OCR AS History: Democracy and Dictatorship in Germany 1919-63

Note cards - post-WW1 to end of Nazi regime


Post WW1/The Weimar Constitution

  • The population became desperate for peace and Kaiser Wilhelm abdicated to Holland (1918), thus marking the end of the German absolute monarchy.
  • The abdication came the day before the armistice that Germany had little choice but to sign (but was nonetheless considered a betrayal).
  • Germany emerged from the war broken, with more than 2 million dead.
  • The Treaty of Versailles signed on June 28th 1919.
  • The terms of the Treaty of Versailles were intensely resented by the German people - especially the demilitarisation of the Rhineland, reparation payments and shame caused by "war guilt".
  • New government (led by Ebert, Social Democratic Party) came to be referred to as 'November criminals'.
  • Led to the formation of the Weimar Republic and Germany becoming a 'democratic state'.
  • Government consisted of the President, Reichstag, Reichsrat (less influence) and the Chancellor and his ministers.
  • Proportional Representation - creation of this sparked criticism after 1945 because it was blamed for the popularity of "splinter" parties such as the Nazis. It made it difficult to maintain and control governments. The main reason for PR's criticism was how it made it virtually impossible to form a majority government, thus resulting in multiple parties and often, coalitions. However, the voting systems were successfully democratic.
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The Treaty of Versailles

Signed on June 28th 1919 - detested by the German population who considered it shameful.

Territorial Terms: 

  • West Posten, Upper Silesia and Posen were given to Poland
  • Danzig was taken over by the League of Nations as a free city
  • Germany lost all of its overseas colonies to victorious powers on behalf of the League of Nations

Military Terms:

  • Germany were not allowed military air crafts or submarines
  • Their navy was reduced to six battleships and 15,000 sailors
  • Their army was reduced to 100,000
  • The Rhineland area was demilitarised - This meant that there were no German armed forces allowed in the area. Allied troops occupied the area for 15 years.

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The Treaty of Versailles Pt. 2

Reparations Terms:

  • The War Guilt Clause meant that the victorious powers could demand compensation from Germany for damage caused by the war
  • This was known as reparations
  • In 1921 the Reparations Commission fixed the sum at £6,600 million, which had to be paid in annual instalments.

War Guilt:

  • Article 231 of the treaty said that Germany was to blame for causing the war
  • This was the term that the Germans most resented
  • The Germans believed that other countries had caused the war and that Germany had gone only in self-defence
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Rebellion in the Weimar Republic

  • The early years of the Weimar Republic were full of rebellions and opposition. 
  • Spartacist revolution - Janurary 1919. Lead by the Spartacist League (Communist Party/KPD), they attempted to take power in Berlin. The government formed the Freikorps (volunteer soldiers) to fight them. Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg, the leaders, were executed by the Freikorps (who were very anti-communist). Failed because Germany was not ready and did not entirely want communism, also because of lack of true leadership.
  • Kapp Putsch - 1920. First attempt by the extreme right wing to seize power. Led by Dr Wolfgang Kapp with the Freikorps. They wanted to bring back the Kaiser. The regular army refused to fire on them, so they were only halted by a general strike, called by the government.
  • Munich 'Beer Hall' Putsch -1923. Led by Adolf Hitler and the German workers party. Marched on Munich, believing that the army would join their cause. However they opened fire and some protesters were killed. Hitler arrested and uses trial as publicity, then writes Mein Kampf in prison. Decides that if he cannot seize power, he will be voted in. 
  • Some members of the Freikorps formed a Organisation Consul. They assassinated leading politicians who agreed to the Treaty of Versailles. 
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Problems of 1923 (Hyperinflation)

