Nazi organisation of Germany society

The process of Gleichschaltung 

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  • Created by: Anna
  • Created on: 22-01-12 14:55

The meaning of Gleichschaltung

  • Gleichschaltung literally means: 'forcing into line'- the way Nazi's attempted to control German society. 
  • Hitler's intention: no independent organisations, no private.
  • The creation of Volksgemeinschaft: People's community, through blood, race, ideology in Fuhrer.
  • Through Propaganda, indoctrination, terror, repression.
  • All ready to sacrifice for Fuhrer, the new German man and woman


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  • Hitler: "men and girls who are disciplined and healthy to the core"
  • Schools: Law for Re-establishment of Professional civil service: dismissed a number of teachers (jewish or political)
  • National Socialist teachers' league- 1937- 97% joined, teachers trained to comply. 
  • Direct Nazi surveillance in class
  • 1935- teachers told what to teach, 1938 every school taught this syllabus. 
  • Fuhrenprinzip: headteachers appointed from outside school to follow orders.
  • Schools such as: Napola schools: military style 10-18, under ** 1936, Adolf Hitler schools- military style, 12-18, trained to be Nazi elite, Ordensburgen (castles of order) "Finishing schools for the future leadership", little Hitler's
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Youth (continued) University

  • University: 
  • Downgrade in academics, decrease from 120,000 to 48,000.
  • Access only to politically reliable, 10% women, 1.5% jews.
  • 1,200 university staff dismissed (15%)
  • November 1933- sign support declaration for Hitler and National Socialist State. 
  • Obliged to join new lectures, physical education
  • German Students league: 25% avoided
  • Students attended indoctrination, 4 months labour, curriculum modified/
  • Not really any opposition, universities under Weimar were dominated by anti-democracy, therefore they used this existing culture of Nationalism, graduating depended on outward compliance, support from teachers.  
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Youth (continued) Hitler Youth

"What I liked about the Hitler youth was the comradeship, I was full of enthusiam".Quoted in Noakes, former H.J.

  • Before 1933: thriving youth culture- 'free youth' encouraged independence
  • H.J. in created in 1926 (unsuccessful)
  • Membership increased: -30,000 1933, 9,000,000 1939
  • 1936: Law for incorporation of German Youth: official education movement. 
  • Catholic church groups banned.
  • 1939: compulsory: Pimpfen, Deutsches jungvolk, Hitler Jugend
  • Political indoctrination and physical activity.
  • Live faithfully, fight bravely, die laughing.
  • Swore oath of loyalty to Fuhrer
  • Emphasis on competition, struggle, military drill, nazi songs, political pamphlets, hikes, camping trips, ceremonies. 
  • Gave independence, sport and fun 
  • Young had known no other alternative system. 
  • Joining against wishes of parents.
  • By late 1930's: heavy emphasis on military training, harsh punishments: poor attendance. 

"I found the compulsion and the requirement of absolute obedience unpleasant" 

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Youth (continued) League of German Girls

"Our aim was that they should achieve health, self-discipline, courage and gracefulness" BDM leader.

  • Bund Deutscher Madel: be faithful, be pure, be German
  • Preparing to be housewives and mothers.
  • 1939: compulsory: Jung Madel, Bund Deutscher Madel, Glaube und Schonheit
  • A woman's body belonged to the nation, needed to be fit as child bearers. 
  • Dancing, gymnastics, taught handicrafts (sewing, cooking) summer camps, baby care, ball room dancing. 
  • Girls found it liberating, doing what their mothers could not do, developed comradeship, classless, racial awareness: "Your honour lies in being faithful to the blood of your race.
  • 1934: expected to do years work on land (peasant roots) unpopular in cities.
  • 1939: compulsory: a years unpaid work
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  • 1933: 46% of economically active population
  • Supported socialist SPD
  • Catholics (Rhineland) voted for Catholic Centre Party. 
  • Trade unions important, Weimar allowed joining unions through Works' Councils. 
  •  By adopting name National Socialist German Workers Party : conscious effort to push working class away from communism.
  • Nazism relied on peasant farmers, small crafts-men, shopkeepers: did best in Protestant areas
  • Support from industrial workers: 
  • C. Fischer: "40% voters were working class" , however majority did not vote until March 1933. 
  • Aim for people's community: class difference, gender, age, religion, region: unity
  • Making them give up trade unions: difficult Gleichschaltung 
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The German labour front DAF

  • May 1933, Robert Ley
  • Free Trade unions banned May (Catholic groups remained)
  • Largest organisation in Third Reich
  • Membership: 1933: 5,000,000- 1939: 20,000,000
  • Aims: win workers to Volksgemeinschaft, employers and workers.
  • No influence on social, economic policies.
  • Propaganda department.
  • Strength through Joy: Kraft durch Freude
  • 1936: Vocational training to improve skills. 
  • Built large business, housing, insurance companies, Volkswagen car plant. 
  • Law on the Trustees of Labour: wages fixed by officials. 
  • Law for the Ordering of National Labour: basic principles of running workplace. 
  • In favour of employer 
  • Workers under pressure, accepting squeeze on wages.
  • Promotion of message that they were working for community.
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Organisations for women

