Weimar and Nazi Germany


The Revolution of 1918-19

  • Prince Max approached President Wilson of the USA about ending the war. Wilson said that he would not discuss peace terms with Germany while the Kaiser and his military advisers were in control. Wilson insisted that they had to go.
  • At the end of October 1918, the German navy mutinied. In the Kiel Mutiny, sailors at Kiel refused to put to sea and attack the British Navy because they felt that such a move was foolish and might endanger the ceasefire talks. Unrest began to spread across Germany.
  • On the 9th November, Kaiser Wilhelm, realising he now had little support, made the decicion to abdicate.
  • Two days later, the Chancellor of the newly declared German Republic, Friedrich Ebert accepted the Armistice on the basis of Presedent Wilson's Fourteen Points
  • It was assumed by all combats that all states would be involved in the peace process.
  • Ebert then announced that there would be elections for a Constituent Assembly on 19th January 1919.
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The setting up of the Weimar Republic

  • In the final weeks of 1918, Germany continued to experience tremendous upheaval and there were attacks on the new government from the left and the right.
  • After elections for the Constituent Assembly, it was decided that Berlin was too dangerous a place for the members to meet.
  • Therefore, the decision was taken to meet in the more peaceful surroundings of the new town called Weimar.
  • The most important result of the January election was that no single party had a majority of the seats. Therefore, there would have to be a coalition government.
  • The Assembly chose Friedrich Ebery of the Social Democratic Party (SPD) to be the new president. Ebert asked Philipp Scheidemann of the SPD to be Chancellor and form a government. 
  • Lacking a majority, Scheidmann formed a coalition with the Catholic Centre Party (ZP) and the German Democratic Party (DDP).
  • Because there were so many political partied it was difficult to secure an overall majority, and coalitions became a feature of the Weimar Republic.
  • The members of the Assembly had two key tasks before them. The first was the drawing up of a new constitution and the second was the formulation of a peace treaty with the Allies.
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The Weimar Constitution

Following the abdication of the Kaiser, a new constitution had to be drawn up, which was finalised in August 1919. This was the first time that Germany had experienced democracy.

  • The President was elected every seven years, and had control of the army, chose the Chancellor and controlled Article 48. They could also dismiss and call new elections.
  • The Chancellor was chosen by the President, and had to have support from a majority of the Reichstag.
  • Article 48 - The President could suspend constitution in an emergency. He could make laws and keep the Chancellor in office without support from the Reichstag.
  • Reichstag - Had 421 members in 1919, and 647 members in 1933. It was elected every four years. Was more important than the Reichsrat. Could make laws. And the Chancellor had to have support from the majority of its members. 
  • Reichsrat - Had 55 representatives from the 18 German states. It could not make laws but could approve laws apposed by the Chancellor and the Reichstag. 
  • The voters were men and women over the age of twenty.
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Strengths and weaknesses of the new constitution


  • In some ways the laws of the Weimar Republic were very democratic. Men and women had the vote at the age of 20, at a time when in Britain the age for men was 21 and for women was 30.
  • The head of the govermnent (the Chancellor) had to have the support of most of the people in the Reichstag.
  • A strong president was necessary to keep control over the government and to protect the country in a crisis.
  • Voting by proportional representation meant that the number of seats each party had in the Reichstag was based on the number of votes they got. So if a party won 10% of the votes it was given 10% of the seats.


  • Proportional representation made it difficult to create political stability.
  • There was confusion over wether the President or the Reichstag had more power.
  • There were challenges from the army, the civil service and the judiciary.
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The Treaty of Versailles

  • This treaty was the main reason for the early unpopulatiry of the Weimar Republic.
  • Although the Germans signed the armistice on the 11th November 1918, it was not until 28th June 1919 that the treaty ending the First World War was signed.
  • The Germans expected the peace settlement to be based on US President Wilson's Fourteen Points and they expected to return lands that they had conqured.
  • However, they looked to President Wilson's idea of self-determination as a safeguard of Germany's sovereignity.
  • When the terms of the settlement were published, huge humberrs of Germans were horrified.
  • The Treaty of Versailles imposed extremley severe terms on Germany.
  • Germany lost 13% of its land, 48% of its iron production and more than 6 million citizens were absorbed into other countries. 
  • Perhaps the harshest term for Germany was Article 231 - the War Guilt Clause. This stated that Germany had to accept blame for starting the war in 1914. 
  • This was compounded when the treaty denied Germany entry to the League of Nations.
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The Spartacist Uprising

  • During the war, several groups emerged from the German Social Democratic Party.
  • The most radical was the Spartacist League lead by Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg, who eventually sought to establish a state based on communist ideals.
  • In December 1918, the Spartacists' demonstrations against the Government led to clashes with the army and resulted in the deaths of 16 Spartacists.
  • At the end of the month, the Spartacists formed the German Communist Party (KPD).
  • On the 6th of January 1919, the Spartacists began their attempt to overthrow Ebert and the Weimar Government in order to create a Communist State.
  • Ebert and his defence minister, used the Reichswehr (regular army) in Berlin and the Freikorps to put down the rebellion.
  • Within days the uprising was over.
  • The Spartacists were no match for the army and Freikorps
  • Liebknecht and Luxemburg were caputured and killed. 
  • It was the violence of the uprising that forced the new Assebmly to move to Weimar.
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The Kapp Putsch

  • Having resisted the challenge from the Left, Ebert had to face the right in 1920. 
  • When the Weimar Government announced measures in March 1920 to reduce the size of the army and also disband the Freikorps, there was uproar in Berlin. 
  • The leader of the Berlin Freikorps refused to comply.
  • Together with a leading Berlin politician, Wolfgang Kapp, a plan was drawn up to seize Berlin and form a new right-wing government with Kapp as the Chancellor.
  • Kapp stressed the communist threat, the Dolchstoss theory and the severity of the Treaty of Versailles.
  • The Reichswehr in Berlin, commanded by General Luttwitz, supported Ehrhardt and Kapp. 
  • Following Kapp's successful seizure of Berlin on 13th March 1920, the Weimar Government moved to Dresden and then Stuttgart.
  • The new regular army had been asked to put down the Kapp Putsch, but the Commander-in-Cheif von Seeckt, said "the Reichswehr does not fire on Reichswehr."
  • Ebert and Scheidmann called on the people of Berlin not to support the Kapp Putsch and asked them to go on strike.
  • Trade unionists and civil servants supported the Government and, because it had little support, the Putsch collapsed.
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The French occupation of the Ruhr, 1923

  • An occupation by the French and Belgium troops took place in January 1923 when Germay failed again to pay reparations to both these countries. The French were angry because they needed money in order to pay off their own debts to the USA. The French and Belgiuns decided to take the goods they needed, rather than wait for the Germans to send them.

German resistance

  • This time the French occupation was met with passive resistance. However, the resistance turned sour and Germans carried out acts of industrial sabotage. The German workers in the Ruhr went on strike as a protest. Some strikers took more direct action and set factories on fire and sabotaged pumps in some mines so they flooded and could not be worked. A number of strikers were shot by French troops; their funerals led to demonstrations against the invasion. The occupation only served to stir up old memories and remind people of the war.

The results of the occupation

  • The invasion united the German people in their hatred of the French and Belgians.
  • The German Government backed the strikers and printed more money to pay them a wage. The strike meant that even fewer goods were being produced. This extra money plus the collapse in production turned into hyperinflation.
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  • Those people with savings or those on a fixed income found themselves penniless. 
  • People were quick to blame the Weimar politicians.
  • This was yet another humiliation for the new government.
    • Inflation did, however, benefit certain people:
      • Buisnessmen who had borrowed money from the banks were able to pay off their debts.
      • Serious food shortages led to a rise in prices of necessities, especially food, which helped farmers.
      • Foreigners who were in Germany suddenly founf that they had a huge advantage. People who had dollars or pounds found that they could change them for millions of marks and afford things that ordinary Germans could not.
  • In the summer of 1923, Gustav Stresemann became Chancellor.
  • He began to steady things and introduced a new currency, the Rentenmark.
  • The following year the new currency and loans from the USA enabled an economic recovery. It seemed as if the Weimar Republic had weathered the storms and could look foward to a period of stabiloty and prosperity.
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Reasons for economic recovery

  • The Dawes Plan was the plan drew up by Stresseman to try and pursuade the Allies to change the terms of the reparation payments. They would begin at 1 billion marks for the first year and over the nect four years would increase to 2.5 billion marks, in an attempt to help Germany to pay the repatations.
  • The Dawes Plan also aimed to boost the German economy through US Loans, beginning with a loan of 800 million marks. Over the next 6 years, USA companies and banks gave loans of nearly $3,000 million, which not only helped the German economy but also enabled Germany to meet the reparations payments.
  • The Rentenmark was the temporary new currency inotroduced by Stresseman to help restore confidence in the German currency. It was issues in small amounts and was based on property values rather than gold reserves. Then, the following year this currency was converted into the Reichsmark, a new currency backed by gold reserves.
  • The Young Plan was the plan that ran along side the Dawes Plan. The Government regularly complained about the level of payments. So in 1929 the reparations figure was reduced from £6,600 million to £1,850 million. The length of time the Germans had to pay the reparations was also increased to 59 years. This plan was a considerable achievement for Stresseman. 
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The Locarno Pact

  • Stresseman was determined to improve relations with France and Britain, partly in order to restore Germany's international prestige, but also to gain their co-operation in reducing the worst features of the Treaty of Versailles, especially reparations.
  • Stresseman realised that France needed to feel secure in order to co-operate over changes in the Versailles peace treaty.
  • Therefore, in 1925 Germany signed the Locarno Pact with Britain, France, Belgium and Italy. 
  • By this agreement, the countries agreed to keep existing borders between Germany, Belguim and France.
  • The Locarno pact marked Germany's return to the European international scene and began a period of co-operation between Germany, France and Britain sometimes described as the 'Locarno honeymoon'. 
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The League of Nations and Kellogg-Briand Pact

League of Nations

  • In order for the Locarno Pact to come into operation, Germany had to become a member of the League of Nations, an international organisation established in 1920 to try to maintain peace. 
  • In September 1926, Germany was given a permanent seat on the Council of the League of Nations.
  • This confirmed Germany's return to Great Power status and gained considerable prestige for Stresseman. 
  • It was a bold move on his part because many Germans regarded the League as the guardian of the hated Treaty of Versailles. 
  • Moreover, Stresseman used Germany's position in the League to bring about the young plan.