  • There were many problems in 1923, which nearly lead to the collapse of the Weimar Republic.
  • Economic issues came as a result of the war: unemployment skyrocketed, war bonds needed to be repaid and the terms of the Treaty of Versailles required Germany to make reparation payments.
  • Then...
  • Germany missed a reparations payment.
  • This meant that French troops occupied the Ruhr, intending to take the amount owed in raw goods. 
  • However the government, and the country, needed the goods, so workers were encouraged to rebel or strike.
  • The striking workers still needed to be paid, so the government printed more money. However this reduced the value of the money they already had, so more and more money was needed. Money became worthless.
  • This produced HYPERINFLATION. It meant that about 2 million marks would get you 1 loaf of bread. This worked well for visitors, and people with loans, as they could pay back on much less. However for pensioners, who had saved, they discovered that their life savings wouldn't feed them for 1 week.
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Stresemann Era

  • The Stresemann era of 1923-29 was a time of prosperity for Germany, despite the early troubles of the government. 
  • Made huge advances in 'Stresemann's 100 Days'
  • Under his 'guidance', a new currency was introduced - the Rentenmark.
  • He also signed the Dawes Plan in 1924, in which the USA loaned Germany money (there was no point really, Germany paid the UK, and the UK paid the USA). 
  • He also agreed to the Young Plan, which spread reparations further apart (until 1988).
  • Stresemann also signed the Locarno Pact, in which borders between France, Belgium and Germany were 'respected'. 
  • He also signed the Kellogg-Briand Pact with the USSR, against the use of war in foreign policy. This relationship between Germany and the USSR (both potential huge war powers) sparked fear in Europe.
  • However one of Stresemann's greatest achievements was getting Germany re-accepted by the international community in 1926, when German joined the League of Nations.
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Weimar: the Years of Stability

1922 - Treaty of Rapallo

1923-9 - Stresemann as Foreign Minister

1924 (April) - Dawes Plan

1925 - Hindenburg elected President

(Oct) Locarno Conference

1928 (May) Muller's Grand Coalition

Hugenburg leader of DNVP

(August) Kellogg-Briand Pact

1929 - Young Plan

(Oct) Death of Stresemann

(Oct) Wall Street Crash

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Weimar Culture

  • Germany enjoyed huge freedom as a result of democracy, especially when applied to culture.
  • Berlin became, and replaced Paris as, the "sex capital" of Europe - huge increase in ***** clubs and prostitution.
  • Outbreak of 'New Functionialism' - epitomized by artists such as George Grosz who painted the negative sides of society.
  • Bauhaus revolutionised design and architecture.
  • Literature spanned all movements and was rich with diversity; one example is the pacifist war novel 'All Quiet on the Western Front' by ex-soldier Erich Maria von Remarque.
  • Zeittheater used politically-heavy propaganda in theatre, mainly left-wing.
  • Film and cinema became intensely popular and German directors were renowned for their high quality work. Marliene Dietrich was a famous actress who was original because of her androgynous style.
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Flaws in the Weimar Republic

  • There were several flaws in the Weimar constitution. However the general idea seemed to work. Everyone over 21 had the vote. Election were every 4 years for Reichstag and 7 years for President. Seats were voted for using Proportional Representation. There was also part of the constitution called Article 48, which stated that the President could pass laws by emergency decree. 
  • The proportional representation meant that there was usually no overall majority, and Article 48 was often used. This meant that there was no political stability to the government.
  • Article 48 meant that only 1 person (the President = Hindenburg) had to agree to the law before it was passed. This meant that the laws were not always best for the people.
  • However the German people were still adapting to democracy after a history of totalitarian governments - some people preferred the previous authority.
  • Traditionalists on the right-wing wanted the reestablishment of the monarchy and did not trust the Weimar constitution because of its prematurity. 
  • Some traditionalists were also outraged by the apparent 'debauchery' that cultural expression had provided.
  • Those leaning towards the left-wing wanted more of a communist government like that of Bolshevist Russia.
  • Not enough of the population believed, and thus fully supported, in the regime.
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Early Rise of the Nazi Party

After the failure of the Munich Putsch, Hitler decided to control Germany through legal means. The Nazi party were a extremist party, well known for anti-Semitic, right-wing and conservative views. During his imprisonment Hitler dictated Mein Kampf (My Struggle). The Nazi party had little success until 1929. This was because of the Wall Street Crash and America's call back on the loans they'd borrowed Germany in the early 20s. The economy collapsed. Also Stresemann died leaving Germany less politically stable. This meant that ordinary German people started looking for more radical options, such as the Nazis and Communists. The Nazi party promised everything to everyone. Hitler exploited the governments problems, and promised 'Arbeit und Brot', or work and bread. The Nazi party became the largest party in the Reichstag in 1932. Hitler only became Chancellor because von Papen was overthrown by von Schleicher. Von Papen persuaded Hindenburg (the President), to replace him with Hitler, believing he could be easily controlled. This was 1933.

