Unit 2: Section B: Germany 1929-39

How was Hitler able to dominate Germany by 1934?

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Adolf Hitler

  • Parents both died while AH was a teenager
  • Tried to become an artist in Vienna
  • Worked as a builder's labourer but was fired by a Jewish official, which perhaps sparked his hatred of Jews
  • When WWI broke out, H was living in Munich and immediately joined army
  • H was a good soldier and won medals for bravery
  • He was discovered as a good public speaker and put in charge of making propaganda
  • In 1918 he was badly gassed and in hospital when Germany signed the armistice
  • Germany's defeat left him bitter, and he blamed Communists and Jews
  • When he returned to Munich, he gave evening classes in political education and began to check up on the activities of extremist groups
  • September 1919 attended a meeting of a small, extremist Nationalist group called the German Workers' Party
  • He agreed with their ideas and joined the Party a week later
  • The Party then changed its name to the Nazi Party
  • It was an anti-semetic Party
  • It was based in Bavaria (area with a right wing government)
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Nazi Party policies in 1921

  • Abolish the Treaty of Violence
  • Destroy the Weimar Republic
  • Destroy Marxism
  • Challenge terror and violence with terror and violence
  • Remove Jews from all positions of leadership in Germany
  • No non-Germans to be newspaper editors
  • Educate gifted children at the state's expense
  • Increase old-age pensions
  • Strong central government
  • Nationalise important industries
  • Conquer Lebensraum
  • Rearm Germany
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How did Hitler become the leader of the Nazis?

  • Hitler set up his own private army in 1921 called the SA
  • He designed the swastika himself, and it became the best-known political symbol in Germany
  • By 1922 Hitler was the leader of the party
  • He had a dominating, powerful personality
  • He was intelligent and decisive
  • He had piercing blue eyes, and was a charismatic public speaker
  • Earnest
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The Great Depression

  • October 1929: Wall Street Crash
  • Began worldwide slide into the Great Depression
  • Germany felt the effects very badly because American banks recalled the loans which had saved the German economy
  • Businesses had to close
  • As world trade declined, German exports slumped
  • Millions of people lost their jobs
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How did the Depression weaken the Weimar Republic?

1. Unpopular economic policies:

  • WR had no idea what to do about rising unemployment and poverty
  • WR didn't want to print more money after hyperinflation in 1923
  • They raised taxes, cut wages and reduced unemployment benefits
  • This made the government very unpopular

2. Presidential rule:

  • The above policies caused the collapse of the government because the Social Democrats withdrew from the coalition
  • The Chancellor fell back on Article 48 of the Weimar Constitution, which gave President Hindenburg full power
  • Hindenburg was 84, and not in a state to be an autocrat
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How did the Depression help the Nazis?

  • People thought WR wasn't up to handling the situation
  • The WR were weak - Hitler was a strong leader
  • People who hadn't bothered to vote before started voting
  • Right and Left extremist parties claimed they could solve all problems
  • As extremism increased, so did political violence
  • People needed a scape goat for their problems
  • The Nazis blamed the Weimar Republic (the November Criminals), the Treaty of Versailles, the Communists and the Jews
  • They promised that they would destroy the "enemy within" who was destroying Germany
  • The Nazis promised to solve unemployment by creating road building and public work jobs
  • The SA could deal with the Communists
  • WR was confused and muddly - Hitler was a power and persuasive speaker

The Reichstag Elections showed Germany's sudden popularity growth, jumping from 12 to 107 seats in 1930, and to 230 by July 1932

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What else helped the Nazis?

  • Organisation - most Nazis were former soldiers, and worked with the obedience and teamwork that they had needed in the trenches
  • Propaganda - used to stir up hatred for scapegoats and admiration of Nazis. Violence was stirred up at election meetings so SA could crush it and seem to be dealing with Communist threat
  • Industrialists support - Industrialists used to vote for the Conservatives, who lost support after 1930. The Nazis made a deal with the Nationalists, which industrialists liked. Many workers were turning to Communism, which scared business owners, so they financed Hitler's campaigns
  • Weaknesses of opposition - other parties were very weak and underestimated the Nazis and assumed the German people would take no notice of them
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What else helped the Nazis?

