Social policies


Social policies

  • Hitler wanted there to be no separation between individual and state. Individuals should have no private space to think or act independently of the regime; they should have the same ideology. 
  • All Germans must conform to the regime so that the Nazis could achieve their ultimate social goal of creating a Volksgemeinschaft (‘people’s community’). This community would be pure blood, race and would have all the same ideology. Wanted the community to be made up of loyal, self-disciplined and self-sacrificing individuals. 
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Nazi Policies towards Young People

The starting point for this new race was Germany’s youth because the Nazis recognised that young people were easier to persuade as they had nothing to compare the Nazi regime to.  


The Nazi regime established control over the school system in two main ways: 

Control over the teachers 

  • Undesirable teachers were dismissed under the Law for Re-establishment of Professional Civil Servants (politically unreliable or Jewish) – 45% of teachers were fired. 
  • Teachers were pressured into joining the National Socialist Teachers’ League (NSLB). 
  • Vetting of textbooks was undertaken by local Nazi committees. 

Control over the curriculum 

  • Each area of the curriculum was about indoctrinating young people into supporting the Nazis. 
  • Wanted to promote ‘racial health’ – led to an emphasis on physical education. 
  • German lessons were introduced – how to be German. 
  • Biology stressed race and genes; evolution and survival of the fittest.
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Nazi Policies towards Young People


  • The Nazis downgraded the importance of further academic education and the no. of students attending university decreased; it didn’t have a place in the community. 
  • Access to higher education was restricted and selection was based on political reliability – women were restricted to 10% of places. 
  • Coordination of universities worked on the same basis as schools e.g. under the Law for Re-establishment of Professional Civil Servants, 15% of staff were dismissed etc. 
  • They encountered little resistance; coordination was made easier by voluntary coordination of many faculties – in the Weimar era, universities had been dominated by nationalist ideas. This was helped by the students’ knowledge that their job prospects after graduation depended on showing outward support for the regime. 
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Nazi Policies towards Young People

The Hitler Youth/ Hitler Jugend (HJ) 

  • Created in 1927. 
  • In the early years, it was relatively unsuccessful but when the Nazis came to power, they took over all other pre-existing organisations except those linked to the Catholic Church. 
  • This is when the youth movement began to flourish. 
  • 1936 – a Law for the Incorporation of German Youth gave the Hitler Youth the status of an official education movement in equal status to schools. 
  • Became the only permitted youth organisation attaining a monopoly over sport facilities and competitions.  
  • 1939 – membership became compulsory. 
  • Boys were taught the motto ‘Live faithfully, fight bravely and die laughing’. 
  • There was a set syllabus of political indoctrination which all members had to follow – taught to sing Nazi songs and encouraged to read Nazi political pamphlets. They were taken on hikes and on camping trips.  
  • These opportunities of camping trips and sports made the HJ attractive – many boys had grown up in the 1930s and had no experience of any other system and many joined against the wishes of their parents. 
  • But, by the late 1930s, as the organisation became more rigid, enthusiasm was waning – there was poor attendance at weekly parades.  
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Nazi Policies towards Young People

The League of German Girls (BDM) 

  • Wanted to prepare girls for being housewives and mothers – its motto was ‘Be faithful, be pure, be German’.  
  • 1939 – membership became compulsory 
  • Girls were taught that their bodies had to be healthy as they had a duty to their nation – they needed to be fit for childbearing and were taught about hygiene, cleanliness and healthy eating. 
  • At ‘home evenings’, girls were taught sewing and cooking. They were taught about racial awareness; how to look for good genetics in men. Had lessons in baby care, social skills and ballroom dancing. 
  • Many girls found the experience liberating – they could experience things outside of the home. It made the girls feel like they were doing their part for the country and were the key to Germany’s future. 
  • After 1934, girls were expected to do a year’s work on the land or in domestic service to give them experience in child care – very unpopular with city girls.  
  • 1939 – this scheme was made compulsory; they had to do this year of unpaid work before they could get paid employment.
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Nazi Policies towards Young People

The degree of success of Nazi youth policies

  • Successful in bringing schools and universities under their control. 
  • Membership of the HJ and BDM had grown. 
  • But, attendance at HJ parades was slipping by 1939 and the Nazis were concerned about the re-emergence of independent youth cliques.
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Nazi Policies towards Workers