The Kellogg-Briand Pact

  • In 1928 Germany signed the Kellogg-Briand Pact along with 64 other nations.
  • It was agreed that they would keep their armies for self-defence and solve all international disputes 'by peaceful means. 
  • The Pact also showed improved relations between the USA and the leading European nations and fully confirmed that Germany was once again one of the leading nations.
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The Golden Age

  • The period between 1924 and 1929 is often descibed as a 'golden age' in the Weimar Republic due to significant changes in culture, the standard of living and the position of women.
  • The Weimar Republic also saw an explosion of new cultural ideas in painting, architecture, the theatre and cinema.
  • During this time, German workers did, to a certain extent benefit from increases in the value of real wages. However, the middle class did not share this increase in prosperity.
  • Unemployment generally fell during this time, but it remained high amog those who worked in the professions, such as lawyers and teachers. 
  • Weimar Governments also attempted to deal with the critical shortage of housing in many parts of Germany, and between 1924 and 1931 more than two million new homes were built.
  • By 1928, homelessness had been reduced by more than 60%.
  • The Weimar Republic extended the series of reforms made by Otto von Bismarck in the 1880s, and required workers and employees to make contributions to a national scheme for unemployment welfare.  
  • This scheme aimed to provide money for the ill and old, including health, accident and illness incurence schemes. 
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The position of women during the Golden Age

  • In 1919, women over the age of 20 were given the vote and took an increasing interest in politics.
  • The Weimar Constitution also introduced equality in education for the sexes, equal oppertunity in civil service appointments and equal pay in the profession. 
  • By the end of this period, German women had some of the most advanced legal rights of any country in Europe.
  • The most obvious change to employment was the growing number of women in new areas of employment, most noticeably in public employment. 
  • By 1933 there were 100,000 female teachers and 3,000 doctors. This raised the issue of the type of woman was suitable for such work. 
  • Married women who worked were often criticised for working and accused of neglecting their homes.
  • Women enjoyed much more freedom socially when had been the case before the Weimar Republic. 
  • Women went out unescorted, drank and smoked in public, were fashion conscious, had their hair cut short and wore make up. 
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Cultural changes during the Golden Age

  • This period saw the introduction of some of the most exciting art and culture in Europe.
  • The strict pre-war censorship was removed.
  • Before the war most German art had been detached from everyday life. In contrast, most Weimar artists tried to show everyday life. This approach was given the name 'Neue Sachlichkeit' meaning 'new objectivity'. 
  • Architecture also flourished.
  • This was a golden age for the German cinema with its best-known director Frits Lang who produced the film Metroplis, which is generally acclaimed as the most techincally advanced film of the decade. 
  • This period encouraged literature from both the right and left in politics. 
  • Another cultural change was the emergence of the new operas and plays. 
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Hitler and the German Workers' Party

  • At the end of WW1, Hitler was angry about the defeat of Germany and hated the new Weimar Republic.
  • He remained in the army and became an informant with its intelligence in Munich.
  • In September 1919, one of his duties was to attend and report on a meeting of the German Workers' Party (DAP).
  • At the meeting, Hitler was angered by the comments one of the speakers made and he made a powerful speech in reply.
  • Anton Drexler (the founder of the party) was so impressed by Hitler that he asked him to join the party, and a short time later he did.
  • In the DAP, Hitler discovered that he was good at public speaking.
  • His enthusiasm was rewarded within the party when he was made responsible for recruitment and propoganda.
  • He spoke at several meetings and his standard themes were:
    • The Dolchstoss.
    • his disgust at the Treaty of Versailles.
    • his hatred of the Weimar and the November Criminals.
    • What he was as the communist0jewish conspiracy focused on destroying Germany.
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The NSDAP, 1920-23

  • In Febuary 1920, Hitler and Drexler wrote what became known as the Tewnty-Five Point Programme. 
  • This was a political manifesto and Hitler kept to most of the ideas throughout the rest of his life.
  • The programme was announced at a key meeting in Munic in 1920 and Hitler was largely responsible for this - his public speaking attracted hundreds to meetings of the NSDAP.
  • Increased membership meant the party was able to publish its own newspaper.
  • Hitlers influence on the party was such that he became its leader in July 1921, and began to develop his ideas on how he should lead the party.
  • He had the title of 'Leader' but gradually developed the word to have a much more powerful meaning.
  • For him, it meant that he had to have absolute power and authority in the party and that he was answerable to no one.
  • This was the Fuhrerprinzip(the leadership principle) and came to be a cornerstone of the party organisation. 
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The role of the Sturmabteilung

  • As leader of the Nazi Party, Hitler began to make some changes.
  • He adopted the swastika as the emblem of the party and the use of the raised arm salute.
  • The political meetings in Munich at this time generated much violence and, in order to protect Nazi speakers, protection squads were used.
  • These men were orgainsed into the Gymnastic and Sports Section, which developed into the SA (Sturmabteilung), in 1921, led by Ernst Rohm.
  • The members of the SA were more commonly known as the 'Brownshirts' because of the colour of their uniform.
  • The SA became the private army of the Nazi Parrt and pledged loyalty and obedience to it.
  • During the period 1921-23, the SA was used to disrupt the meetings of the Social Democratic Party and the Communist Party.
  • Hitler ensured that there was maximum publicity for his party and membership grew from about 1,100 in June 1920 to about 55,000 in November 1923.
  • His speeches had the unusual anti-Weimar criticisms, but also contained growing references to the purity of the German race and vitriolic comments about Jews. 
  • For Hitler and his followers, the Jews were becoming the scapegoat for all Germany's problems.
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The Munich Putsch

  • When the economic and political crises of 1923 hit Germany, Hitler decided that the Nazi Party was in a position to overthrow the regional Government in Munich and could then march on Berlin.
  • Hitler detested the Weimar Republic and, following the invasion of the Ruhr by the French and the onset of hyperinflation, he felt that the Weimar was now so disgraced that it could easily be toppled. 
  • Therefore, he decided his first step would be to seize control of Bavaria and then Berlin. He would then remove the weak Weimar politicians and form his own Nazi government.
  • Why did Hitler launch the Munich Putsch?
    • Hitler hated the Weimar Republic.
    • Weimar was disgraced, Hitler beleived people across Germany would support him instead.
    • The Nazi parrt had increased support by 1923, especially in Bavaria.
    • Hitler blamed the Weimar for hyperinflation.
    • Hitler was confident that Kahr and the army in Bavaria would support him.
    • Hitler had won the support of General Ludendorff, the former army Commander-in-Cheif, an extremely popular figure.
    • Hitler hated Versailles and wanted to remove the terms of the treaty.
    • German humiliation following the French occupation of the Ruhr. Many German people were furious that the Weimar Republic eventually called off passive resistance to the French occupation.
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Key features of the Munich Putsch

  • On the evening of 8th November 1923, Hitler + 600 Nazis seized a huge beer hall in Munich where Kahr, Seisser and Lossow were attending a political meeting.
  • Hitler placed the three in a room and wom promises of support for his planned takeover from them after they had been held at gunpoint.
  • This is the event that is known as the Munich Putsch.
  • Amazingly, the three were allowed to leave the building.
  • The following day Seisser and Lossow changed their minds and organised troops and police to resist Hitler's planned armed march through Munich.
  • Despite his plans having fallen apart, Hitler continued with the march through Munich.
  • However, the Nazis had only about 2,000 rifels and when they were challenged they were no match for the well-armed police. 
  • As the two opposing forces met, shots were fired and 16 Nazis and 4 police officers were killed.
  • The incident was soon over and the Nazis scattered.
  • Hitler disappeared but was arrested two days later on the day that the Nazi Party was banned.
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The importance of the Munich Putsch

  • Hitler was arrested along with Erich Ludendorff, and was tried for treason.
  • The trial began in Febuary 1924 and lasted for one month.
  • Thr trial gave Hitler nationwide publicity and introduced him to the German public via the national press.
  • He denied the charge of treason.
  • Hitler insisted that he was simply attempting to restore Germany's greatness and was resisting the weak and feeble Weimar Government.
  • He attacked the Weimar at every possible oppertunity and used the trial to put foward his political views, which he put in speeches, and were reported in national newspapers.
  • Hitler was found guilty of treason but the judges treated him leniently. Ludendorff was not charged.
  • On 1st April, Hitler was sentenced to 5 years, but only served nine months.
  • Whilst he was inside the prison he wrote his book Mein Kampf (my struggle).
  • His sentence allowed him time to reflect on the Putsch and his future in politics.
  • Hitler had a relatively easy time in gaol (prison) and he was permitted as many visitors as he wanted. 
  • He received large amounts of main and could access any books he wanted.
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The impact of the Putsch on the Nazi Party

The immediate consequences of the Putsch were Hitler's imprisonment and the Nazi Party going into decline. However, in the long term Hitler and the Nazi Party gained from the failed putsch:

  • Hitler's trial was a propaganda success for the Nazi Party - Hitler made himself known nationally and won support from other nationalists.
  • Hitler realised that he needed to have complete control over the Party in order to garuentee its future success.
  • Hitler realised that coups did not work and that the Nazi Party would need to use legal means to gain power - by winning elections.