  • Use of technology - the Nazis could now double their propaganda. Radio was used, which made them look forward thinking and fresh. In the 1932 election, Hindenburg gave one speech. Goebbels chartered planes to fly Hitler all over Germany in order to speak to four or five massive rallies per day. Posters, rallies, radio broadcasts, parades and marches carried the Nazi message into every town and home in Germany
  • Promises - Every sector of German society was promised something they wanted: workers were promised jobs, employers were promised restored profits, farmers higher prices, shopkeepers protection against competition
  • Flexibility - if they found an idea was losing them support, they would change it
  • Hitler the superman - the strong leader Germany needed and wanted, and the opposition had no-one to match him
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Why was Hitler appointed Chancellor in 1933?

Reichstag Elections: July 1932 

  • Nazis won 230 seats, 37.3% of the votes. 
  • They were now the largest party
  • Hitler demanded to be appointed Chancellor
  • President Hindenburg despised Hitler, but acknowledged that they were the most popular and could use them to benefit himself
  • Hindenburg appointed Franz von Papen Chancellor
  • von Papen had no support in the Reichstag, but he hoped to created a right-wing coalition government with the support of the Nazis and other right wing parties
  • Hitler refused to co-operate, so Hindenburg called another election

Reichstag Elections: November 1932

  • Bad election for Nazis
  • Intimidation by SA had began to lose the Nazis support
  • Their vote fell to 33,1%, and they lost 34 seats
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Why was Hitler appointed Chancellor in 1933?

  • General von Schleicher stopped supporting von Papen and demanded to be appointed Chancellor himself
  • This triggered off a power struggle between von Papen and von Scheicher
  • 3rd December 1932: Hindenburg reluctantly appointed von Schleicher Chancellor
  • 4th January 1933: VP saw that VS had difficulty keeping a Reichstag majority. He sees his chance to win back power. He made a deal with Hitler - Hitler would be Chancellor, and VP would be in the Cabinet
  • 22nd Jan: VP asked Hindenburg to make Hitler Chancellor. Hindenburg refuses
  • 28th Jan: VS resigns
  • 30th Jan: Hindenburg wants von Papen as Chancellor, but is advised that reappointing such an unpopular Chancellor might trigger a movement against Hindenburg himself. VP persuaded Hindenburg that as long as the number of Nazis in the Cabinet is limited, that even with Hitler as Chancellor the most extreme Nazi policies could be resisted. He also warns that the alternative revolt and civil war.
  • Hindenburg appoints Hitler as Chancellor and VP as Vice-Chancellor
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Why was Hitler in a weak position in January 1933?

  • Coalition government - he didn't have full control
  • Chancellors didn't last
  • Only 2 other Nazis in Cabinet
  • Hitler needed laws agreed to by Reichstag
  • Nazis didn't have majority in Reichstag
  • Hindenburg despised him
  • Didn't have army
  • Free media/press
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The Nazi consolidation of power 1933-1934

1. 30th January 1933: Hitler appointed Chancellor

  • only 3 Nazis (Hitler, Goering and Frick) in the cabinet
  • Hindenburg agrees to dissolve Reichstag and hold new elections
  • Hitler hoped the Nazis would be able to secure an absolute majority
  • He used police to control and obstruct the campaigns of opposition parties 
  • SA disrupted political meetings and rallies
  • Only the Nazis were able to campaign effectively
  • Hitler's opponents confident that they could resist his extremist demands

2. 27th February 1933: The Reichstag Fire

  • Van der Lubbe, a Dutch Communist was found inside the burning building and arrested and charged with starting the fire
  • Hitler used this as evidence that the Communists were plotting against his government
  • Goering's Prussian police arrested and imprisoned 4000 Communist leaders
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The Nazi consolidation of power 1933-1934

3. 28th February 1933: Emergency Decrees

  • Hitler persuaded Hindenburg to pass a decree using Article 48
  • The article suspended constitutional civil rights
  • It also gave the police powers to search peoples houses, confiscate property and detain people indefinitely without trial
  • It repressed the German Communist Party
  • It declared the the Central Government could take over local states not keeping order
  • This was an emergency decree, but stayed in place for 12 years, throughout the period of Nazi rule
  • The fire was extremely convenient for the Nazis
  • It provided them with the excuse they needed to forcibly shut down all opposition
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The Nazi consolidation of power 1933-1934

