Terror State


Nazis + the Law

Hitler = fixed on plan that Nazis wouldn't be restricted by the law + legal systems -> Nazis concept of authority = based on the leadership principle -> Hitler's word was law

Nazis didn't introduce new constitution / legal system after 1933 -> instead introduced new laws  dealing w/ political offences + forced existing justice system to adapt + bend to their will -> introduced new courts+police organisations to ensure that political opponents=dealt with 

SO -> in NR = legal principles in which German law had been based on in WR, no longer applied: 1) citizens weren't treated as equal before the law 2) Judges weren't permitted to operate independently of the gov 3) Individuals could be arrested + imprisoned w/o trial

Police system -> before Nazis, individual state authorities controlled police -> the Nazis didn't abolish these but created a system of party-controlled, political police forces who answered to Hitler

Forces = ** (controlled by Himmler), SD (intelligence gathering offshoot **), SA (controlled by Röhm) + the Gestapo (secret state police force)

1 of 11

The **

= Hitler's bodyguard, had police functions to start w/ + their power expanded when Nazis became main political party

= Main organisation associated w/ the identification + arrest of political prisoners

By 1936, after Himmler been appointed chief of police, the ** controlled the entire Third Reich police system + concentration camps = Under ** control, the police system = instrument of the Führer + Nazi Party

=Himmler wanted the ** to be strictly disciplined, racially pure + obedient  -> key values = loyalty, honour + adherence to Nazi ideology = SA engaged in violence + terror undisciplined whereas ** operated in more systematic way -> Violence + murder = instruments of State power

= ** concentration camp guards brutalised to remove any feelings of humanity they might feel towards their prionsers

2 of 11

The SD

Established 1931, as the internal security service of Nazi Party = Offshoot of the ** -> set up to investigate claims that the party had been infiltrated by its political enemies

SD = led by Reinhard Heydrich

= After 1933 the SDs role was intelligence gathering: monitoring public opinion, identify those who voted 'no' in plebiscites -> + report it back to Hitler

= By 1939, the SD had 50,000 officers -> showing how important its tole was + how successful Heydrich has been in establishing his power base

= SD worked independently of the Gestapo -> led to an overlap + confusion between the 2 organisations

= SD wasn't professional officers but amateurs who were committed to Nazi Party

3 of 11

The Gestapo

= Secret State police -> Developed reputation for being all-knowing = public beleived they had agents in every workplace, pub + neighbourhood BUT in reality -> v. small organisation, only 20,000 officers (1939) to cover whole country

Most officers generally not members of Nazi Party -> Officers were professional police officers = role was to serve the State

= Depended on information supplied by informers e.g. Nazi activists = asked to spy on neighbours + workmates & Every block of flats + residential street = had its own 'block leader' -> report back on suspicious activity

=There was an a lot of info -> impossible for Gestapo to investigate it all SO increasingly resorted to arbitrary(random) arrest + custody

=Despite small size -> v. successful in instilling an atmosphere of fear -> Ppl believed Gestapo agents + informers were everywherere + adjusted their behav accordingly

4 of 11

Courts + Justice system + concentration camps

Few judges + lawyers were members of Nazi party (1933) -> the long tradition of freedom from political interference for lawyers + judges = problem for Nazis as violence + terror carried out by SA+** was clearly illegal + many prosecutions made against Stormtroopers

Coodinating justice system: -> Merging  of various professional assoications of judges + lawyers w/ the league of National Socialist Lawyers -> clear that their career prospects relied on following regime

- Introduced new courts -> Special Court + People's Courts  set up in 1934: dealt w/ -> political crimes, 3 Nazi judges + 2 professional judges + no juries

= New measures + threat of SA + ** = fell into line -> Couldn't interfere w/ Nazis used of terror -> Death penalty used more in Third Reich

Concentration camps (not extermination) = essentially prisons, inmates forced to work, 1st set up in Dachau 1933, early months of regime most prisoners = communits, socialists + trade unionists, torture + brutality broke majority + so unwilling to keep resisting = many released

All under control of ** after 1934 = treatment become systematised; After 1936 when dealt with communists + socialists, concentration dealt w/ 'undesirables' = criminals, asocials, non-Ayrans making up most of camps = purify race -> Camp guards given immunity from prosecution to carry out violence

5 of 11

Effectiveness of opposition - Workers

Gleichschaltung (Nazis attempt to control / coordinate all aspects of German life) -> Little opposition; Hitler had increasing popularity -> Germany depoliticised = no free debate on regime/politics -> some resisted NR attempt to coordinate them into Volksgemeinschaft

Workers: Before 1933 German working class = largest + most unionised workforce in Europe (largest unions linked to SPD) BUT after Jan 1933 union resistance crumbled quick

-> trade unions absorbed into DAF(German Labour Front) + Nazi propaganda emphasised the importance of national as opposed to class solidarity

Strike action = risky BUT did happen -> 1937 = 250 strikes recorded = most due to poor working conditions/low wages -> increased strike activity 1935-36 when widespread discontent over food prices -> seen as threat by regime = short time in prison