This all meant that the development of the Party changed from 1924 onwards.

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The lean years, 1924-28

  • The fortunes of the party declines when Hitler was in prison.
  • The party had been banned but secretly survived.
  • On his release from prison, Hitler pursuaded the President of Bavaria to lift the ban on the Nazi Party.
  • In Febuary, the Nazi Party was re-launched and Hitler began to take control once again.
  • He decided to create party branches, called Gaue, each led by a Gauleiter
  • At the Bamberg party conference in 1926, Hitler continued to strengthen his position as leader of the party.
  • Possible rivals to Hitler were overthrown.
  • By 1926, Hitler was now the undisputed leader, and his message was to use propaganda to win over voters.
  • The Twenty-Five Point programme of 1920 acted as the cornerstone of Nazi Party policy.
  • However, in 1928, Point 17 was ammended to say that privately owened land would only be confiscated if it was owened by a Jew.
  • Before 1928, Hitler had tried to win the support of urban voters, but now targeted rural voters
  • This came at the time when farmers began to experience ecominoc problems and to find Nazism attractive.
  • Hitlers leadership and reorganisation of the party achieved results. The party only had 27,000 members in 1925 but had over 100,00 by the end of 1928. It was a nationwide party that began to attract all classes. Yet, the Nazis only won 12 seats in the 1928 elections, compared to the 32 they had in 1924.
  • The political and economic events of 1929 helped the Nazi Party rise from relative obscurity and become one of the leading parties in the country. The 'lean years' were at an end.
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The Wall Street Crash and Great Depression

    • The Wall Street Crash
  • By 1929, much of Germany had experiences five years of prosperity.
  • The loand from the USA had helped remove inflation and there had been much investment in industry.
  • However, the prosperity depended on the USA.
  • When its stock market collapsed in October 1929 - the Wall Street Crash - the problems created had huge consequences for the German Economy.
    • The Great Depression
  • Bankers and financers in the USA now recalled the loans made to Germany in 1924 under the Dawes Plan.
  • International trade began to contract and German exports fell rapidly in the years after 1929.
  • The Great Depression had arrived in Germany.
  • Unemployment began to rise as employers sacked workers and factories closed.
  • German farmers had already been experiencing problems and continued fall in food prices worsened their plight.
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Economic impacts of Unemployment

  • The USA's stock market collapsed in October 1929 - which is known as the wall street crash - the problems created had huge consequences for the German Economy.
  • Bankers and Financers in the USA recalled loans made to Germany in 1924 under the Dawes Plan.
  • International trade began to contract and German exports fell rapidly in the years after 1929.
  • The Great Depression arrived in Germany.
  • Unemployment began to rise as employers sacked workers and factories closed.
  • German farmers had already been experiencing problems and the continued fall in food prices worsened their plight.
  • Some Germans were unable to pay their rents and found themselves living on the streets.
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Politial impacts of Unemployment

  • The Chancellor made a cut of 2.5% to the wages of civil servants.
  • Taxes were increased on things such as income, beer and sugar.
  • Some new taxes were introduced.
  • If a political party could offercle ar and simple solutions to the economic problems, it could readily win votes.
  • The economic crisis created problems for the Weimar Government and there was little agreement about how to tackle unemployment and poverty
  • The Nazis made a breakthrough in the September 1930 election, winning 107 seats.
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Why unemployment led to increased support for the

  • There was little agreement about how to tackle unemployment and poverty.
  • March 1930 - Heinrich Bruning of the Centre Party succeeded Muller as Chancellor, ad because he did not have a majority he relied on President Hindenburg and Article 48.
  • After this the Reichstag was used less frequently. Historians see this as the death of Weimar.
  • When Bruning called a general election in September 1930 (in hopes of winning a majority in the Reichstag) the Nazis made a breakthrough, winning 107 seats and were the second largest party.
  • Bruning's reduction of government spending caused him to loose support of the unemployed and led him to being nicknamed the 'hunger chancellor'.
  • Bruning resigned in May 1932 and during his time as Chancellor the right-wing Nazi Party had had success in the regional and general elections. 
  • The depression seemed to have unleashed chaos across Germany, which resulted in Hitler gaining more and more support and becoming Chancellor in January 1933.
  • One reason for increased support for the Nazis was the fear, especially among the middle classes, of a possible communist takeover.
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Growth in support for the Nazis - the role of Goeb

  • 1929-33 - the Nazis increased their support through propaganda.
  • They did this by having mass rallies, putting up posters in prominent places and displaying banners whereever possible so that the Nazis appeared to be everywhere.
  • The Nazis were most fortunate in having a person who understood how to use the mass media and how to manipulate huge audiences, Josef Goebbels. 
  • Goebbels ensured that the Nazi message was simple and frequently repeated. 
  • By the early 1930s, the Nazis owned 120 newspapers regularly read by hundreds of thousands of people across the country.
  • As Germany descended into political chaos in 1930-32, Goebbels was able to present the Nazi Party in a local, national and presidential elections.
  • The Nazi message was heard everywhere, especially on the radio. 
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Growth in support for the Nazis - Nazi electoral s

  • The impact of the Wall Street Crash and the developing Depression disrupted the political situation.
  • Unemployment had hit all classes and thus, Hitler and the Nazis tried to appeal to all sections of society.
  • The coalition governments had no real solutions to offer.
  • The Nazis alone could unite Germany at a time of economic crisis.
  • The Nazis played on the resentment of the Treaty of Versailles, and only the Nazis could restore Germany to its former glory.
  • If there were any who doubted the simple Nazi messages, Hitler ensured that another scapegoat could be offered. He blamed the Jews for Germany's problems.
  • The 1930 election proved to be the breakthrough for Hitler and the Nazi Party.
  • For Bruning, the election meant that he still had to rely on other parties and, moreover, he continued to rely on Hindenburg and Article 48.
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Growth in support for the Nazis - presidential ele

  • During the 1932 election the Nazis were quick to use modern technology.
  • An example being that Hitler was able to speak in five different cities in one day by using an aeroplane.
  • Goebbels eneured that there were mass rallies, that the Nazi message was being spread and that Hitler was being recognised as a national political figure. 
  • Hindenburg failed by a slight margin by winning slightly less than 50% of the votes so there had to be a second round.
  • Hitler was successful in winning a large number of votes in each round, though he was quite dissapointed at his results. 
  • Goebbles presented the presidential defeat as a victory because of the huge vote for Hitler and the overall percentage of votes won.
  • The tactics used by Hitler and Goebbels were paying off and there was greater success in the Reichstag electios in July 1932.
  • Goebbels ensured that the German people were given positive images of Hitler and the Nazis.
  • He also continued to play on their fears, especially the fear of communism.
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Growth in support for the Nazis - financial suppor

  • Hitler and the Nazis could not have conducted their campaigns without financial backers.
  • An example of how funds were crucial came in 1932.
    • 600,000 copies of the Nazi economic programme were produced and distrubited in the July Reichstag election.
    • The Nazi party received finds from leading industrialists such as Thyssen,Krupp and Bosch.
  • These industrialists were terrified of the communist threat and concerned at the growth of trade union power.
  • They knew that Hitler hated communism and that he would reduce the influence of the unions.
  • By 1932, the Nazis began to develop close links with the National Party (DNVP).
  • The DNVP leader was a newspaper tycoon, and permitted the Nazis to publish articles which attacked Bruning. 
  • Hence, Goebbels continued the nationwide campaign against Weimar and kept the Nazis in the forefront of people's minds.
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Growth in support for the Nazis - the SA and the c

  • In speeches, Hitler claimed that parliamentary democracy did not work and that only he and the NSDAP could provide the strong government Germany needed.
  • The Nazis used the SA to provide protection for their party meetings and to disrupt the meetings of their opponents, especially the comminusts. 
  • Hitler reappointed Ernest Rohm as the leader of the SA in Jan 1931 and within a year its membership had increased by 100,000 to 170,000.
  • The communists had their own private militia called the Red Front Fighters (RFB).
  • There were countless fights between the RFB and the SA.
  • Hitler saught to show that German people that he coud stamp our the Bolshevik violence and their threat of revolution.
  • The SA also attacked and intimidated any overt opponents of the Nazis.
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Growth in support for the Nazis - the role of Hitl

  • Hitler had developed the art of public speaking in the early days of the NSDAP.
  • His speeches alwys attracted many people and helped increase the membership of the Nazi Party.
  • He helped to dwar up the Twenty-Five Point Programme and was fully aware after the Putsch he had to present himself and his party as law-abiging and democratic.
  • He also know that he had to be able to offer something to all groups in German society if he was to be successful in any elections.
  • He never lost sight of these points during the two years before he became leader of Germany.
  • Hitler was also a very charismatic person.
  • The image created was that his whole existence was given to Germany and ther were no distractions to prevent him achieving his goals. 
  • He had created a philosophy which all could comprehend.
  • His vision of the future revolvd around making Germany the strongest nation in the world.
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Political developmets in 1932