4. Reichstag Elections 5th March 1933

  • Reichstag was dissolved on 1st Feb 1933
  • Government used control of radio, police along with unofficial pressure, to intimidate opponents in the elections
  • Nazis got 44% of the votes, still not an overall majority

5. March 13th - Control of media

  • Goebbels was appointed head of new Ministry for Public Enlightenment and Propaganda
  • The Government took control of the radio and press
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The Nazi consolidation of power 1933-1934

6. The Enabling Act - March 1933

  • Law was passed by the Reichstag who had been relocated to Opera House after the fire and were surrounded by the SA (intimidation)
  • Law meant that the Cabinet (in effect, Hitler) could pass decrees with the President's or the Reichstag's involvement
  • The Act needed 213 majority as constitutional amendment (2/3)
  • How did he get the act passed?
  • He used emergency powers set up after the Reichstag Fire to ban the Communist Party thereby removing their 81 votes
  • The Nationalists largely supported Hitler's ideas and the Act
  • He made a deal with the Centre Party promising to protect the Catholic Church if they agreed
  • He used the SA to bully and intimidate the Social Democrats into not voting against the Act
  • The Enabling Act was passed by 444 votes to 94
  • The Reichstag had in effect voted itself out of existence
  • It had voted to introduce a Nazi dictatorship
  • The Enabling Act triggered a six-month period of the rapid change though Germany, known as the Nazi revolution
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The Nazi consolidation of power 1933-1934

7. The SA or the Army?

  • By mid 1934 a power struggle had developed in Nazi leadership
  • Hitler would have to make a choice between the SA and the Army

For the SA:

  • Throughout the Nazi rise in power, Hitler had depended on the SA
  • They were loyal to him and had fought for Hitler in the 1923 Munich Putsch and in later fights against the Communists
  • Bigger than the army - over 2,500,00 men
  • The leader, Ernst Rohm, was a good friend of Hitler's

Against the SA:

  • It was getting out of hand, interfering in the running of the country 
  • It disapproved of some Nazi leaders
  • If Hitler used the SA to control the army, he would have to agree to their other demands - Rohm wanted the SA to control the army (powerful)
  • Hitler did not agree with the SA's anti-capitalist policies and working-class aims
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The Nazi consolidation of power 1933-1934

For the Army:

  • Well trained, organised and disciplined
  • The only organisation which had the power to remove Hitler
  • Had the support of big businesses and conservatives
  • An efficient army was needed for Hitler to retake the land lost in the Treaty of Versailles

Against the Army:

  • Very small - only 100,000 men due to the Treaty rules
  • Their loyalty to Hitler was questionable
  • Some of the generals disliked Hitler
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The Nazi consolidation of power 1933-1934

8. The Night of the Long Knives:

  • Hitler decided to get rid of the SA, which was now a threat to his control
  • Hitler suspected Rohm of plotting a coup
  • 30th June 1934 - Hitler called a meeting of SA leaders
  • Hitler claimed that the SA was plotting to seize power and ordered the SS to arrest its leaders
  • Over the weekend Rohm and 200 other SA leaders were executed by the SS
  • Hitler even took this opportunity to kill von Schleicher, the ex-chancellor
  • He justified himself by saying that he had to stop revolution, and that showed he was a strong leader
  • Over 100 opponents were killed
  • This made the SS and Hitler more powerful
  • The SA was brought under tight control and placed under the army
  • Hitler was now in complete control of the Nazi Party (all opposition within had been eliminated)
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The Nazi consolidation of power 1933-1934

9. Hitler as Dictator:

  • 2nd August 1934 - President Hindenburg dies
  • Hitler immediately declared himself President and was now also the leader of the army
  • He made every officer and soldier swear an oath of loyalty to him (german soldiers took oaths very seriously and to break one was a serious crime)
  • By late August, Hitler had firmly established himself as the dictator of Germany
  • He controlled the government
  • He could make laws without any consultation or agreement
  • No other political parties or opposition was allowed
  • The Nazis controlled the media
  • He had removed potential threats within his own party
  • The army had sworn personal loyalty to him
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Recap - Hitler's rise to Power