  • Frauenfront
  • Labour service for women: 1939, six months compulsory labour
  • German Women's League: women's groups, domestic science, cooking
  • 1939: over 6 million members 70% non nazi
  • National Socialist Women's Organisation: Lovelife, marriage, family
  • Reich Mother Service: training physically and mentally able mothers.1.7 million 1939.
  • Other advice centres, gave grants to children, financed by public collections and deductions from wages.
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Strength through joy

  • Kraft durch Freude: organised by Ley and DAF to manage worker leisure time 
  • Basic idea: gain strength to work by joy (efficient)
  • Encourage members to be part of Volksgemeinschaft, indoctrination.
  • No time to develop private lives.
  • Encourage social equality, coming together of different regions and religions, participation in sport, competition and ambition.
  • Offered : hiking, theatre, cinema, concerts.
  • 7000 employees 1939.
  • 35 million belonged
  • Mass tourism very successful.
  • Owned 8 cruise ships, on trips tried to emphasize classlessness, facilities included gyms, theatres, swimming pools, very regimented: dressed smartly, no affairs, no drinking, Gestapo and ** sent to spy on people. Designed to show technological advance of Nazis. Reality was very different: tickets too expensive for working class 10% on cruise to Norway working class. Better cabins allocated to civil servants, little mixing between classes, fights were reported, drunkenness of officials, Robert Ley himself notorious: womanizer and drunk. 
  • Most popular.
  • SD report: "Strength through Joy is very popular" 
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Beauty of Labour

  • Schonheit der Arbeit: improved conditions at workplace.
  • Campaigned for better washing, toilets, encouraged recreation facilities, nourishing food.
  • Claimed by 1938 34,000 companies improved.
  • Organised competitions 'model firms'.
  • However- workers still had to do the work: paint, clean up, rebuild, for no extra pay: contributions taken from wages, those who refused were dismissed. 
  • (
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Effectiveness towards workers:

  • Evidence from SOPADE and Gestapo reports show mixed reactions.
  • Many workers who resisted had communist ideas from before 1933.
  • Many were not impressed by propaganda, but prepared to take benefit.
  • KdF was popular because it offered escape, only way of relaxation and enjoyment.
  • Increase in paid holiday entitlement: 3 days to 12 in 1939.
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  • German peasants: special as they were racially pure.
  • Free of moral decline, the nucleus of Volksgemeinschaft.
  • Policies were to free farmers from debt and reverse rural depopulation. (
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The Reich Food Estate

  • Richard Darre minister of food and agriculture
  • Coordination of peasants, based on Fuhrenprinzip.
  • Darre-state-district-local.
  • Bureaucratic, 1939: 20,000 full time-officials. 
  • producers, retailers and wholesalers all under one organisation, this would leave more money to farmers.
  • All participants would benefit equally, therefore a wider community.
  • Richard Evans: Vehicle for farmers to strengthen economic interest and claim rightful place.
  • Spent 650,000,000 in 1933-36 for debts, most of this was for large farms.
  • Farmers incomes increased 41% 1933-38, higher increase than for industrial workers. 
  • Price controls squeezed farmers wages so they could not afford anything
  • 1936- power to merge smaller farms with larger, angered farmers.
  • Wages increased slowly, lower than industrial workers, suffered poor social conditions.
  • Rural depopulation a year: 1923-33: 1.5%, 1933-45: 2.5 
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The Reich Food Estate continued

  • Problem: achieving Volksgemeinschaft and autarky and rearmament. 
  • Military aims took priority.
  • Consumer interests meant lower prices for farmers.
  • When self-sufficiency failed, there was not investment, but rationing in consumption. 
  • Rearmament meant that farmers were snatched.
  • Land was taken for training camps etc. 
  • e.g. West Wall: 5,600 farms.
  • Sopade report: the older peasants are critical, the younger appear national socialist. 
  • Many peasants were unhappy with the Entailed Farm Law.
  • Older were more resentful, as younger took more advantage of regime: War in every household.
  • Volksgemeinschaft not achieved. 
  • Strong peasant discontent! Darre waned. 
  • 1936: DAF took over, and members were sent to farms
  • 1939: regarded as failure. 
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The churches