  • Political instability and the eventual, reluctant support of Hindenburg brought Hitler to power as Chancellor in 1933.
  • After the 1932 elections Hitler was now the leader of the second largest party in the Reichstag.
  • When a general election was called for July 1932, the Nazis were optimistic on improving on their numbers of votes.
  • Brunings dependence on the President and minimal support from the Reichstag weakened the Weimar Government.
  • By May 1932 he had lost the support of the President because of his failure to improve the economy.
  • In the run up to this election, about 100 people were killed and more than 1125 wounded in clashes between political parties. 
  • In the July election the Nazis won 230 seats, making them the largest party in the Reichstag.
  • However, Franz von Papen of the Centre Party did not relinguish his post as Chancellor.
  • Hitler demanded the post of Chancellor, and in a meeting in August, Hindenburg refused to contemplate Hitler for the role even if he did lead the second largest party in the Reichstag.
  • It was not possible for any party to command a majority in the Reichstag and it was impossible to maintain a coalition.
  • Papen dissolved the Reichstag in September, and new elections were set for early November.
  • He also held on to the opinion that the Nazis were loosing momentum and that if he had held on they would slowly dissapear from the scene.
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Political intrigue

  • Papen could not secure a majority in the Reichstag, and Hitler continued to demand the post of Chancellor.
  • Papen suggested abolishing the Weimar constitution, and at this, Kurt von Schleicher, the Minister of Defence, purseauded Hindenburg that if this happened their might be a Civil War.
  • Papen lost Hindenburg's confidence and resigned.
  • He was succeeded by Schleicher, who hoped to attain a majority from the Reichstag by forming a Querfront, meaning 'cross-front', wherby he would bring together different strands from left and right parties.
  • Papen was determined to regain power and to this end he met Hitler in January 1933 and they agreed that Hitler should lead a Nazi-Nationalist government with Papen as the Vice-Chancellor.
  • Intrigue and trickery now took the place of considered, open political debate.
  • The army, major landowners and leaders of industry were convinced that Papen and Hitler were saving Germany from Scheicher's plans and a possible communist takeover. 
  • Papen was able to convince President Hindenberg that a coalition government with Hitler as Chancellor would save Germany and bring stability to the country.
  • On 30th January 1933, Adolf Hitler became Chancellor of Germany.
  • He was the leader of the largest party and he had been invited to be leader by the President.
  • He had achieved his aim of becoming Chancellor by legal and democratic means.
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The importance of the Reichstag fire

  • Hitlers position as Chancellor was not strong because the Nazis and his allies, the Nationalist Party, did not have the majority in the Reichstag. Furthermore, President Hindenburg hated him.
  • Hitler called for a general election for 5th March, hoping it would give him a clear majority in the Reichstag.
  • Violence and terror were again seen in this election campaign and there were about 70 deaths in the weeks leading up to voting day.
  • One week before the election, on 27th Febuary, the Reichstag building was set on fire.
  • It is not known who started the fire, but Marinus van der Lubbe, a Dutch Communist, was found at the scene of the fire and arrested. 
  • This was an ideal opportunity for Hitler and Goebbels to exploit, and they claimed that van der Lubbe had started the fire and that the communists were about to stage a takeover.
  • On the day following the fire, Hitler persuaded President Hindenburg to sign the 'Decree for the Protection of People and State'.
  • The decree replaced the constitutional government by a permanent state of emergency and suspended basic civil rights.
  • It allowed the nazis to imprison large numbers of their political opponents.
  • In the week after the fire, 4000 Communist Party members were arrested including the leader, Ernst Thalmann.
  • In addition, the SA killed 51 Nazi opponents and injured several hunderd.
  • The police did nothing, Communist and socialist newspapers were banned.
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The importance of the Enabling Act

  • In the election in March 1933, the Nazis won 288 seats.
  • Despite imprisoning many of the Socialists and Communists and having all the advantages of media control, the Nazis did not wi a majority of votes, even though they increased their vote by 5.5 million on the November election.
  • Therefore, a coalition government was formed with the National Party (DNVP), ensuring a majority in the Reichstag.
  • Even having a majority, Hitler was dissapointed because he needed two-thirds of the seats in order to be able to change their constitution.
  • Hitlers next step was to pass the Enabling Act.
  • This would give him and gis government full powers for the next four years and would mean the Reichstag would become a rubber stamp for Nazi activities.
  • As Chancellor, Hitler would have greater powers than the President.
  • The Enabling Act was passed but by devious means. 
  • The Communist Party would not prevent the passing of the act becayse its members were in Jail and the Centre Perty decided to support the Act because Hitler promised to respect the rights of the Catholic Church.
  • The Enabling Act became law on 24th March and this signalled the end of the Weimar constitution and democracy.
  • Hitler could now move to secure closer control of the nation by means of his new law.
  • It was renewed in 1937 and 1941.
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The removal of opposition

With the new Enabling Act, Hitler was in a position to bring German society into line with Nazi philosophy. This policy was called Gleichschaltung. It would create a truly national socialist state and would mean that every aspect of the social, political and economic life of German Citizens was controlled and monitored by the Nazis.

On 2nd May 1933, all trade unions were banned. The Nazis said that a national community had been created and therefore such organisations were no longer needed. The Nazi German Labour Front (DAF) was set up to replace the trade unions and employers; groups. Wages were decided by the DAF and workers recieved workbooks, which recorded the record of employment. Strikers were outlawd and any dissenters would be sent to the new prisons - concentration camps.

On 14th July 1933, the Law against the Formation of Parties was passed, which made the Nazi Party the sole legal political party in Germany. However, before this law was passed, the existing parties had experienced severe restrictions. Communist Party members had not been allowed to take their seats in the Reichstag and property had been confiscated. On 10th May, the Socialist Party had its headquarters and other property seized. In June, the Socialsts gave up their seats in the Reichstag and by the end of June, all the other parties had dissolved themselves. Germany was now a one-party state.

Hitler also broke down the federal structure of Germany. There were 18 districts, and each had its own parliament. On occasion in the Weimar period, some of the districts had caused problems for the President because their political make-up differed and they refused to accept decisions made in the Reichstag. President Ebert  had issued more than 130 emergency decrees to overrule some of the districts. Hitler decided that the districts were to be run by Reich governors and their parliaments were abolished in January 1934. Thus he centralised Germany for the first time since 1871.

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The importance of the Night of the Long Knives

  • The Night of the Long Knives was the purging of Hitler's political and military rivals in the SA.
  • One cause of the removal of the leaders of the SA was the need to win the support of the army.
  • In addition, in the first months of his Chancellorship, Hitler saw the SA as a major threat.
  • The SA had played a key part in the growth of the Nazis and by 1933 they were well known aross Germany.
  • Most of the SA were working-class men who favoured the socialist views of the Nazi programme. They were hoping that Hitler would introduce reforms to help the workers.
  • during the first months of 1933 te SA had helped to create an atmosphere of terror and intimidation when Gleichschaltung was introduced.
  • Some leading Nazis, such as Wilhelm Frick and Hermann Goering, felt that the activities of the SA might cause a backlash against Hitler, so began to look for ways of controlling them. 
  • There was further tension because Ernst Rohm, leader of the SA, wanted to incorporate the army into the SA and was dissapointed with Hitler's close relations with industrialists and army leaders.
  • Rohm wanted more government interference in the running of the country in order to help ordinary citizens.
  • There was added tensions for Hitler because his personal bodyguard, the **, lead by Heinrich Himmler, wished to break away from the SA. 
  • Goering wanted to lead the armed forces and he too saw an opponent in Rohm. 
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The events of 30th June 1934 and the impact of the

  • Hitler took action in June, following information from Himmler that Rohm was about to seize power.
  • On 30th June 1934, Rohm and the main leaders of the SA were shot by members of the **.
  • Hitler also took the opportinity to settle some old scores:
    • Former Chancellor Kurt Von Schleicher was murdered.
    • As was Gregor Strasser, a key figure among those Nazis with socialist views similar to Rohm. 
    • Figures vary, but it is thought that about 400 people were murdered in the purge
  • The Night of the Long Knives is often seen as the turning point for Hitler's rule in Germany.
  • He eradicated would-be opponents and secured the support of the army.
  • The SA was relegated to a minor role and if there was any doubt about Hitler's rule, it was now clear that fear and terror would play significant roles. 
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The support of the army

  • Hitler had been keen to secure the support of the army since his appointment as Chancellor.
  • He was aware that army officers did not like the SA and that they viewed its activities with distaste.
  • He began to think that is he removed the SA, he could win the support of the army in his bid for presedency because the army leaders did not like its soclialist nature.
  • Hindenburg was becoming very frail and Hitler sought to combine his own post and that of President.
  • The Night of the Long Knives was important for Hitler because the army leaders offered their support after the leaders of the SA were assassinated. 
  • For Hitler, the purging of the SA was crucial because he had had his opponents murdered and there had been no opposition to his actions.
  • As a result, he grew in confidence, especially when a law passed on 3rd July 1934 which stated that Hitler's actions during the Night of the Long Knives were legal.
  • On the death of Hindenburg in August 1934, the army swore allegiance to Hitler who, having combined the posts of chancellor and President, was now their Fuhrer.
  • In the referendum that followed, more than 90% of the voters agreed with Hitlers actions.
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The role of the ** and the Gestapo