  • He used the Reichstag Fire on 27th Feb 1993 to arrest Communist leaders and get Emergency Decrees passed that restricted freedom
  • After failing to win an overall majority in the March elections, Hitler formed a coaliition with the Nationalists
  • He then persuaded, intimidated and forced the Reichstag into agreeing to the Enabling Act, which gave him the power to make laws without consulting them (they voted themselves out of existence)
  • The Nazis proceeded to take control of the media, ban other political parties and nullify other rival groups (e.g. the Church and trade unions)
  • On the Night of the Long Knives (30th June 1934) Hitler removed other rivals within the Nazi Party, in particular Ernst Rohm and the SA
  • When Hindenburg died in August 1934, Hitler took on  the powers of the President and had the army swear loyalty to him. He was now


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Nazi consolidation of power

27 Feb 1933

Reichstag Fire - the Reichstag building is set on fire. A Dutch Communist, van der Lubbe, is caught red-handed in the burning building.

5 Mar 1933

General Election - only 44 per cent of the population vote for the Nazis, who win 288 seats in the Reichstag.

23 Mar 1933

Enabling Act - the SA intimidates all the remaining non-Nazi deputies. The Reichstag votes to give Hitler the right to make his own laws.

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Nazi consolidation of power 2

26 April 1933

Local government is reorganised - the country is carved up into 42 Gaus, which are run by a Gauleiter. These Gaus are separated into areas, localities and blocks of flats run by a Blockleiter. Hitler sets up the Gestapo.

2 May 1933

Trade unions are abolished and their leaders arrested.

20 June 1933

Concordat - Hitler makes an agreement with the Pope who sees him as someone who can destroy communism. This agreement allows Hitler to take over political power in Germany as long as he leaves the Catholic Church alone.

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Nazi consolidation of power 3

14 July 1933

Political parties are banned - only the Nazi party is allowed to exist.

24 April 1934

People's Courts - Hitler sets up the Nazi people's courts where judges have to swear an oath of loyalty to the Nazis.

30 June 1934

Night of the Long Knives - some SA leaders are demanding that the Nazi party carry out its socialist agenda, and that the SA take over the army. Hitler cannot afford to annoy the businessmen or the army, so the SSmurders perhaps 400 of the SA members, including its leader Röhm, along with a number of Hitler's other opponents.

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Economic policy

  • Hjalmar Schacht was minister of the economy, 1934-37
  • His "New Plan" for Germany aimed to reduce unemployment, build up the armaments industry and make Germany self-sufficient
  • The National Labour Service was set up for young men aged 18 to 25
  • They did menial tasks, lived in camps and were given pocket money
  • This was then extended to ambitious public works programmes - building new Autobahns, hospitals, schools, sports stadium (women and Jews dismissed)
  • In 1935 Hitler ignored the T of V and introduced conscription - the army alone increased by over one million men between 1935 and 1938 - more jobs
  • In 1936 a Four-Year plan was drawn up to make Germany self sufficient
  • More raw materials such as coal, oil and iron were produced and synthetic raw materials such as rubber, fuel and textiles, were developed
  • In 1939 however, more than a third of Germany's raw materials were still being imported from other countries - so the Nazis decided to take over the countries with the raw materials that it needed - the policy of finding Lebensraum.
  • Nazi economic and foreign policy began to overlap
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The following points allowed Hitler to gain control of the government:

  • Enabling Act
  • Local government reorganised
  • Political parties banned
  • Hitler became Führer

When you have a lot of information to remember, it sometimes helps to make up a mnemonic - a sentence or word - to remind you of what you should be thinking about for this topic. If you rearrange the points above, the first letters of each point spell out the word HELP.

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Social Life


  • Non-Nazi Catholic priests and Protestant pastors such as Martin Niemöller and Dietrich Bonhöffer were sent to concentration camps.
  • Jews and Jehovah's Witnesses were openly persecuted.
  • Hitler set up a state Reich Church, which banned the Bible and the cross.
  • Nazis encouraged people to revive the old Viking myths and ceremonies.


