Opposition to the Nazis


Political Left was Divided and Weak

1. Once in power, the Nazis had banned other political parties, including those on the political left, such as the Communist Party (KPD) and the Social Democratic Party (SPD).

2. But members of these parties formed underground groups to try and organise industrial unrest (e.g. strikes). These networks were often infiltrated by the Gestapo, and party members could be executed.

3. Their impact was also limited because the different parties of the left were divided and didn't cooperate.

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Church members Opposed the Nazis

There were little opposition to the Nazis in Germany from Christian groups. But a number of Church members did oppose the Nazis, even though they risked being sent to concentration camps:

1. Martin Niemoller was a Protestant pastor, a former U-boat captain, and a one-time Nazi supporter. He objected to Nazi interference in the Church, and was one of the founders of the Confessing Church. He used a sermon in 1937 to protest against the persecution of Church members, and as a result spent several years in concentration camps.

2. Another key member of the Confessing Church was Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a Protestant philosopher and pastor who opposed the Nazis from the beggining. He joined the resistance, helped Jews escape from Germany and planned to assassinate Hitler. He was caught and imprisoned, then executed just weeks before the fall of the Nazis.

3. Clemens August von Galen was the Catholic Bishop of Munster, who used his sermons to protest against Nazi racial policies and the murder of the disabled. His protests didn't atop the killing, but they did force the Nazis to keep them secret. Only the need to maintain support of German Catholics stopped the Nazis from executing him.

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Edelweiss Pirates and Swing Kids

1. the Edelweiss Pirates was the name given to groups of rebellious youths who rejected Nazi values.

  • They helped army deserters, forced labourers and escaped concentration camp prisoners.
  • At first the Nazis mostly ignored them, but cracked down after they started distributing anti-Nazi leaflets. Many members were arrested, and several were publicly hanged.

2. The Swing Kids (or Swing Youth) were groups of young people who rebelled against the tight control the Nazis had over culture, acting in ways considered 'degenerate' by the Nazi regime (e.g. listening to American music and drinking alcohol). They were mostly considered a nuisance rather than a threat, but some members were arrested and even sent to concentration camps.

German opposition to the Nazis didn't really threaten their dominance, but it did mean the Gestapo was kept busy tracking down people who had distributed anti-Nzi leaflets, held secret meetings, commited acts of sabotage, etc.

Other Germans expressed their dissatisfaction with the Nazi regime in 'low level' ways - e.g. by grumbling about the government or spreading rumours. Not everyone considers this genuine opposition, but even this was probably risky.

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