Weimar and Nazi Germany Key Topic 3

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  • Created on: 14-04-19 15:53

The Reichstag fire and the enabling act 1933

The Reichstag fire, February 1933

  • On 27 February, the Reichstag building was burnt down. A Dutch communist was found guilty for the fire but Hitler blamed the whole communist party.
  • Hitler persuaded Hindenburg to pass 'the decree for the protection of people and the state' which allowed him to arrest people without trial.

The enabling act, March 1933

The enabling act allowed Hitler to pass laws without consulting the Reichstag. This allowed Hitler to;

  • Remove further Nazi opposition, including banning all trade unions. The unions were merged into The German Labour Front.
  • Banned all other political parties.

By July 1933, Germany was a one-party state.

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The night of the Long Knives, 30th June 1934

The SA was purged in the Night of the Long Knives.

Reasons for the purge

  • The SA was increasingly out of control.
  • The leader, Rohm, wanted equality and social revolution.
  • Leading Nazis, such as Himmler, were concerned about Rohm's growing power.
  • Himmler wanted to replace the SA with his own **.

Events of the night

  • Hitler arranged a meeting with Rohm and other SA leaders, they were arrested by the **, taken to Berlin and shot.
  • About 400 people were murdered in the purge.


  • Hitler got rid of would-be opponents.
  • The SA now had a minor role.
  • Hitler becomes Fuhrer and the army leaders swear allegiance to him.
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Gestapo, ** and SD

** (protection squad)

  • Led by Himmler, they were responsible for removing all opponents and became the main means of intimidating Germans into obedience.
  • By 1934, the ** had 50,000+ members. This grew to 250,000 by 1939.

Gestapo (secret police)

  • Set up in 1933 by Goering, in 1936, the Gestapo came under the control of the **.
  • It could arrest and imprison without trial, anyone they suspected of opposing the state.
  • Only it had the power to send political leaders to concentration camps.


  • Set up in 1931, the SD was the intelligence agency of the Nazis under the control of Himmler and organised by Heydrich.
  • Its main aim was to find enemies of the Nazis and ensured they were removed.
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Concentration camps and the legal system

Concentration camps

  • In 1933, the Nazis established concentration camps, these were run by the ** and SD.
  • Prisoners were classified into different categories, each denoted by a different coloured triangle.
  • By 1939, there were more than 150,000 people under arrest for political offences.

Nazi control of the legal system

  • All judges had to become members of the National Socialist League for the Maintenance of the Law.
  • In 1934, the people's court was established and the judges were loyal Nazis.
  • In October 1933, the German Lawyers Front was established, which made lawyers swear that they would follow the course of the Fuhrer.
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Nazi policies towards the church

The Catholic church

Hitler tried to decrease the influence of Catholicism.

  • Catholics owed their first allegiance to the Pope, not Hitler. Hitler said a person was either a Christian or a German.
  • Catholics message to the young was different from the Nazis.

In 1933, Hitler signed a concordat agreeing not to interfere with the other side, however, within a year Hitler began to attack the church.

  • Catholic schools had to remove Christian symbols, they were eventually abolished.
  • Priests were harassed, arrested and sent to concentration camps.
  • Catholic youth movements were closed down

The Protestant church

In 1933, Protestant groups which supported the Nazis united to form the 'Reich Church'. Its leader was Ludwig Muller. Many Protestants opposed the Nazis because they believe their beliefs conflicted with Christian beliefs. In December 1933, the Pastors' Emergency League for those who didn't agree with Nazi beliefs, run by Pastor Neimoller.

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Goebbels and propaganda


  • No book could be published without Goebbels' permission.
  • Newspapers that opposed Nazi views were closed down and editors were given rules on what they could print. 
  • The radio was controlled.


  • Posters were used to spread the Nazi message.
  • Goebbels ordered the mass production of cheap radios to spread the Nazi message.
  • Mass rallies and marches projected the Nazi image of power and terror.
  • Success in sport was needed to promote the Nazi image.

The Berlin Olympics 1936

  • The Olympics were designed to impress the outside world.
  • All anti-Jew signs were removed from Berlin.
  • Hitler's plans to show the superiority of the Aryan race were ruined by the success of Jesse Owens.
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Nazi control of the arts


Hitler hated modern music. Jazz, which was 'black' music, was seen as racially inferior was banned. Instead, the Nazis promoted traditional folk music and classical music.


The Nazis also controlled the cinema. All films were accompanied with a 45-minute official newsreel which glorified Hitler and Germany.


Hitler hated modern art. Such art was called 'degenerate' and banned. Art highlighting Germany's past greatness and the strength of the Third Reich was encouraged.


Theatre concentrated on German history and political drama. Cheap theatre tickets were available to encourage people to see plays which often had a Nazi, political or racial theme.

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Architecture and literature


  • Hitler encouraged the 'monumental' style for public buildings.
  • These large stone buildings were often copied from ancient Greece or Rome.
  • They showed the power of the Third Reich.
  • Hitler admired Greek and Roman architecture because the Jews had not 'contaminated' it.


  • All books and plays were carefully controlled to put across the Nazi message.
  • Students in Berlin burnt 20,000 books written by Jews, communists and anti-nazi university professors in May 1933.
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Support for the Nazi regime

Support for the Nazis

Many Germans gained much from Hitler's success and therefore supported him:

  • There were economic successes which began to erase the depression.
  • Germany's international standing grew.
  • Some Germans were happy to see the communists, socialists and SA leaders removed.

The opposition of the churches

  • Many Catholic priests were against Nazi policies and got arrested. Some were sent to concentration camps and became martyrs. Catholic churches were still full every Sunday.
  • Many Protestant pastors opposed Hitler and the Reich church. They were led by Pastor Niemoller and set up the confessional church. Many pastors were sent to concentration camps. This created more martyrs.
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Opposition from the young

The Edelweiss Pirates

The Eldeweiss pirates were a loose band of young people across cities which started in 1934.

They listened to forbidden swing music and created anti-Nazi graffiti. They could be recognised by their badges such as the 'Edelweiss' or skull and crossbones. They wore outlandish clothes. By 1939, they had 2000 members and created no-go areas for Hitler Youth in their cities.

The swing youth

Swing youth often came from middle-class families and loved swing music. They rebelled against the order and discipline of the Nazis and took part in activities that were frowned upon.

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