• Created by: cieran32
  • Created on: 08-11-18 12:27


Opposition to the Nazi Regime Between 1933 and 1939

There was opposition to the Nazi regime, revealed in studies of local archives as well as from oral history projects. Furthermore, opposition came in many forms and there were also varying degrees of compliance with the government.

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Everyday opposition

  • The regime relied quite heavily on denunciation. Local studies show 50-80% of investigations were as a result of denunciation.
  • However, many denunciations were on spurious, personal grounds, based on grudges or jealousies rather than political accusations.
  • A random sample from the Düsseldorf Gestapo shows a decline in recorded dissident behaviour after 1937.
  • Humour (e.g. making jokes about Hitler) was another important means of opposition.
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political opposition

  • The SPD and KPD operated underground. The SPD in Exile (SOPADE) had groups in industrial towns distributing leaflets.
  • The Düsseldorf Gestapo reported from 1936. The KPD and SPD used word of mouth plus setting up cells in factories, sports clubs etc. to encourage opposition.
  • A 1937 Gestapo report says such ‘propaganda’ was having some success.
  • The Kreisau Circle was a small group of conservative, monarchists formed in 1933 from army officers and aristocrats who opposed to Hitler.
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Catholic opposition

  • Catholic bishop von Galen criticised the regime. He was seen as too popular to be punished.
  • In 1937, the Pope publicly criticised the Nazi government for breaking the concordat, harassing priests and its idolatry of the German state and race.
  • The Catholic Church spoke out against key Nazi policies e.g. forced sterilisation.
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protestant opposition

  • The Confessional Church broke away from the Nazi Church.
  • Martin Niemöller and Dietrich Bonhöffer were members of the Confessional Church arrested for criticising the Nazi regime. Bonhöffer taught trainee ministers to resist Nazism and condemned the Nuremberg laws.
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Historical assessment

  • Hiden (1996):
    • ‘The persecution of hundreds of thousands of Germans [illustrates] that dissent and nonconformity must have been widespread.’
  • Peukert (1989):
    • ‘Active resistance was only a minority affair…[it] mobilised tens of thousands of people…but remained decentralised…and…ineffectual.’
  • Hillenbrand (1994):
    • ‘Many people found in the telling of such jokes only means to protest against the police state in which they live.’
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Extent of Totalitarianism

The traditional view of Nazi Germany was that it was a totalitarian state supported by terror. Recently historians have argued that there were more people supporting, or cooperating with, the regime than previously thought.

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no real opposition

  • In any totalitarian state there are elements of opposition. The issue is how effectively it was dealt with. Instances of opposition were isolated and low key.
  • Resistance to the Nazi regime was very limited as most Germans supported it, or at least took no action against it. How completely these people believed in Nazism cannot be measured.
  • People’s courts and directing judges to rule according to the ‘will of the people’ sidelined opposition.
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  • It was a one-party state with one Führer who was both president, chancellor and, from 1938, commander of all armed forces.
  • The state controlled the forces of repression, censorship and propaganda.
  • Gleichschaltung: Nazi influence was present in almost every aspect of daily life and society e.g. school curriculum, KdF, DAF, youth movements.
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small scale opposition

  • Political:
    • The Gestapo’s own reports say that KPD and SPD propaganda was having an effect from 1936 after tactics were changed.
  • Youth movements:
    • Edelweiss Pirates and Swing groups
  • Religion:
    • The Confessional Church broke away from the Reich Church.
    • The Catholic Church openly criticised the Nazi Regime (1937 papal encyclical).
    • Euthanasia programmes were kept secret due to concerns about public opinion.
  • The military: -Until the dismissal of over 100 generals in 1938 Hitler was very wary of the army.
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Not Totally Totalitarian ?

  • Historians argue the Gestapo was much weaker than previously thought, more reliant on its reputation and co-operation from the German people.
  • Mallman and Paul (1994):Evidence of Gestapo activities shows it often relied upon denunciations the German people as it did not have sufficient staff.
    • ‘Although the Nazi regime’s aspirations were totalitarian, the reality was not.’
  • At most there were 30,000 Gestapo officers for 65,000,000 people.
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Euthanasia programmes were kept secret due to concerns about public opinion. The military threatened Hitler - Until the dismissal of over 100 generals in 1938Hitler was very wary of the army

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