  • The role of the **:
  • The ** had been formed in 1925 to act as a bodyguard unit for Hitler and was lead by Himmer after 1929.
  • Himmler built up the ** until it had established a clear, visible identity - members wore black.
  • They showed total obedience to the Fuhrer.
  • By 1934 the ** had more than 50,000 members who were to be fine examples of the Atyan race and were expected to marry racially pure wives.
  • Membership and its variuos bodies had grown to 250,000 by 1939.
  • After the Night of the Long Knives, the ** became responsible for the removal of all opposition within Germany.
  • Within the **, the Security Service (SD) had the task of maintaining security within the party and then the country.
  • The Gestapo
  • The Gestapo (secret state police) was set up in 1933 by Goering and in 1936 it came under the control of Himmler and the **.
  • By 1939, the Gestapo was the most important police sesction of the Nazi state.
  • It could arrest and imprison those suspected of opposing the state.
  • The most likely destination would be a concentration camp run by the **.
  • It has been estimated that, by 1339, there were about 160,000 people under arrest for political crimes. 
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The Sicherheitsdienst (SD)

  • The Sicherheirsdienst (SD)
  • The SD was set up in 1931 as the intelligence body of the Nazi Party and was under the control of Himmler.
  • Himmler appointed a former naval officer, Reinhard Heydrich, to organise the department. 
  •  Members of the SD were employed by the Nazi Party, which paid their salaries.
  • The SD attracted many professionals and highly educated people such as lawyers, economists and professors of politics. 
  • The main aim of the SD was to discover actual and potential enimies of the Nazi Party and ensure that they were then removed.
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The concentration camps

  • As soon as the Enabling Act had been passed, the Nazis established a new kind of prison - a concentration camp - to confine those whom they deemed to be their political, ideological and racial opponents.
  • At first, concentration camps were set up to detain political opponents including Communists, Socialists, trade unionists and others who had left-wing and liberal political views.
  • In 1939 there were more than 150,000 people under arrest for political offences.
  • The SD and ** ran the concentration camps though only the Gestapo had the authority to carry out arrests or interrogations and send people there.
  • The earliest of these camps was Dachau, near Munich.
  • Prisoners were classified into different catagories, each denoted by a different-coloured triangle which had to be worn. 
  • For example, those who wore black triangles were vagrants and 'work-shy', pink triangles denoted homosexual people and red triangles were political prisoners.
  • Initially, work in the camps was hard and pointless, like breaking stones.
  • But gradually prisoners were used as forced workers in quarries, construction, coal mines and armament factories.
  • The camp inmates were underfed and treated with great brutality and mortality rates were very high.
  • If someone was killed at a concentration camp family members would recieve a note saying that the inmate was died of disease or had been shot trying to escape.
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The Nazi control of the legal system

  • Even though the Nazis controlled the Reichstag and could make laws, Hitler wanted to ensure that all laws were interpreted in the Nazi fashion.
  • The law courts therefore had to experience Gleichschaltung, just as any other part of society.
  • Some judges were removed and all had to become members of the National Socialist League for the Maintenance of Law (NSRB).
  • This meant that Nazi views were upheld in the courts.
  • In October 1933, the German Lawyers Front was established and ther were more than 10,000 members by the end of the year.
  • The lawyers had to swear that they would 'strive as German jurists to follow the course of our Fuhrer to the end of our days.'
  • From 1936, judges hah to wear the swastika and Nazi eagle on their robes. 
  • In 1934, a new People's Court was established to try cases of treason.
  • The judges were loyal Nazis.
  • Judged knew that the Minister of Justice would check to see if they had been lenient and sometimes Hitler would alter sentences if he felt they were too soft. 
  • By the end of 1934, Hitler controlled the Reichstag, the army and the legal system. 
  • The Nazi police and security organisations had wormed their way into the fabric of society and it was now almost impossible for anyone to escape the power and the grip of the Nazis.
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Nazi policies towards the Church

  • Nazi ideals were opposed to the beliefs and values of the Christian Church.
  • However, Hitler could not immediatley persecute Christianity as Germany was essentially a Christian country.
  • Almost two-thirds of the population was Protestant, most of whom lived in the north; almost one-third was Catholic, most of whom lived in the south. 
  • Hitler set up a Ministry of Church Affairs in 1935 in an attempt to weaken the hold of Catholic and Protestant churches had on the people. 
  • In addition to the ministry, the German Faith Movement was encouraged by the Nazis, in the hope of replacing Christian Values and ceremonies with pagan (non-Christian) ideas.
  • However, only about 5% of the population had joined it. 
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The Catholic Church

  • Depsite the fact that many Catholics supported Hitler because of his opposition to communism, Hitler saw the Catholic Church as a threat to his Nazi state:
    • Catholics owed their first allegiance not to Hitler but to the Pope. They had divided loyalties. Hitler said a person was either a Christian or a German, but not both. 
    • There were Catholic schools and youth organisations whose message was at odds with the Nazi party.
    • The Catholics consistently supported the Centre Party. Hitler intended to remove this party (the party dissolved itself in early July 1933).
  • At first however, Hitler decided to co-operate with the Catholic Church. 
  • In July 1933, he signed a concordat (or agreement) with Pope Pius XI. The Pope agreed that the Catholic Church would stay out of politics if Hitler agreed not to interfere with the Church. 
  • Within a few months Hitler had broken this agreement.
    • Pruests were harassed and arrested. Many criticised the Nazis and ended up in concentrtion camps.
    • Catholic schools were disrupted and then abolished.
    • Catholic youth movements and closed down.
    • Monasteries were closed.
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The Protestant Church

  • There were some Protestants who admired Hitler.
  • They were called 'German Christians'.
  • They established a new Reich Church, hoping to combine all Protestants under one Church.
  • Their leader was Ludwig Muller, who was a member of the NSDAP and became the Reich Bishop, the Church's national leader, in September 1933.
  • However, many Protestants opposed Nazism, which they believed conflicted greatly with their own Christian beliefs. 
  • They were led by Pastor Martin Niemoller, a First World War submarine commander.
  • In December 1933 they set up the Pastors' Emergency League for those who opposed Hitler.
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Goebbels and the Ministry of Propaganda - newspape

  • Goebbels used his Ministry of Public Propaganda and Enlightenment and the Reich Chamber of Culture to control the thoughts, beliefs and opinions of the German people. 
  • All aspects of the media were censored and skilfully manipulated by Goebbels. 


  • Non-Nazi newspapers and magazines were closed down.
  • By 1935, the Nazis had closed down more than 1,600 newspapers and thousands of magazines.
  • The Reich Press Laws was passed in October 1933 and it resulted in the removal of Jewish and left-wing journalists. 
  • Editors were told by the Propaganda Ministry what could be printed and and foreign news which was piblished had to be taken from the Nazi-controlled German Press Agency. 


  • An annual mass rally was held at Nuremberg to advertise the power of the Naxi state and spectacular parades were held on other special occasions, such as Hitlers birthday.
  • Local rallies and marches were led by the SA and the Hitler Youth.
  • The Nuremberg rallies would last several days and attracted almost one million people each year after the Nazis came to power.
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Goebbels and the Ministry of Propaganda - radio an


  • All radio stations were placed under Nazi control.
  • Cheap mass-produced radios were sold and could be brought on instalments. 
  • By 1939, about 70% of German families owened a radio.
  • Sets were installed into cafes, factories, schools and offices and loudspeakers were places in streets.
  • It was important that the Nazi message was heard by as many people as possible, as much as was possible. 
  • Importantly, the People's Radio lacked shortwave reception, making it difficult for Germans to listen to foreign broadcasts.


  • Posters were cleverly used to put across the Nazi message, with the young particularly targeted.
  • They were to be seen everywhere and the messgages they contained were simple and direct.
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Goebbels and the Ministry of Propaganda - film and


  • Goebells also realised the populatiry of the cinema, with over 100 films made each year and audiences exceeding 250 million in 1933. 
  • He was one of the first to realise its potential for propaganda.
  • All film plots were shown to Goebbels before going into production.
  • He realised that many Germans were bored by overly political films.
  • Instead love stories and thrillers were given pro-Nasi slants.
  • All film performances were accompanied by a 45-intre official newsteel which glorified Hitler and Germany an publicised Nazi achievements. 
  • Hitler ordered Goebbels to make anti-sematic films but these were not always popular with audiences. 
  • However, they were made frequently after 1940.


  • All books, plays and poems were carefully censored and controlled to put across the Nazi message.
  • Encouraged by Geobbels, students in Berlin burnt 20,000 books written by Jews, communists and anti-Nazi university professors in n may 1933, and there were similar burnings like this all across Germany throughout the year.
  • Many writers were pursuaded or forced to write books, plays and poems which praised Hitler's achievements.
  • Some famous German writers went intoself-imposed exile rather than live under the Nazis.
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Nazi control of the Arts - Music and Theatre

  • Hitler realised that other aspects of everyday life could be controlled in order to re-inforce the ideology of Nazism.
  • So, the arts were controlled and people became used to seeing Nazi imagery in paintings, buildings and plays. It became impossible to avoid the message of the Nazis.