  • Difficult to coordinate: division of faith: majority Protestant, large majority still Catholic, loyalty was deep and strong, Hitler proceeded cautiously. 
  • Hitler Speech: "Christianity unshakable foundation of moral life of people" 
  • Hitler in private: "You are either a Christian or a German. You can't be both."
  • Protestants: 58% pop, North and East
  • Catholics: 32% South and West, centre party,
  • No coherent Nazi views, Hitler raised as Catholic, yet wanted to eradicate it, careful not to alienate members, other Nazis (Ley) wanted new Nazi faith: different churches. 
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The churches (continued) Protestants

  • Evangelical church an opportunity to unite Germans- politically conservative and nationalist
  • Strong respect for state e.g. Emperor in second Reich head of evangelical church.
  • Protestants anti-Semitic and anti-communist
  • In early years, Nazi-pastors staged mass weddings of SA and turned Martin Luther birthday to celebration
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The German Christians

  • Pressure group within Evangelical church.
  • May 1932: established: mid 1930's 600,000 supporters.
  • SA of the Church
  • Wore SA uniforms, hung up Swastikas, 
  • Militant, aggressive form of Christianity
  • Used ideology with existing faith
  • "Fighting for Christ: hero, Hitler a messiah
  • (
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The Reich Church

  • 28 different state churches: 1933, to one single.
  • Church election won: Ludwig Muller Reich bishop took over with **
  • Other bodies were abolished, organized under Fuhrerprinzip 
  • 1933 November Mass rally to show triumph.
  • Demands to show allegiance and be Aryan or dismissed.
  • 18 men who had converted from Judaism to Christianity dismissed.
  • End of 1933: successful Gleichschaltung to Volksgemeinschaft
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The confessional Church

  • September 1933: Niemoller and Bohoeffer established: Pastors' Emergency Leagues: 
  • Confessional Church
  • Support from 5000 pastors: re-establish theory based on bible.
  • On the day of Potsdam: Gestapo reports: farming people want to celebrate church festivals in traditional form
  • Shows failure of Gleichschaltung 
  • 1935: policy of repression against church
  • Attention to Young people.
  • Abolition of Church schools: 1936
  • Persuasion of party members to stop members being Christian
  • Success: - 1939: 5% god believers - party members no protestant - ** forbidden to wear church uniform - no priests in Nazi activity - pressure on teachers and civil servants.
  • Report: "Youth is losing the habit of going to church"
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The Roman Catholic Church

  • More of an obstacle than the Protestants, took lead from Pope, less susceptible to Nazi ideology- subversive to nation unity
  • Least likely to vote!
  • On the other hand, keen to be seen as part of nation, prepared to compromise.
  • Regarded communism as a threat, some shared anti-antisemitism.  
  • (
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The Concordat

  • The roman Catholic church opted for cooperation and compromise: hope for its autonomy.
  • Under trade union take over, Catholic groups voluntarily disbanded.
  • Centre Party disbanded voluntarily
  • July 1933: Concordat.
  • Vatican recognized Nazi regime and promised not to interfere. 
  • Regime promised it would not interfere.
  • However, was quickly breached: e.g. forced to drop word 'Catholic' from names.
  • Priests under surveillance.
  • Night of Long Knives: number of Catholics killed, e.g. Fritz Gerlich: editor of Catholic journal, critic of regime.
  • Catholic church made no protest.
  • Some priests: Clemens von Galen: permission to hold meetings restricted, Catholic newspapers heavily censored, Gobbels launched propaganda against them, Hitler Youth compulsory: difficult to keep youth.
  • Clemes von Galen: swore oath of allegiance, opposed elements in ideology, spoke out against Euthanasia : 1940, arrested 1944. 
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The papal encyclical 1937

  • Pope Pius spoke out against repression in 1937.
  • He issued 'with burning grief' in which he condemned Nazi church.
  • Regime increased pressure:
  • Gestapo and ** spies
  • tightening on restriction in press
  • Pilgrimage, procession restricted
  • Youth groups closed down
  • Charity Catholic action closed down
  • State subsidies cut
  • Monasteries closed down
  • Crucifixes removed
  • Gobbels publicized sex scandals, 200 arrested
  • 1939: church schools closed.
  • Particular attention to young people, 1939: weakened. Older were torn between good christian and good German, older Catholics continued faith, careful not to be seen as opposition. Hitler myth cast a spell. No opposition. 
  • Report: "The more attempts are made to keep watch on Church, the more peasantry support"
  • "we ask holy church permission to enjoy God-give rights"
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German Faith movement

  • Some Nazis believed in alternative religion, e.g. Darre
  • Pre-Christian Paganism
  • Nordic
  • e.g. Christmas replaced by winter solstice, morality in terms of Aryan race.
  • Only 40,000 followers
  • Himmler: non-Christian ideological foundations.


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1939: The Nazi party had cut links with organised religion, however policy was confused.

Leading Nazis differed in opinion. German Faith movement never more than cult.

Nazi's failed to establish single religion, failed to coordinate churches into a Volksgemeinschaft. 

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Rebecca Charlton


These notes are fab - thank-you!!

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