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Nazi's Gain Power

  • In 1933 the Nazis had only 3 of 12 government positions. In March 1933 a election was called. The main propaganda for this election showed the dangers of communists. 
  • Hitlers claims appeared to have come true in February of that year, when the Reichstag was burnt down, supposedly by a Dutch communist, van der Lubbe. However there have been many claims that it was the SA who set the fire, and then framed van der Lubbe. Either way the fire was very useful to Hitler, who arrested many communists, and banned political opponents from holding meetings. 
  • The election results increased the Nazi party's power but did not give them a majority. To gain the majority he wanted, Hitler banned the communist party from taking their seats, and he gained the support of the Centre party (Church), by saying he would not take measures against the church. 
  • Hitler signed the CONCORDAT with the Catholic Church (Pope) which basically said he would leave the Church to their own devices if they did not interfere with his politics.
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Hitler's Consolidation of Power (Gleichschaltung)

  • Enabling Act - 1933. This law allowed Hitler to make laws without the Reichstag for 4 years. Despite the majority he surrounded the building with Stormtroopers. The law was passed by 441 voted to 84. The Reichstag met 12 times in the next 6 years, passed only 4 laws and the only speeches were made by Hitler.
  • Law Against the Establishment of Parties - 1933. This banned all other parties, and made the Nazi party the only legal party in Germany. Germany was now a dictatorship.
  • Night of the Long Knives - 1934. Leading SA leaders (including Rohm - previously the leader of the SA and Hitler's close friend. Killed because he was considered to have too much influence and was an open homosexual, barbarian and alcoholic), were killed by the ** (Hitler's personal guard). Many others were arrested. The threat of Rohm was mainly due to the personal relationship with SA members who swore allegiance to him rather than Hitler. Propaganda was used to convince people that they had been a threat. 
  • Hindenburg dies. Hitler replaces him in the combined office of President and Chancellor, and is called Fuhrer (leader).
  • The army swore an oath of loyalty to Hitler NOT Germany as it had before in 1934. This meant Hitler had absolute power over Germany.
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Nazi Control

  • Nazi control was mainly due to the exploitation of propaganda and FEAR.
  • Goebbels was the Minister for Propaganda and Enlightenment. They controlled all media, films, newspapers, music and radio. There were more radios per head in Germany than USA. Goebbels suppressed non-Nazi views, such as Jazz music and Communism, and also spread the message of Nazism. 
  • The German Student Association of Nazi Germany organized a mass book burning in Berlin in 1933 with the support of leading Nazis such as Goebbels. They burnt books considered offensive to the Nazi regime, e.g. those by Jewish, Socialist and Communist authors, and those involving anti-war and pacifist views.
  • The Olympic Games were held in Berlin in 1936. It was televised, with a brand new stadium. Hitler saw it as a great way to show the superiority of the Aryan race, but included 1 Jew on the team of each sport after international pressure/international threat to boycott the Games. More medals were won by Germany than any other country, but black athletes, such as Jesse Owens of America who won 4 gold medals and broke 11 world records on the athletic track.
  • This went against the ideas of inferiority spread by the Nazis, and Hitler even refused to shake his hand at the medal ceremony. 
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Nazi Machinery of Terror

** and Gestapo: ** formed in 1925 as a minor section of the SA with only 250 members - became more important after Night of the Long Knives/SA's power breakdown. Both led by Himmler; known for being totally obedient and committed to the regime. From 1935 only those of pure Aryan ancestry could join. Gestapo was an "all seeing, all knowing" organisation who after 1939 could arrest anyone who expressed doubts about a German war victory/listened to BBC foreign broadcasts, as well as criminals. Relatively small organisation with only 40,000 agents in the whole of Germany.