The Nazis dictated what people were allowed to do in their social and private lives:

  • Artists had to produce acceptable paintings that portrayed Nazi values.
  • Jazz music was banned.
  • Books written by Jews were publicly burned.
  • Homosexuals were persecuted; they did not fit the Nazi image of the ideal family.
  • The Olympic Games of 1936 were a huge Nazi propaganda success.
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Education and work

  • Non-Nazi teachers and university professors were sacked; teachers had to join the National Socialist Teachers' League.
  • Textbooks were re-written to include Nazi political and racial ideas.
  • History was taught to glorify Germany.
  • There was a concentration on physical fitness.
  • Girls were taught cookery; boys were taught science and maths.
  • The Hitler Youth was compulsory; it indoctrinated boys and prepared them for war.
  • The Nazi Girls' youth organisation - the BDM - was compulsory; it indoctrinated girls and prepared them for church, children and cooking.


  • The RAD (National Labour Service) sent young men on public works.
  • Hitler introduced conscription in 1936; most men went into the army after the RAD.
  • The DAF (German Labour Front) controlled workers' conditions at work.
  • The KdF (Strength through Joy) movement regulated their leisure time.
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Methods of control


  • SS and Gestapo investigations.
  • Blockleiters in each block of flats and street informed on 'grumblers'.
  • Arrests of thousands of people terrified opponents.
  • Set up Nazi people's courts.
  • Concentration camps.


The Propaganda Ministry worked hard to persuade people

  • Mass rallies at Nuremberg.
  • Newspapers were censored.
  • People's radios were sold very cheaply, but broadcasts were controlled.
  • Films were controlled to make films that glorified war and pilloried the Jews.
  • Loudspeakers in public places blared out Nazi propaganda.
  • Cult of personality - Hitler's picture was everywhere, and he was portrayed as Germany's saviour.
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The Nazis had clear ideas of what they wanted from women.

Women were expected to stay at home and look after the family. Women doctors, teachers and civil servants were forced to give up their careers. Even at the end of the war, women were never asked to serve in the armed forces.

Their job was to keep the home nice for their husband and family - their life should revolve round the three 'Ks':

  • church
  • children
  • cooking

Goebbels said: "The mission of women is to be beautiful and to bring children into the world."

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Women and marriage

Hitler wanted a high birth rate, so the population would grow. The Nazis even considered making it law that families should have at least four children. Girls did keep fit in the BDM to make themselves healthy for childbirth, but they were discouraged from staying slim, because it was thought that thin women had trouble giving birth.

The Law for the Encouragement of Marriage gave newly wed couples a loan of 1,000 marks, and allowed them to keep 250 marks for each child they had. Mothers who had more than eight children were given a gold medal. Unmarried women could volunteer to have a baby for an Aryan member of the SS.

Women were supposed to emulate traditional German peasant fashions - plain peasant costumes, hair in plaits or buns and flat shoes. They were not expected to wear make-up or trousers, dye their hair or smoke in public.

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Those who spoke out against Hitler and his policies faced intimidation and threats from the Gestapo, or imprisonment and in some cases execution. However, there were some brave individuals and groups who openly opposed Hitler and his policies - a few survived, but many were killed.

Who opposed Hilter?

It was difficult - and dangerous - to oppose Hitler. However, some brave people did try:

  1. The Catholic Archbishop of Munster, von Galen, led a successful campaign to end euthanasia of mentally-disabled people.
  2. 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.
  3. The White Rose group was formed by students at Munich University. They published anti-Nazi leaflets, but were discovered and executed in 1943.
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More opposition

  1. A paramilitary wing of the Social Democratic Party, called the Reichsbanner, sabotaged railway lines and acted as spies.
  2. During the war, 'swing' groups were formed. These were young people who rejected Nazi values, drank alcohol and danced to jazz. More violent groups were called the Edelweiss Pirates. They daubed anti-Nazi slogans, sheltered deserters and beat up Nazi officials. In 1944, the Cologne Pirates (the Edelweiss Pirates based in Cologne) killed the Gestapo chief, so the Nazis publicly hanged 12 of them.
  3. 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.
  4. In 1944, a group of army officers and intellectuals called the Kreisau Circletried 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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The Nazis believed that only Germans could be citizens and that non-Germans did not have any right to the rights of citizenship.

