one another
  • Speer employed more women in factories, made use of prisoners in concentration camps and stopped skilled workers being lost to fight on the front line
  • In Speer's first 6 month, ammunition production rose by 97% and tank production by 25%
  • By 1944, arms production was three times what it was in 1942
  • However, Speer had to deal with bombings and the Gauleiters wanting local control
  • Germany could have, but never did, reached an output similar to the USA or USSR
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Germany at war (1939-45)


  • After Germany took over Poland in 1939, they inherited around 3 million Jews. The German government decided to confine these Jews in ghettos in Warsaw, Krakow and Lublin where they lived in appalling conditions
  • Eisatzgruppen were German forces used after the invasion of the USSR to kill local Jews by mass shootings - In the winter of 1941-42, they killed around 700,000 Jews in western Russia
  • Final Solution agreed at the Wannsee Conference in January 1942 - the decision was made to kill Europe's 11 million jews by gassing
  • A number of concentration camps were developed into death camps from 1942. It is estimated that only 4000 of the original 3 million Polish Jews survived the war. by 1945, over 6 million Jews had been murdered
  • Gypsies (Sinti and Roma) were also persecuted. in 1933 there were around 30,000 in Germany and after the Nuremburg Laws they were decribed the same way as Jews. The first case of mass murder by gas was in Jan 1940 against gypsy children. Overall, around 225,000 to 500,000 gypsies were exterminated in concentration camps
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Germany at war (1939-45)

Civilian morale:

  • As Blitzkrieg was so successful in 1939-40, many people supported the war
  • For the whole war, there was rationing on food, clothes and other basics but for most of the war these weren't too severe. However, by 1945, there were bad food, clothes shoes and small luxuries (like magazines and sweets) shortages
  • The government was committed to a total war, where every aspect of society was geared towards elping the war effort - industry was efficient, longer working hours, foreign workers encouraged (but under controls), non-essential businesses closed
  • Women had to work both outside and inside the home - Speer suggested conscription but Hitler was against this as it went against the traditional Nazi view of women
  • Bombing was so bad that by 1945 300,000 were killed, 800,000 were wounded and 3.6 million homes were destroyed (20%)
  • Dissent - youth became more polarised, Nazi response became harsher to those who opposed them, chruch attendance increased in the war and between 40 and 50% of priests and pastors were harrassed by Nazis
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Germany at war (1939-45)


  • Communists - in the first year of Nazi rule, over half of KPD members were arrested, Rote Kapelle (red orchestra) developed as a spy network with links to Moscow but was less effective during the Nazi-Soviet Pact
  • Students - the White Rose Group in Munich - spread leaflets against the Nazis but as their security was poor the leaders were caught and killed quickly
  • Stauffenberg bomb plot - 20th July 1944 - von Stauffenberg was against Hitler and worked with the Kreisau circle to stop him, the bomb plot failed as the briefcase containing the bomb was moved just before it went off (but it did blow Hitler's trousers off!) It led to the deaths of over 5000 supporters of the resistance including Stauffenberg 
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Germany at war (1939-45)

Military defeat:

  • Foundations for defeat were laidin 1940-41 when hitler couldn't secure Britiah defeat or neutrality - Germany couldn't fight on two fronts 
  • Failure to defeat Russia, American entry into the war
  • The Four-Year Plan - Germany was not ready in 1939
  • Bombings on Germany's industrial centres
  • Labour shortages, debt - roughly 42 billion marks
  • US economy was too strong, mixed with Russia's manpower and raw materials

At the end of the war, there were 12 million German refugees fleeing from the East, 10 million "displaced" from camps, 11 million German soldiers who were prisoners of war (3.3 million kept by the USSR until 1950s - a third did not survive). 20% og housing had been completely destroyed and a further 30% was badly damaged so many had to accept sheltered accomodation or fled to the countryside. Food shortages led to starvation and other diseases. The economy was very badly diclocated and infrastructure like bridges and railways and water and gas had stopped working. There were massive debts and rising inflation leading to a black market

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