Camps: Concentration camps and torture chambers first surfaced in 1933 for criminals, asocials and opposing individuals. During the war an increased number of foreigners  were shipped to the camps and used for hard labour. In Poland from 1942 (after the Final Solution) onwards the camps were also being used to exterminate Jews on a large scale from different parts of Nazi occupied Europe (and gypsies, homosexuals etc). Racial policy of extermination and resettlement was pursued with vigour by the ** Death Head units.

The Arts: The public was constricted to a cultural diet that supported Nazi ideology. Modern and experimental plays/art were banned but German classics could still be performed. Massive empathsis on the classics e.g. Goethe, Mozart etc. Modern authors had to depict Nazism in a positive light. The Reich Chamber of Literature drew up a list of damaging and undesirable books. With help from students, copies of the banned books were burnt (1933).

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Machinery of Terror - Propaganda

Goebbels held the position of Minister of Enlightenment and Propaganda from 1933-45.

Had an "evil genius" when it came to propaganda.

  • Depicted Jews, socialists, communists, Allied forces and asocials in a negative light.
  • Goebbels created the Reich Radio Company (by 1939 70% of German homes owned a radio.)
  • Broadcasting in public places was used. Loudspeakers were installed in cafes and restaurants, factories and offices.
  • Introduced a daily press conference to provide guidance on editorial policy.
  • Control of the press was difficult because many publications were privately owned, but fear/laws prevented editors from having much freedom.
  • By 1939 the Nazis controlled 2/3 of the German press.
  • Der Sturmer ("The Attacker") was a popular Nazi newspaper published from 1923-45 by Julius Streicher. Heavily anti-Semitic.
  • Helped to glorify the regime and aimed to spread the Nazi ideology and values.
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Hitler's Henchmen

Goebel's - Nazi Propaganda Minister (1933-45). Considered to possess a genius for propaganda; he was deeply anti-Semitic and featured opponents to the regime (e.g. Jews, Socialists and Communists) in a massively negative light. Nicknamed 'The Poison Dwarf'. Adored and idolised Hitler and one of the only leading Nazis who never lost favour. After Germany's defeat and the capture of Berlin he shot himself and his family.

Himmler - Second in command to Hitler. Commander of the Secret Police force, the Gestapo and coordinated the operation of the concentration and extermination camps from 1941-45. 

Heydrich - The only leading Nazi who complied to the image of a 'perfect Aryan' - he was blonde, tall and athletic. Joined the ** after being forced to resign from the Navy after sexual misconduct and rose quickly through the ranks of the Party. Rumours were constantly spread that he had Jewish ancestry and he responded by being cold, suspicious and downright EVIL. Nicknamed the "hangman of Europe". Killed by a Czech resistance group in 1942; several days later the entire male population of the village of Lidice was shot as revenge.

Goering - Director of the Luftwaffe who severely lost favour in Hitler in 1943, stripped of his power and blamed for the military failure. Turned out to be the most courageous Nazi at the Nuremburg trials and did not show any repentance, but rather welcomed death with the opinion he'd become a martyr in the future - avoided hanging by committing suicide with the help of an America officer he befriended.

Hoess - Commander of Auschwitz concentration camp.

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The Church: 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. 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.

  • Youth:  The White Rose movement, led by Sophie and Hanz Scholl, spread pamphlets through the University of Munich urging people to oppose the Nazi regime. The siblings were later arrested, tortured and executed.
  • The Swing Movement - mainly middle-class youths listened to jazz, BBC radio broadcasts and drank alcohol in bars. Showed not everyone was going to conform.
  • The Edelweiss Pirates - working-class youths who refused to join the Hitler Youth, daubed anti-Nazi slogans and sang songs about sex and alcohol. In 1944 the Cologne Pirates killed the Gestapo Chief so the Nazis publicly hanged 7 of them.