The Nazis racial philosophy taught that some races were untermensch (sub-human). Many scientists at this time believed that people with disabilities or social problems were genetic degenerates whose genes needed to be eliminated from the human bloodline.

The Nazis, therefore:

  • Tried to eliminate the Jews.
  • Killed 85 per cent of Germany's Gypsies and sterilised black people.
  • Killed mentally disabled babies mentally ill patients.
  • Sterilised physically disabled people and people with hereditary diseases.
  • Sterilised deaf people.
  • Put homosexuals, prostitutes, Jehovah's Witnesses, alcoholics, pacifists, beggars, hooligans and criminals - who they regarded as anti-social - into concentration camps.
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How the Nazis persecuted the Jews


  • Boycott of Jewish businesses.
  • Jewish civil servants, lawyers and teachers sacked.
  • Race Science lessons to teach that Jews are untermensch.


  • 'Jews not wanted here' signs put up at swimming pools etc.
  • Nuremberg laws (15 September) Jews could not be citizens. They were not allowed to vote or to marry a German.


  • Jews could not be doctors.
  • Jews had to add the name Israel (men) or Sarah (women) to their name.
  • Jewish children forbidden to go to school.
  • Kristallnacht (9 November) - attacks on Jewish homes, businesses and synagogues.
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How the Nazis persecuted the Jews 2


  • Jews were forbidden to own a business, or own a radio.
  • Jews were forced to live in ghettoes.


  • Army Einsatzgruppen squads in Russia started mass-shootings of Jews.
  • All Jews were forced to wear a yellow star of David.


  • Wansee Conference (20 January) decided on the Final Solution, which was to gas all Europe's Jews. The main death camps were at Auschwitz, Treblinka and Sobibor.
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Economic policies and benefits

Hitler's economic policy had four main ideas:

  1. Full employment - the idea that everyone should have a job. By 1939, there was virtually no unemployment in Germany.
  2. Beauty of Work - the Nazis set up the SdA (Beauty of Work) to help Germans see that work was good, and that everyone who could work should. In fact - because the Nazis had abolished the trade unions, banned strikes, and given more power to the industrialists - real wages fell and hours were longer under Hitler.
  3. Re-armament begun in 1935 - the idea of 'guns before butter'.
  4. Autarky - there was an unsuccessful attempt at making Germany self-sufficient.
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The good life in Nazi Germany

Despite the loss of political and religious freedom, life improved in Germany for many ordinary people who were prepared to 'toe the line' and look the other way

  • Everybody had a job, and a wage. To people  who had been unemployed and starving, 'work and bread' was a wonderful blessing 
  • The Nazis set up KdF (Strength through Joy), which gave workers rewards for their work - evening classes, theatre trips, picnics, and even free holidays.
  • The Nazis devised a scheme to allow workers to buy a Volkswagen Beetle car for a small weekly payment.
  • The autobahns improved transport and travel.
  • People appreciated the public works - eg new schools and hospitals.
  • The streets were safe and there was no crime.
  • Germany was strong and successful in world affairs.
  • Nazi rallies provided colour and fun.
  • Nazi Youth groups provided activities and holidays for young people.
  • Nazi ideology gave people hope and confidence.
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How Hitler increased employment

Hitler introduced many policies to fulfil his goal of full employment:

  • He stopped paying reparations and invested the money in German companies.
  • He began a huge programme of public works including planting forests, and building hospitals and schools. He also built public buildings such as the 1936 Olympic Stadium. The construction of the autobahns created work for 80,000 men.
  • Rearmament created jobs in the armaments industry.
  • The introduction of national service meant all young men spent six months in the RAD and then they were conscripted into the army. By 1939, 1.4 million men were in the army, so they were not counted as unemployed.
  • Many Jews were sacked and their jobs given to non-Jews.
  • Many women were sacked and their jobs given to men.
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Did Germany become self-sufficient?

The policy of autarky was a failure. In 1937, Göring was made Economics Minister with the job of making Germany self-sufficient in four years. However, the measures he introduced were not successful:

  • Controls were put on imports, but, if anything, imports of luxuries increased.
  • Scientists tried to make oil from coal and to find substitutes for rubber, petrol, cotton and coffee.
  • Farmers were subsidised to produce more food, and food imports were reduced.
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