Master Race - Aryans
- Most Nazis believed that Northern Europeans, including Germans, were members of an ancient race called the Aryans. These ideas came from nineteenth-century writers who argued that the Aryans were a superior race. Some thought Aryans could be identified by measuring the shape of their hands and faces.
- Nazis thought people under German rule who were not pure Aryans did not belong. They were weakening 'pure' German people.
- Hitler wanted to 'cleanse' the German people by removing anybody who spoiled the 'purity' of the Aryan race. These included Jews and Romani (gypsies).
- In 1931 the SS started a Race and Settlement Office to decide which individuals were 'pure' enough for them to marry. In 1935 the Nuremberg Laws were based on the idea that Jews were biologically different from Germans.
- Hitler believed that the German people needed more land - Lebensraum (living space). This was the main reason for the invasion of Eastern Europe. Hitler believed much of this new space would be taken from the USSR.
- The idea of Volksgemeinschaft was that all people would serve the Reich together as a community rather than just living there. This would lead to a union of pure-Germanic people working together for a Greater Germany.
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- People who weren't considered Aryans could play no part in the new German empire. Some Jews were given passports to leave Germany but not to return.
- Jews were not the only group accused of spoiling the purity of German people. Hitler saw Romi (gypsies) as a racial threat. There were about 30000 in Germany. Many were sent to concentration camps.
- People with mental and physical disabilities were targeted by the Nazis - many were murdered or sterilised.
- Under the Nazis over 400000 people were forcibly sterilised to stop them having children. People of mixed race were also attacked by the Nazis - many were sterilised against their will.
- Homosexual people were sent to concentration camps in their thousands. In 1936, Himmler, Head of the SS, began the Central Office for the Combating of Homosexuality and Abortion.
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Persecution of the Jews
- Hitler always claimed the Jews were responsible for many German problems and harsh laws were passed against them from the time he became Chancellor in 1933.
- 1933- The Nazis murdered 36 Jews. Over 35000 Jews fled Germany. 1935-Nuremberg Laws- Jews could not vote or marry Germans, Concentration camps established. 1938 November - 'Night of Broken Glass'. Jewish shops, homes and synagogues attacked. 1939- Increased control, a curfew was introduced, Jews could no longer own radios. 1941- Jews were made to wear a yellow star. They were banned from public transport and had their rations reduced.
- In 1935 the Nazis passed the Nuremberg Laws.
- These laws stopped Jews being German citizens.
- They banned marriage between Jews and non-Jews in Germany.
- They also banned sexual relations between Jews and non-Jews.
- Many Jews went into exile, such as Albert Einstein - they spoke out against the Nazi regime from abroad, but the world did nothing.
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Night of the Broken Glass
- A Jew murdered a German diplomat in Paris in November 1938.
- There was rioting throughout Germany - thousands of Jewish shops were smashed and thousands of Jews were arrested.
- Nazi propaganda made people believe that the Jews were bad for Germany, so they should be sent to special concentration camps or humiliated and maltreated in public.
- Many people believed the camps were work-camps, where the Jews would work for Germany. Later, Nazi policy became more terrible as they tried to exterminate the Jewish race.
There was little German opposition to the persecution because:
- Everybody was scared of the SS and the Gestapo.
- People were better off after years of hardship and chose to ignore what they didn't like.
- Goebbels' propaganda was so effective that people didn't get the whole story about what was really going on - but believed the Nazi government knew best.
- Opponents, like the communists, had been eliminated.
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- After the invasions of Poland and Russia more Jews came under Nazi control.
- Adolf Eichmann was put in charge of dealing with these Jews.
- In 1940 the idea of deporting all the Jews from Europe to a Jewish reservation was dropped. Instead they were moved into ghettos - small areas in cities were Jews were forced to live in overcrowded, unsanitary conditions. The largest ghetto was in Warsaw. Starvation and disease killed hundreds of thousands.