Music and Theatre

  • Jazz, which was 'black' music, was seen as racially inferior and banned. Insead, the Nazis enouraged traditional German folk music together with the classical music of Brahms, Beethoven and especially Richard Wagner.
  • Theatre was to concentrate on German history and political drama. 
  • Cheap theatre tickets were available to encourage people to see plays, often with Nazi political or racial theme.
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Nazi control of the Arts - Art and Architecture

  • Hitler earned a living as an artist and believed he was an expert in this area.
  • He hated modern art (any art developed under the Weimar Republic), which he believed was backwards, unpatriotic and Jewish. Such art was called 'degenerate'. This was banned.
  • In its place, he encouraged art which highlighted Germany's past greatness and the strength and power of the Third Reich.
  • He wanted to reject the weak and ugly, and to glorify healthy, strong heroes.
  • Artists were expected to portray workers, peasants and women as glorious and noble creatures.
  • After 1934, it was decided that all new public buildings had to have sculptures which demonstrated Nazi ideals.
  • Hitler took a particular interest in architecture.
  • He encouraged the 'monumental style' for public buildings.
  • They were large buildings made from stone which were often copied from ancient Greece or Rome and showed the power of the Third Reich. 
  • Hitler admired the Greek and Roman styles of building because he said the Jews had not 'contaminated it'.
    • Paintings showed:
      • The Nazi idea of the simple peasant life.
      • Hard work as heroic.
      • The perfect Aryan; young German men and women were shown to have perfect bodies.
      • Women in their preferred role as housewives and mothers.
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The Nazi control of sport

  • Sport was encouraged at school and in the Hitler Youth.
  • Hitler wanted a healthy and fit nation - the boys were to be the soldiers of the future and the girls were to produce as many children as possible.
  • Success in sport was also important to promote the Nazi regime.
  • The major sporting showcase was the 1936 Olympics, which was staged in Berlin.
  • Everything about the games was designed to impress the outside world.
  • With media in 49 countries there in strength, the Nazis could show the world that Germnay was a modern, well-organised society and that Aryans were superior.
  • For the most past the Olympics was a great public relations success. 

Summary of the 1936 Olympics

  • The Olympic stadium was the largest in the world and could hold 110,000 spectators.
  • Signs declaring 'Jews now wanted' were removed. Foreign visitors got a positive image of Germany.
  • All filming was under the direction of Leni Riefenstahl. All camera crews had to be approved by her and all chots were supervised. Every detail was carefully stage-managed and news reports were controlled. 
  • Germany won more medals than any other nation - 33 gold, 26 silver and 30 bronze.
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The extent of support for the Nazi regime

  • In the years 1933-39, there were about 13 million people sent to concentration camps in Gemrany and this would seen to be an indication of quite widespread opposition to the regime. It was estimaned that about 300,000 left Germany to live in other countries, giving another indication of dissatisfaction with the Nazis.
  • Nevertheless, many Germans gained much from Hitler's success after 1933 and consequently Hitler was readily able to maintain support. There was economic success which began to erase the depression.
  • Germany's international standing grew, this seemed to remove the shame of the defeat in the war and the Treaty of Versilles.
  • In 1938, Hitler removed certain generals who had criticised his foreign policy aims. During the later months of 1938, some army leaders planned to overthrow Hitler but following his successful takeover of parts of Czechoclovakia, the plan was set aside.
  • In all, during 1938, Hitler removed 16 generals and thus tightened his grip on the army.
  • There were three attempts to assassinate Hitler before 1939. 
  • A number of Jewish students plotted in 1935-36 but the plans came to nothing. 
  • Maurice Bavaud, a student, tried but failed to take a shot because he did not want to injure other Nazi leaders.
  • In November 1939, Georg Elser planted a bond in the Beer Hall where Hitler was speaking, but Hitler left early. The bomb exploded and killed several people.
  • Elser despised the Nazi regime because it had taken basic liberties from ordinary people.
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Opposition from young people to the Nazis

  • Although many of the young joined the Hitler Youth, it was not popular with some of its members and not all young people accepted the Nazi ideas. By the mid 1930s gangs were appearing on street corners, they played their own music and men, wore their own clothes, grew their hair long and women were to be free together. They went looking for members of the Hitler Youth to beat them up.

The Edelwiess Pirates

  • They listened to forbidden swing music and covered walls with anti-Nazi graffiti.
  • They could be recognised by their badges - which brandished a edelwiess flower or skull and crossbones.
  • They wore clothes which were considered outlandish by the Nazis. 
  • They had 2,000 members in 1939, all who tended to be working-class youths.
  • Despire their actions, the Nazi authorities did not consdier the Pirates to be a serious threat in the years up to 1939.

The Swing Youth

  • Other young people who challenged the Nazis became known as the 'swing groups' and tended to come from the middle classes. 
  • They took part in activities that were frowned on by the Nazis. These young people loved swing music, which was hated by the Nazi government who classed it as non-German as it was developed by black people and Jews. 
  • They rebelled against the order and discipline of the Nazis.
  • Swing boys often grew their hair long and the girls wore make-up, using bright colours on their lips and fingernails.
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Opposition from the Churches

The Protestant Church

Pastor Martin Niemoller opposed Nazi control of the Church and became leader of the Confessional Church, which followed traditional German Protestantism. He established the Pastors' emergency league, which opposed Nazi attempts to control the Protestant Church amd saw membership rise to 7,000 by 1934. However, many pastors left when they were persecuted by the Nazis. Niemoller was arrested in 1937 after having preached that people must obey God and not man. He was tried and kept in prison and concentration camps until 1945. Another protestant to speak out against Nazi ideas on religion was Agnes von Grone. She lead the Protestant Women's Bureau but the organisation was disbanded in 1936. 

The Catholic Church

Despite the Concordat with the Cathoilc Church there was tension after 1933 becuase the Nazis censored the Cathoilc pressand harassed some of the Preists. In 1937, Pope Pius XI issued a special letter to Catholic priests in Germany. He attacked the Nazi system although he never named Hitler and the Nazis in his criticisms. This letter was called 'Mit drennender Sorge' (With burning anxiety). Priests read the letter to their congregations, clearly showing they were trying to resist Nazi attempts to control the Church. However, the Nazi reaction was to take an even firmer line and close Catholic groups and prevent Catholics from joining the Nazi party. There was fierce outcry when symbols such as the cross and the crucifix were removed from Catholic schools, and following the complaints the Nazis halted these removals. Once war broke out in 1939, the Nazis reintroduced the policy of removal.

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The Nazi view on the role of women

Nazi policies

  • Nazis brought in a series of measures to change the role of women.
  • As part of the Gleichschaltung process, the Nazis brought all 230 women's organisations together under one body - the Women's Front. 
  • The women's groups were then expected to ensure that Jews could not be members.

Nazi ideals:

  • The Nazis had a vey traditional view on the rold of women, which was very differernt from women's position in society in the 1920's.
  • According to the Nazi ideal, a woman:
    • did not wear make-up
    • was blonde, heavy hipped and athletic
    • wore fkat shoes and full skirts
    • did not smoke
    • did not go to work
    • did all the household duties, especially cooking and bringing up the children
    • took no interest in politics
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The changing role of women

Marriage and family

  • Nazis were worried about the decline in birth rates.
  • In 1900 there had been 2 million live births. In 1933 there had been less than 1 million.
  • Only Jews were allowed to have abortions, non-Jews were not.
  • Massive propaganda campaign launched to promote motherhood and large families.
  • 1933 - Law for Encouragament of Marriage was introduced. This aimed to increase birth rates by giving loans to help young couples to marry. Couples were allowed to keep a quarter of the loan for each child.
  • On 12th August (Hitlers mothers birthday) medals were awarded to women with large families.
  • Familiy allowances were made available for those on low incomes.
  • 1938 - Nazis changed divorce laws - a divorce was now possible if a spouse could not have children. This contributes to an increase in divorce rates.
  • Nazis set up the Lebensborn programme whereby a specially chosen unmarried women could 'donate a baby to the Fuhrer' by becoming pregnant ny 'racially pure' ** men.
  • A new national organisation, the German Women's Enterprise, organised classes and radio talks on household topics and the skills of motherhood. 
  • The Sterilisation Law (1993) resulted in 320,000 people being sterilised due to 'mental defficency'.
  • The Marriage Health Law of 1935 stressed the racial purity of women when marrying. 
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The changing role of women


  • Women were encouraged to keep healthy and wear their hair in a bun or plaits.
  • They were discouraged from wearing trousers, high heels and make-up, deying or styling their hair and slimming, as this was seen as bad for child bearing.