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.

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  • Volksgemeinschaft (People's Community)
  • Perfect German woman: child-bearing, Aryan, good wife, domesticated, healthy, athletic, modest, Christian and traditional.
  • kinder, küche, kirche (children, kitchen, church)
  • Identified women as being 'different' to men, not inferior. They complement the other.
  • Women were encouraged to leave the workplace and return to the home so the men could have their jobs.
  • Almost half of Hitler's voters were women.
  • MA**IVE emphasis on motherhood - mother's day became a national holiday, the mother's cross awarded for 4, 6 and 8 children respectively.
  • Abortion made illegal and euthanasia made necessary for disabled people and asocials.
  • Suspected mentally ill women were sterilised.
  • No leading women in the NSDAP.
  • Lebensborn - sexual engineering set up by Himmler and the **. In organised brothels young unmarried women were impregnated by ** officers to create suitable offspring of the "master race".
  • After the war thousands of women were *****/beaten by the Red Army.
  • Women left to rebuild Germany because returning soldiers were so physcologically damaged.
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  • Girls joined the BDM (League of German Maidens), boys joined the Hitler Youth.
  • Children were taught Nazi ideals from birth - education was reformed to fit Nazi ideologies and children were indoctrinated by the regime.
  • Curriculum altered: RE considered less important than German literature and history, human biology and PE etc.
  • In the BDM girls learnt to be graceful through sports such as aerobics and gymnastics and became domesticated: they learnt to cook, clean and sew.
  • The Hitler Youth was heavily military orientated, so boys (14-18) learnt to drill and march. They were taught to be devoid of emotion and unfeeling to pain.
  • Hitler wanted a strong master race so recognised the importance of youth, said himself that regardless of elder people's opinions he already "owned" their children.
  • The Hitler Youth was created in 1926 and expanded rapidly after 1933.
  • In 1933 all youth organisations (except Catholic ones protected by the Concordat) were taken over by the Hitler Youth.
  • After 1936 all other organisations were banned.
  • Many avoided membership by leaving school early.
  • Later became less popular because of its military emphasis.

Rebellion: see Opposition*

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The Church

  • July 1933 - Concordat signed and SA ordered to attend church ceremonies
  • 1936 - Galen, Bishop of Munster, thanks the Fuhrer for demilitarising the Rhineland and asks for God's blessing.
  • November 1939 - Cardinal Faulhaber orders a special service to celebrate Hitler's survival of an assassination attempt.
  • December 1941 - Churches welcome the German attack on the USSR.
  • Bishops and priests sent to camps but kept separate to avoid martyrdom
  • 1937 - Pope criticises Nazi policies in his speech "With Burning Grief"
  • Catholics FIRMLY against euthanasia policies
  • Catholicism is strong throughout because of its mass following and international influence. They have their own faith schools and up until 1937 their own youth organisations too.
  • Protestant faith was weak enough to be manipulated - split into two: the Reich Church and the Confessional Church.
  • Ludwig Muller (Nazi who was strongly anti-Semitic and nationalist) made head of the German Faith Movement. Reich Churches Bible was 'Mein Kampf'. Failed because of public non-commitment and the outbreak of war.
  • Bonhoffer, a leading Confessionalist, protested against the regime and was eventually executed.
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  • People who were exempt from the Volksgemeinschaft (e.g. gypsies, vagabonds, beggars, alcoholics, prostitutes and juvenile delinquents)
  • Most obvious example was people who were unwilling to work
  • 1933 - round up of half a million vagrants
  • Thousands sent to concentration camps
  • Mentally ill (or suspected) forcibly sterilised


  • Gay men had to wear pink stars/lesbians impregnated by ** officers
  • Mass intolerance because they were seen to be wasting the opportunity of children
  • Strong use of homosexuality within the SA/** so Hitler had to appear intolerant


  • Considered a "plague"
  • Thousands exterminated at camps or sterilised
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Race Policy