- When Russia was invaded in 1941, Special Action Corps followed the army with orders to kill every Jew they came across in the occupied towns and villages.
- The Nazis began the Final Solution in 1942.
- The Final Solution was the Nazis' plan to destroy the Jewish people.
- Death camps were built in Eastern Europe. Gas chambers were built for mass murder.
- Mainly Jewish people were killed, but other groups were targeted as well, for example Slavs (Russians and Poles), Romani, black people, homosexuals, disabled people and communists.
- Heinrich Himmler, head of the SS, was in overall charge of this 'final solution'.
- Some extermination camps were: Auschwitz, Treblinka, Sobibor, Chelmno, Belzec.
- By the end of the war, approximately 6 million Jewish people had been killed by the Nazis.
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- After the war, people around the world found it hard to believe that hs inhuman, cold-blooded extermination had taken place, and that so many soldiers were involved. It has been argued:
- The Nazi guards were doing a job and obeying orders. They feared their leaders.
- The Jews were not regarded as human by the Nazis - killing them didn't matter to guards.
- The soldiers involved hid the truth of what they were doing. The world only discovered the horror of the Death Camps as the Allies advances in 1945.
- Reaction of Jewish people;;;
- They faced death for any resistance. Some fled into the forests and formed resistance groups to blow up railway lines and attack German soldiers.
- In some ghettos Jewish authorities thought the best way to save lives was to cooperate with the Nazis and produce goods for them.
- A rebellion in the Warsaw ghetto in 1943 was ruthlessly put down.
- There was some resistance in the camps and escapes from Sobibor and Aushwitz.
- Reports of what was happening in the camps were smuggled out. Before the war ended, Nazi orders went out to destroy the camps and the evidence - but there wasn't time.
- Some historians claim there's evidence leaders like Churchill were told about the camps and didn't believe the facts. By April 1945, approx 6 million Jewish people had been murdered.
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Opposition to the Nazis
- Most people who disagreed with the Nazis were afraid of the SS and the Gestapo. They were also afraid their friends and neighbours would inform on them if they criticised the regime.
- Thousands of those who did voice opposition to the Nazis were sent to concentration camps.
- Opposition within the Party was crushed on the Night of Long Knives.
- Anti-Nazi activity had to be carried out in secret - which made it difficult for different groups to work together.
- Nazi propaganda persuaded most people that they were better off under Hitler.
- Once in power, the Nazis banned communist groups and sent many communists to concentration camps.
- Some opposition came from religious groups, especially after church land was confiscated.
- Jehovah's Witnesses were persecuted for not supporting the regime, with many members sent to the concentration camps.
- Some opponents of the Reich Church joined together as the Confessing Church. Over 6000 clergy were arrested, including Martin Niemoller, one of the Confessing Church's founders.
- Catholic dissent was more widespread after 1937, when Pope Pius XI sent out a letter protesting at German nationalism and racism, which was read out in Catholic churches.
- Catholic protesters had some success in reducing Nazi interference with the Church.
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Opposition to the Nazis.
- The Edelweiss Pirates were groups of rebellious young people who were difficult to control. They didn't like being told what to do and used the slogan 'Everlasting war on Hitler Youth'.
- Some Edelweiss Pirates even sided with the Allies during the war and several were executed.
- Other groups, like the Swing Kids who like banned jazz music, were more a nuisance than a serious threat.
- In Munich in 1943, a group of students called the White Rose were arrested after distributing anti-Nazi leaflets. Several, including Sophie and Hans Scholl, were executed.
- As the war started to go badly, some believed Hitler was leading Germany to defeat.
- There had been plots against Hitler from the army officers before the war, but these became more serious after the German defeats at El Alamein and Stalingrad in 1942.
- One of the most famous army plots led to Claus von Stauffenberg's attempt to kill Hitler. He put a bomb in a meeting room, but Hitler survived and most of the plotters were executed in 1944.
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