  • Instead of going to work, women were asked to follow  the 'three Ks' - kinder, kuche, kirche meaning 'children, kitchen, church'.
  • The Nazis had the insentive to get women to give up their jobs because they'd promised jobs, to men. Every job left by a woman was left for a man.
  • Female doctors, lawyers and civil servants were forced to quit.
  • After 1936, womemn could not become judges or serve on juries.
  • Schoolgirls were trained for work at home, and discouraged from going onto higher education.
  • From 1937 the Nazis had to reverse these policies. Germany began to rearm and men were joining the army. The Nazi regime therefore needed more women to go out to work. They abolished the marriage loans and introduced a compulsory 'duty year' for all women entering employment.  
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The changing role of women

Concentration camps

  • Many German women did not agree with the ideas and policies of Nazi Germany.
  • October 1933 - Nazis opened the first concentration camp for women at Moringen.
  • Those sent to Moringen included communists, Johova's Witnesses, breakers of the Nuremberg Laws, abortionists, those who made derogatory remarks about the Nazi regime, and Jews.
  • Ravensbruck camp was opened in 1939 to take the Moringen prisoners. 
  • By the end of 1939, there were more than 2000 prisoners at Ravensbruck and this included some 400 Gypsies.
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The control of the young through edication

  • Everyone in German had to go to school from the ages of 6-14.
  • Boys and girls went to separate schools.
  • 1938 - Jewish children were not allowed to attend German schools.
  • At schools, academic ability was not the most important feature - the Nazis sought courage and talent in athletics.
  • The Nazis set up their own types of schools - designed for those who would be the future leaders of the state. 
  • National Political Training Institutes (Napola) took boys from the age of 10 up to 18, and on graduation many went into the armed forces for the Nazi paramilitary groups.
  • The ** took control of the Napola schools after 1936.
  • Adolf Hitler Schools were for students between the ages of 12 and 18 and were mainly for the elite of the Hitler Youth. 
  • 'Ordensburgen ('order castles') were for graduates of the Adolf Hitler Schools and entrants were usually in their 20s.
  • Live ammunition was used in was games and there were instances of students being killed during these activities.
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The extent of Nazi control in schools after 1933

Textbooks- These were rewritten to fir the Nazi view of history and racial putiry. All textbooks had to be approved by the Minstry of Education. Mein Kampf became a standard text.

Teachers - School teachers had to swear an oath of loyalty to Hitler and join the Nazi Teachers' League. By 1937, 97% of teachers had joined. Teachers had to promote Nazi ideals in the classroom and many were dismissed if they did not show that they were committed to Nazism. By 1936, 36% of teachers were members of the Nazi party. 

Lessons - These began and ended with students saluting and saying 'Heil Hitler'. Nasi themes were presented through every subject. Maths problems dealt with social issues. Geography lessons were used to show how Germany was surrounded by hostile neighbours. In history lessons, students were taught about the evils of communism and the severity of the Treaty of Versailles.

Cirruculum - Under the Nazis the school cirruculum was changed to prepare students for their future roles. Hitler wanted healthy, fit men and women so 15% of time was devoted to physical education. With the boys the emphasis was on preparation for the military. There was also great emphasis on Germany's past and the Aryan race. Students were taught that Aryans were superior and should not marry inferior races such as Jews. Girls needlework and home crafts, especially cookery, to become good homemakers and mothers. New subjects such as race studies were introduced to put across Nazi ideas on race and population control. Children were taught how to measure their skulls to classify racial types. Religous education became optional.

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The Hitler Youth

  • The Nazis also wanted to control the young in their spare time.
  • This was to be achieved through the Hitler Youth, which covered both boys and girls.
  • The head of Hitler Youth was Baldur von Schirach.
  • All other youth organisations were banned.
  • From 1936 membership was compulsory, though many did not join.
  • By 1939 there were seven million members. Many enjoyed the comradeship. It is also possible they enjoyed the fact that their campus were often near to those of the League of German Maidens. 
    • Nazi boy's organisations
      • Little Fellows -------------- ages 6-10 - they playes sports, hiked and went camping.
      • German Young People - ages 10-13 - they participated in military preparation.
      • Hitler Youth ---------------- ages 14-18 - they were trained for the military.
    • Nazi girl's organisations, had to have German heritage, be german citizens + be free of heridatory diseases
      • Young Girl's League ----------- ages 10-14 - they played sports and went camping.
      • League of German Maidens - ages 14-18 - they had lessons in preparing for motherhood,domestic science, physical exercise, a compulsory year working on the land, and parades and marches.
      • Faith and Beauty --------------ages 18-21 (voluntary membership) - continued training for marriage and life as a housewife. Had classes on clothes making and cooking healthy meals.
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Policies introduced to reduce Unemployment

  • The Reich Lbaour Service
    • This was a scheme to provide young men with manual labour jobs. 
    • From 1935 it was compulsory for all men aged 18-25 to serve in the corps for 6 months.
    • Workers lived in camps, wore uniforms, recieved very low pay, and carried out milirary drills as well as working. 
  • Invisible Unemployment
    • The Nazi unemployment figures did not include Jews dismissed from their jobs, unmerried men under 25 who were pushed into National Labour Schemes, women dismissed from their jobs, women who have up work to get married and opponents to the Nazis who were in concentration camps. 
  • Rearmament
    • Hitler was determined to build up the armed forces in readiness for war. This greatly reduced uneployment. 
    • The re-introduction of conscription in 1935 took thousands of young men into military service. The army grew from 100,000 in 1933 to 1,4000,000 in 1939.
    • Heavy inustry expanded to meet rearmament needs. Coal and chemicals production doubled between 1933-39; oil, iron and steel trebled.  Billions was spent on producing tanks, aircrafts and ships.
  • Job Creation Schemes
    • Hitler spent billions on job creation schemes, rising from 18.4 billion marks (1933) to 37.1 billion marks (1938).
    • Massive road building schemes were introduced. 7000km of motorways were planned to be built, only 3000km was actually every built. And more than 125,000 men were involved in their making. 
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Policies introduced to reduce Unemployment

  • The Reich Lbaour Service
    • This was a scheme to provide young men with manual labour jobs. 
    • From 1935 it was compulsory for all men aged 18-25 to serve in the corps for 6 months.
    • Workers lived in camps, wore uniforms, recieved very low pay, and carried out milirary drills as well as working. 
  • Invisible Unemployment
    • The Nazi unemployment figures did not include Jews dismissed from their jobs, unmerried men under 25 who were pushed into National Labour Schemes, women dismissed from their jobs, women who have up work to get married and opponents to the Nazis who were in concentration camps. 
  • Rearmament
    • Hitler was determined to build up the armed forces in readiness for war. This greatly reduced uneployment. 
    • The re-introduction of conscription in 1935 took thousands of young men into military service. The army grew from 100,000 in 1933 to 1,4000,000 in 1939.
    • Heavy inustry expanded to meet rearmament needs. Coal and chemicals production doubled between 1933-39; oil, iron and steel trebled.  Billions was spent on producing tanks, aircrafts and ships.
  • Job Creation Schemes
    • Hitler spent billions on job creation schemes, rising from 18.4 billion marks (1933) to 37.1 billion marks (1938).
    • Massive road building schemes were introduced. 7000km of motorways were planned to be built, only 3000km was actually every built. And more than 125,000 men were involved in their making. 
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Changes in the standard of living - Better off

  • Strength through Joy
    • An organisation set up by the German Labour Front. It tried to improve the leisure time of German Workers by sponsoring a wide range of leisure and cultural trips. Including concerts, theatre visits, museum tours ect.
    • All the trips and events were provided at a low cost, giving ordinary workers access to activities normally reserved for wealthy people. 
  • Beauty of Labour
    • A departement of the KdF that tried to improve working conditions, by organising the builds of canteens, swimming pools and sports facilities. It also installed better lighting in workplaces and improved noise levels. 
  • Volkswagen scheme
    • In 1938 - Labour Front organised the Volkswagen scheme, giving workers an oppertunity to subscribe 5 marks a week to a fund eventually allowing them to buy a car. 
  • Wages
    • Average weekly wage rose from 86 marks (1932) to 109 marks (1938).
  • Food Consumption
    • Food became a target of Nazi propaganda. 
    • Women were told what foods to buy and told how to cook simple, healthy meals with them.
    • The 'Eintopf' (a one pot meal made of veg and meat).was encouraged and became known as the meal of Germany. 
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Changes in the standard of living - Worse off

  • Lack of freedom
    • German workers lost their rights under the Nazis.
    • 1933 - trade unions were banned and replaced by the German Labour Front, which was designed to have all workers and employers striving to create the Volksgemeinschaft. The Labour Front did not permit workers to negotiate for more pay or reduced hours, strikes were banned.  Those who opposed the Nazis were sent to concentration camps for re-education.
  • Strength through Joy
    • Few workers could actually afford the more expensive activities. Beauty of Labour caused much resentment; workers had to carry out improvements in their free time without pay.
  • Volkswagen Swindle
    • The idea to encourage people to buy a car was a con. When war broke out in 1939 not a single customer got a car and no money was refunded.
  • Cost of Living
    • Cost of living increased during the 1930s. 
    • All basic groceries, apart from fish, increased in price becuse food items were in short supply due to government policies to reduce agricultural production. This was trying to keep the prices of food up for farmers. 
  • Hours of Work
    • Average working hours increased from 42.9 (1933) to 49 (1939) 
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Nazi Racial Beliefs

  • Central to the Nazi Policy was the creation of a pure German state - this meant treating all non-Germans (especially Jews) as second class citizens. 
  • Hitler's theory of race was based on the idea of the 'master race' and the 'subhumans', and he tried to back this theory up with the Bible (that it only showed 2 races.) 
  • Nazis believed Germans were  a pure race from Aryan descent, but that this race had been contaminated by 'subhumans'. 
  • Hitler believed Germany's future was dependant on the creation of a pure Aryan racial state, achieved by selective breeding and destroying the Jews.
  • Selective breeding prohibited anyone who did not conform to the Aryan type from having children.
  • Nazi propaganda portrayed Jews as evil moneylenders. 
  • Hitler wished to drive the slavs out of Eastern Europe so he could secure more land for Germany. 
  • He would enslave anyone who remained, even though he did think that a few might be 'Germanised'.
  • He began to carry out this policy after 1939, when war started.
  • Hitler regarded Jews as an evil force and was convinced of their involvement in a world conspiracy to destroy civilisation.
  • Hitler wanted to portray the Jews as a wandering race of people who had, over the centuries, infiltratred all aspects of civilised society and had to be removed.
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Why were the Jews Persecuted?