  • Given their traditional ties to trade unions and non-Nazi political parties, workers presented the greatest challenge to the process of Gleichschaltung. 
  • They could not ignore the working class (the biggest sector in any society) nor could they rely on repression (they needed them to work) to coordinate them. 
  • May 1933 – the banning of free trade unions; this was their first step and after this, they would coordinate workers into a Nazi-run organisation.
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Nazi Policies towards Workers

The German Labour Front (DAF) 

  • Established in May 1933 under the leadership of Robert Ley. 
  • It took over the assets of the banned trade unions. 
  • Membership was not compulsory but it grew rapidly as the DAF was the only recognised organisation representing workers. 
  • Had two main aims: 
    • To win workers over to the Volksgemeinschaft 
    • Encourage workers to increase production 
  • It had replaced trade unions but was not a trade union itself and had no role in debates over wages and little influence over the regime’s social + economic policies. 
  • It had its own propaganda department to spread Nazi ideology among workers. 
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Nazi Policies towards Workers

Strength Through Joy (KDF) 

  • Set up by Robert Ley and the DAF to organise workers’ leisure time – the basic idea was that workers would grow stronger in their work as they would experience joy in their leisure time; they would be happier and more efficient. 
  • It aimed to: 
    • Encourage workers to see themselves as part of the Volksgemeinschaft – their work time and leisure time would be regulated by the regime so there would be no time for workers to develop private lives 
    • Encourage spiritual and social equality (no class distinction) 
    • Encourage participation in sport (improves physical and mental health of the nation) 
    • Encourage competition and ambition 
  • Improved workers’ lifestyles by offering them subsidised holidays, sporting activities, reduced theatre and cinema tickets and classical music concerts were put on in their breaks. 
  • There were KDF wardens in every factory; KDF membership came automatically through DAF membership, so by 1936, the DAF had 35 million members. 
  • One of the regime’s most popular organisations which offered ordinary Germans the opportunity to experience things they would never normally have done.
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Nazi Policies towards Workers

The degree of success of Nazi policies towards workers

  • Workers’ reactions to the Nazi schemes were mixed – many workers would have been influenced by socialist/ communist ideas before 1933 so would have been resistant to Nazi ideology.  
  • Popular but not because people shared Nazi ideas but because it offered workers a means of escaping the boredom of their lives. 
  • Trade unions had been abolished and workers had no ways of making their voices heard – they had to join the DAF.
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Nazi Policies towards Women

  • The Nazis opposed the greater freedom that women had experienced in the Weimar era e.g. drinking, smoking which they blamed on the low birth rate of the 1920s. If this declining birth rate continued, it would threaten the role of women in Nazi Germany. 
  • They wanted to expand German territory (Lebensraum) and settle Germans in these acquired lands, so they needed to increase the birth rate. 
  • To restrict the liberties of unmarried and married women outside the home, they introduced some policies: 
    • Marriage loans were introduced for women who left work and married an Aryan man – for each child born, the amount that had to be repaid was reduced. 
    • Medals were awarded for women for ‘donating a baby to the Führer’ (having a baby). 
    • Birth control was discouraged; abortion was restricted. 
    • Encouraged to adopt a healthy lifestyle – no smoking or drinking 
  • Promoted their values through several women’s organisations: 
    • DFW – The German Women’s League gave advice on cooking, healthy eating and marriage; coordinated all women’s groups under Nazi control; by 1939, it had over 6 million members. 
    • NS-F – The National Socialist Women’s Organisation was an elite organisation used to promote racial purity and the idea that women should be child-bearers and homemakers. 
    • RMD – The Reich Mother’s Service was a branch of the DFW which focused on motherhood and how to care for children. 
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Nazi Policies towards Women

The degree of Nazi policies towards women

  • The Nazis’ campaign to raise the birth rate had some success, but this could have been due to the improved economic situation which would have encourage couples to extend their family. 
  • Despite Nazi policy towards women in the workplace, the no. of women in employment between 1933 and 1939 increased; this policy had to give way to economic realities – after 1936, there was a labour shortage due to the increased work of the rearmament programme, causing the regime to encourage women to take up employment.
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