  • 1933-9 Gradualism
  • Legal discrimination
  • Terror and violence
  • Forced emigration
  • 1938 - gradual radicalisation of Nazi anti-Semitism
  • 1939-45 - war and genocide
  • Emigration to extermination


  • the only leading Nazi who fit the "perfect Aryan" mould
  • rumoured to have Jewish ancestry
  • organised the Einsatzgruppen that carried out mass killings in the USSR in 1941
  • administered the Final Solution at the Wansee Conference in 1942
  • killed in May 1942 by a Czech resistance group
  • "The Blonde Beast"

*see timeline

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Nazi Economy

Hitler's plans for the economy: rearmament, autarky (self sufficiency), full employment, Volksgemeinschaft ideals, Lebensraum (living space), support off the mittelstand and big business, and statism. His initial aim was to tackle the Depression, afterwards it was Total War.

Recovery Phase (1933-1936) - Schact

  • Schact was President of the Reichsbank (1933-9) and Minister of Economics (1934-7).
  • Was an economic genius and well respected - had previously helped introduce the new currency in 1923.
  • Took charge of banking systems, won Nazi supporters and placed massive emphasis on public works systems (e.g. 1933's Law to Reduce Employment scheme expanded, and the RAD (Reich Labour Service) was expanded to employ 19-25yr old's).
  • Aims for first three years were mainly reforestation, land reclamation, motorisation (autobahns etc) and building.
  • Public investment tripled between 1933 and 1936; government expenditure increased by 70% = higher employment.
  • Schact was given dictatorial powers over Germany on 3rd July 1934.
  • New Plan - Bilateral trade treaties, the Reichsmark currency and mefo bills (kind of credit notes to guarantee payment at a later date) - latter was mainly used to disguise government spending.
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Nazi Economy: Pt. 2

Hermann Goring - leading Nazi who was born into a wealthy Bavarian family and led a life fuelled with luxuries. Commander of the Luftwaffe from 1935 (his failure to win the Battle of Britain saw a decrease in his power). Plenipotentiary of the Four Year Plan from 1936. Became Economic Minister and literal economic dictator of Germany. Named Hitler's successor at the height of his influence in 1939. Had no economic expertise - was better suited to general war efforts.

Four Year Plan (1936: 'Guns or Butter') Aims:

  • to get Germany fit for war within four years (war broke out in 1939 - war for Germany was planned for at least 2 years after).
  • to regulate imports and exports, to control key sectors of the labour force and to increase the production of war materials.
  • to develop ersatz (substitute) products.
  • to increase agricultural production.

Effects of FYP - Walther Funk replaced Schact but Goring was the real economic dictator. 

Production doubled but war was too early for success/FYP and autarky were disastrous.

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Nazi Economy: Pt. 3

Once war broke out in 1939 Goring was replaced with Fritz Todt. Todt was replaced by Speer (TOTAL WAR) because Todt was killed in an accident in 1942. Speer had previously been Hitler's personal architect and enjoyed excellent relations with Hitler. Speer was now Minister of Armaments. Hitler was determined to avoid the problems faced by Germany post-WW1 and devised a series of war economy decrees were issued in 1939 dealing with war production e.g. submarines and air crafts. Military expenditure doubled between 1939 and 1941. Food rationing was introduced from the very start of the war. By the summer of 1941 55% of the workforce was involved in war-related projects. First two years of the war also witnessed a 20% decline in civilian consumption.

Total War 1941-5:

  • 'Rationalisation Decree' of Dec 1941: An intended reform of the economy to eliminate the waste of labour and materials.
  • Speer exploited the labour forces and also wanted to employ more women in the arms factories, make effective use of concentration camp prisoners as workers and to prevent skilled workers being lost to military conscription.
  • As a result of Speer's first 6 months in power - ammunition production increased by 97%, tank production rose by 25% and total arms production increased by 59%.
  • However Germany could have produced more. 'Blanket bombing' was its downfall.
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This is great, thanks! :)

(deleted account)


Good but doesn't go beyond the Nazis 



Very useful! Thank you very much.



Really informative but doesn't go over post-war Germany

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