Absenteeism = reaction against pressure to work longer hours -> NR concerned w/ level of absenteeism = 1938 new labour regulation introduced laying down severe penalties for 'slackers'     -> another tatic was to deliberately damage machinery -> NR made 'sabotage' a criminal offence 

6 of 11

Effectiveness of opposition - Political

Political resistance -> parties on left SPD + KPD expected to be biggest threat BUT didn't due to it being heavily divied (KPD attacking SPD as 'social facists')

SPD -> Jan 1993 = unprepared for Nazi takeover; party was commited to working w/i legal means = not equipped to resist regime -> SPD activists campaign openly for elction March 1933 = suffered SA violence; SPD deputies bravely defied SA+** intimidation voting against Enabling Act in Reichstag BUT once regime  had legal powers to establish dictatorship = crush SPD

= by end 1933 thousands SPD activists been murdered or inprisoned, w/ SPD leadership fleeing to exile

-> Adapated to changes; under Schumacher party had small secret cells of supporters in factories -> propaganda was smuggled across border BUT constant fear of exposure + arrest by Gestapo limited scope of illegal activities

KPD -> background in revolutionary politics = better prepared than SPD for engaging in underground activity BUT was crushed by wave of repression unleashed upon communists after Hitler came to power = 1st party banned + leader Thälmann arrested early; about 10% KPDs leadership killed by Nazis 1933

-> Established underground network; revolutionary union set up in Belin to recruit members + publish newspapers = ALL networks broken up by Gestapo; BUT not completely; factory cells set up for contact between members (word of mouth to reduce exposure)

Both SPD + KPD cells made for survival as parties ceased to exist = no serious challenge

7 of 11

Effectiveness of opposition - Churches

Christian churches only organisation = independent of regime (NR) -> powerful position w/ the pastor/priest being seen as more important than Nazis BUT church aware that they would be loser in conflict w/ regime -> made compromises at times

Protestant Church -> efforts of regime to coordinate PC into Volsgemeinschaft led to division w/i Protestant congregation -> establishment of Pastors' Emergency League 1933 + its development into Confessional Church 1934 = acts of resistance

-> led by pastors not in Nazi party, opposing to be 'coordinated' into Reich church due to: 1)Trying to protect the independence of PC from NR  2)Resisting attempt to impose the Aryan paragraph on the Church = involved purging from the Church any pastor who'd converted from Judaism  3)Defend orthodox Lutheran theology (based purely on Bible)

During 1934 = Pastors spoke against the 'Nazified Christ', many churches refused to display swastika flags SO = NR responded w/ repression -> dissenting pastors had salaries stopped, banned from teaching in schools + many arrested (by end 1937 = 700pastors imprisoned)

BUT NR failed to silence Confessional Church but most of members preofessed loyalty to Hitler + not a full opposoition w/ only some speaking out 

8 of 11

Effectiveness of opposition - Churches

Roman Catholic Church = When privileges grated to the Catholic Church in the concordat of 1933 came under attack that the church felt at odds w/ NR

1937 = pope issued the papal encyclical 'With Burning Grief' against the background of mounting pressure on the Catholic Church in Germany = condemned Nazi hatred upon the Church = smuggled into germany + read in almost every church pulpit

-> only time CC placed itself in open conflict w/ regime = increase in repression from NR = charges against priests for 'abuse of the pulpit' -> some resistance arrests led to public demonstrations 

Overall = showed courage in opposing NR but only showed defence of its independence not wider opposition = ineffective

9 of 11

Effectiveness of opposition - Youth

Early years of the NR, HJ able to channel youthful energy + rebelliousness into officially approved activities BUT by 1930s = growing signs of disillusionment among youth -> partly because membership made compulsory 1936 + partly due to growing regimentation in youth movements

= HJ + League of German Girls (BDM) made great demands on teens free time like compulsory gymnastics + allday hikes + military drilling (Gleichschaltung = individuals shouldn't have independent activity) 

= increasingly in late 1930s youth would opt out or hummed banned songs BUT = nothing more than teenage rebelliousness but Nazis treated it as a threat 

Some youth formed cliques/ganags to show independence; some criminal gangs but most political

10 of 11

Effectiveness of opposition - Elites

Some aristocratic generals in army + senior civil servants regarded Hitler as threat to old Germany

Conservative elites shared Hitler's aims for Germany + sometimes disapproved of his methods while both civil service + army had a strong tradition of serving State (whoever in charge) but  opposition to Nazi leadership -> overall only a small number in civil service+army opposed Nazis

Opposition to Hitler from civil service + army came to a head in autumn 1938 -> opposition agreed w/ Hitler's long-term aims of rebuilding Germany's military strength +expanding to east BUT felt he was leading unprepared Germany into war

Nov 1937 = Hitler outlined thoughts on union w/ Austria + invasion of Czechslovakia w/i 1 year = in meeting Defence Minister General Blomberg + Commander-in-Chief of the army General Fritsch expressed doubts = Hitler got rid of them + replaced them w/ more compliant generals

Overall opposition = Propaganda, indoctrination + repression = many Germans prepared to support regime; no basis for organised / sustained resistance in NR

11 of 11


No comments have yet been made

Similar History resources:

See all History resources »See all The rise of Germany 1871 – 1945 resources »