  • Jewish people have been presecuted throughout history, like in England in the Middle Ages. This is because Jewish people stood out as different in regions across Europe. They had a different religion and different customs. Some Christians blamed the Jews for the execution of Christ and argued that Jews should b punished forever. Some Jews became moneylenders and got quite wealthy. This increased resentment and suspicion from people who owed them money or were jealous of their success
  • Hitler had spent several years in Vienna where there was a long tradition of anti-Semitism. He lived as a down and out and resented the wealth of many of the Viennese Jews. In the 1920s he used Jews as a scapegoat for all society's problems. He blamed them for Germany's defeat in WW1, hyperinflation in 1923 and the Depression of 1929
  • Hitler was determined to create a 'pure' racial state. This did not include the 500,000 Jews who were living in Germany. He wanted to eliminate the Jews deom German Society. He had no master plan for achieving this, however, and until the beginning of WW2; a great deal of Nazi Jewish policy was uncoordinated. 
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How did the lives of German Jews change 1933-39?

  • The persecution of the Jews did not begin immediately.
  • Hitler needed to ensure that he had the support of most of the German people for his anti-Sematic policies. 
  • This was achieved through propaganda and the use of schools.
  • Young people especially were encouraged to hate Jews, with school lessons and textbooks putting across anti-Sematic views.
  • School textbooks and teaching materials were controlled by the government Ministry of Education.
  • The Government was able to put anti-Sematic material into every classroom.
  • In addition - laws were passed to restrict the role of education for Jewish people. 
  • In October 1936, Jewish teachers were forbidden to give private tuition to German students.
  • In November 1938, Jewish children were expelled from German schools. 
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The boycott of Jewish shops - April 1933

  • Almost as soon as Hitler had become Chancellor, he began to take steps against the Jews.
  • Germans were persuaded to boycott Jewish shops and buisnesses.
  • The boycott was a reaction to stories in the international press which criticised the new Nazi regime. 
  • The Nazis claimed that these stories were instigated by Jews living abroad.
  • The boycott began on Saturday, 1st April, and lasted only a day. 
  • Members of the SA placed themselves at enterences to Jewish shops, departement stores and other places of buisness, discouraging entry.
  • The SA pianted the Star of David on many of the shop's doors and windows.
  • The police rarely stopped the SA even when there were acts of physical violence. 
  • However, most Germans ignored the boycott.
  • Moreover, the day was a Saturday, the Jewish Sabbath, so many of the shops were closed. 
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The Nuremberg Laws, 1935

  • On 15th September 1935, the Nazi government passed two new racial laws at their annual Reich Party Congress in Nuremberg, Germany.
  • These two laws (the Reich Citizenship Law and the Law for the Protection of German Blood and Honour) became known as the Nuremberg Laws.
  • The Reich Citizenship Law stated that only those of German blood could be German Citizens. 
  • Jews lost their citizenship, the right to vote and hold government office.
  • By removinig their civiil rights, the Nazis had legally pushed Jews to the edges of society.
  • The Law for the Protection of German Blood and Honour forbade marriage or sexual relations between Jews and German citizens.
  • Marriages that had occured before this law were still classed as legal, but German citizens were encouraged to divorce their existing Jewish partners. Few did so. 
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Kristallnacht, 9th November 1938

  • After a brief easing of persecution during the 1936 Olympic Games, the persecution of the Jews began to grow and worsened especially after the Anschluss with Austria in March 1938.
  • Then in November there was a violent outburst of anti-Semitism in Germany.
  • On 8th November 1938 a young Polish Jew, Herschel Grynszpan, walked into the German Embassy in Paris and shot the first official he met.
  • He was protesting against the treatment of his parents, who had been deported from Germany to Poland.
  • Goebells used this as an oppertunity to organise anti-Jewish demonstrations which involved attacks on Jewish property, shops, homes and synagogues. 
  • So many windows were smashed in the campaign that the events of 9-10 November became known as Kristallnacht, meaning 'Crystal Night' or 'Nigt of Broken Glass'. 
  • About 100 Jews were killed and 20,000 sent to concentration camps.
  • About 7,500 Jewish buisnesses were destroyed.
  • The Naxi government did not permit Jewish property owners to make any insurance claims for damage to property.
  • Any surviving Jewish buisnesses were not allowed to re-open under Jewish management, but they had to have 'pure' Germans in charge of them. 
  • Many Germans were disgusted at Kristallnacht.
  • Hitler and Goebbels were anxious that is should not be seen as the work of the Nazis. It was portrayed as a spontaneous act of vengeance by Germans. 
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The aftermath of Kristallnacht

  • Hitler officially blamd the Jews themselves for having provoked attacks and used this as an excuse to step up the campaign against them.
  • He decreed the following:
    • The Jews are fined one billion Reichsmarks as compensation for the damage caused.
    • Jews can no longer own or manage buisnesses or shops or employ workers.
    • Jewish children can no longer attend Aryan schools.
  • The persecution continued into 1939:
    • In January the Reich Office for Jewish Emigration was established. Reinhard Heynrich was its director. The ** became responsible for driving the Jews from Germany. This would be achieved by forced emigration.
    • In the following months Jews were required to surrender precious metals and jewellery.
    • On 30th April Jews were evicted from their homes and forced into designated Jewish accommodations or ghettos.
    • In September Jews were forced to hand in their radio sets so they could not listen to foreign news.
    • By the summer of 1939, about 250,000 Jews had left Germany. 
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Measures taken against Jews

  • April 1933 - SA organised a boycott of Jewish shops and buisnesses. Thousands of Jewish civil servants, lawyers and university teachers were sacked.
  • May 1933 -A new law excluded Jews from Government jobs. And Jewish books were burnt.
  • September 1933 - Jews were banned from inheriting land.
  • 1934 - Local councils banned Jews from public spaces such as parks, playing fields and swimming pools.
  • May 1935 -Jews were no longer drafted into the army.
  • June 1935 -Restaurants were closed to Jews all over Germany.
  • September 1935 -The Nuremberg were passed on 15th September.
  • April 1936 -The Professional activities of Jews were banned or restricted.
  • July-Agusut 1936 - There was a deliberate lull in the anti-Jewish campaign as Germany was hosting the Olympics and wanted to give the outside world a good impression.
  • September 1937 -For the first time in two years Hitler publicly attacked the Jews. 
  • March 1938 -Jews had to register their posessions, making it easier to confiscate them.
  • July 1938 - Jews had to carry identity cards. Jewish doctors, dentists and lawyers forbidden to treat any Aryans.
  • August 1938 - Jewish men had to add the name 'Israel' to their first names, Jewish women had to add 'Sarah', to further humiliate them. 
  • October 1938 - Jews had a red letter 'J' stamped on their passports.
  • November 1938 -Kristallnacht and young Jews being excluded from schools and universities. 
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The treatment of minorities

  • The undesirables of society included those who could not work, the unhealthy, mentally disabled, tramps and beggars. The term 'asocial' was used to describe them The Nazis considered these people worthless and expensive to the state and they had to be removed because they could not contribute to the Volksgemeinschaft.
  • There were also socially undesirable groups such as alcoholics, homosexuals and juvenile delinquents. They were also seen as dangerous and a bad influence on others. Once again, they had to be removed from society.
  • As they had with the Jews, the Nazis began with a propanagda campaign to ensure that most German people turned against these undesirable groups.
  • This propaganda was followed by more extreme measures. 
  • Sterilisation Law - This law passed in July 1933, allowed the Nazis to sterilise people with certain illnesses, such as 'simple-mindedness' and 'chronic alcoholism', Between 1934 and 1945 about 350,000 poeple were sterilised.
  • Concentration camps - Many 'undesirables' were sent to concentration camps, including prostitutes, homosexual people and juvenile delinquents. In 1938, Gypsies, vagrants and beggars were added to the list.
  • Euthanasia Campaign - In 1939, the Nazis secretly began to exterminate the mentally ill in a euthanasia campaign. The mentally ill were seen as a threat to Aryan purity. Around 6,000 disabled babies, children and teenagers were murdered by starvation or lethal injection.
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The treatment of people with disabilities

  • In their persuit of a perfect race, the Nazis passed the Sterilisation Law. 
  • This law enabled them to sterilise people who suffered from physical deformity, mental illness, epilepsy, leaning disabilities, blindless and deafness. 
  • Those who were physically disabled were called 'unworthy of life' or 'useless eaters' and were called a burden upon society
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The treatment of homosexual people

  • The Nazis' views about the importance of family life and producing children meant that same-sex relationships could not be tolerated.
  • The Nazis were no different to the rest of Europe and did not look favourably on homosexuality and maintained its illegal status. 
  • Gay men were arrested and sent to concentration camps.
  • Lesbians were not sees as a threat to the Nazi state and were not persecuted in such a way because they were seen to be passive and subordinate to men.
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The treatment of Gypsies

  • There were about 30,000 Gypsies in Germany at the time. 
  • The Nazis gave two reasons for removing them:
    • They were non-Aryan and threatened racial purity.
    • They were people who travelled across the country and had no fixed home, and thus threatened the nazi view of a stable family life. The Nazis also accused them of being 'work-shy'.
  • In 1935, the Nazis banned all marriages between Gypsies and Germans.
  • Three years later a decree for the 'struggle against the gypsy plague' was issues.
  • All Gypsies had to register with the authorities.
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