Hitler’s Germany

Hitler’s Germany
Kevin J. Benoy
A Totalitarian State
• Hitler began to establish
a totalitarian state
immediately upon
assuming power in
• He was helped by
having gullible
conservative allies and
an aging President –
who would soon die in
A Totalitarian State
• Trade unions were
• The KPD (Communist
Party) was abolished.
• Non-Aryans were
dismissed from
government jobs.
• Opponents and
suspected opponents
were harrassed.
A Totalitarian State
• Media were censored.
• The legal system now took
orders from the
– Nazis were appointed judges
and Chiefs of police.
– The Gestapo (Secret State
Police) was ordered to
identify and eliminate
opponents of the Nazis.
– Anyone could be arrested on
mere suspicion and held in
“protective custody.”
– The first “concentration
camp” – Dachau – was
A Totalitarian State
• Party members were
slotted into government
positions, so that party
and state became
• The federal system was
replaced by a unitary
one divided into
districts controlled by
Gauleiters, appointed
by Hitler.
A Totalitarian State
• In the “Night of the
Long Knives” Hitler
destroyed the left
wing of his own
party to:
– eliminate opposition
within the Party.
– guarantee that the
army not interfere in
national politics.
A Totalitarian State
• The aim of the Nazis was
Gleichaltung – coordination
or subordination of the
• All power resided in the
Fuhrer (leader).
• Private life apart from the
state was not tolerated –
the motto being “what
benefits the state is right.”
• Individuals had duties to the
state, but the state was not
responsible to individuals.
Youth Policy
• Totalitarian states
understand that their
hold on power relies on
the unquestioning
support of a fervent
core of supporters.
• Nazi youth groups were
formed to ensure a
continuing supply of
fanatical followers.
Youth Policy
• Young boys joined the
Pimpfen (Little Fellows)
at the age of 5 or 6.
• Activities included
hiking, camping and
physical activity – along
with political
Youth Policy
• At 10, boys wrote a
test, moving on to
the Deutsche
Jungvolk (Young
Folk), if they passed.
• Earlier activities
continued, but
military discipline
was stressed and
each boy swore an
oath to Hitler.
Youth Policy
• At 14, boys
could join the
Hitler Youth.
• Here, advanced
military training
was given.
Youth Policy
• Between 18 and 25,
young men had to serve
a year of Labour Service
– in the
Reichsarbeitsdiens –
the RAD.
• After 1935, 2 years of
military service was
Youth Policy
• Girls organizations
began a little later in
• At 10, girls could join
the Jungmadelbund
(Young Maidens). They
engaged in physical
activities and health
Youth Policy
• Older girls, at 14, joined the
Bund Deutscher Madel
(League of German
• Physical fitness was
– They had to run 60 meters in
14 seconds, throw a ball 12
meters, march for 2 hours,
swim 100 meters – and make
a bed perfectly.
• Motherhood training was
• The duty of German girls, to
Hitler, was to stay home,
marry and produce
offspring for the service of
the state.
Youth Policy
• Education was carefully
• Biology and History were
given special attention:
– Biology taught the
superiority of Aryans.
– History taught the virtues
of Nazi ideas.
• All lessons began and
ended with a Nazi salute
and “Heil Hitler.”
Youth Policy
• The brightest children
were hand-picked to
attend special “Adolf
Hitler Schools” and
trained to be future
• Though the goal was to
have one such school in
every Gau, the expense to
the Party was prohibitive
and only 10 such schools
existed in 1939.
The Churches
• In 1937, Pope Pius XI
condemned Nazism as
• Priests and nuns who
spoke out were arrested
and sent to concentration
• However, the Church
could not count on the
support of its own
followers as Nazi ideology
often took precedence
over Church teachings.
Youth Policy
• Marches, rallies, party
hikes and Nazi youth
camps fostered great
enthusiasm on the
part of youngsters and
children were
encouraged to look
carefully at what their
elders did – reporting
anything that might be
considered anti-Nazi.
• Children were turned
into informants, even
against their parents.
The Churches
• Hitler first seemed to wish
to avoid confrontation with
the Churches.
• In 1933 he signed a
Concordat (agreement) with
the Roman Catholic Church,
promising not to interfere in
church affairs in return for
the church staying out of
• He did not honour his part
of the bargain – banning the
Catholic Youth League
because it competed for
membership with Nazi
youth organizations.
The Churches
• The Protestant
Churches, under Pastor
Niemoller – once a
supporter of Hitler, also
resisted, with Niemoller
and 800 followers
The Churches
• In 1935 Hitler created a
Reich Ministry for Church
Affairs to control the
Protestant Churches.
• Hanns Kerrl, the Minister,
was given the power to
grant or withhold funds,
confiscate church
property, imprison
ministers and issue
binding orders.
Church Policy
• Children learned a new
– “Jesus freed men from sin
just as Hitler saved
Germany from ruin.”
– And “Jesus worked for
heaven while Hitler works
for the German earth.”
• Jesus became a martyr
sacrificed by the Jews and
avenged by the Fuhrer.
Church Policy
• Raised a Catholic, Hitler did
not grasp Christian ideals.
• Privately he said that “one is
either a German or a
Christian. One cannot be
both” and that Christian
teachings were “all the
same Jewish swindle...In the
end I will eradicate
Christianity in Germany,
root and branch.”
• Publicly he continued to use
religious terminology in his
Jewish Policy
• Of all the persecuted groups in
Germany, none suffered more
grievously than German Jews.
• They were publicly accused of
being at the root of almost all
national problems.
• One of the 25 basic party
policies stated “None but
members of the nation may be
citizens of the state. None but
those of German blood may
be members of the nation. No
Jew, therefore, may be a
member of the nation.
• While other policies were
discarded when it suited the
Fuhrer, this was never
Jewish Policy
• In April 1933, the
SA promoted a
boycott of Jewish
businesses and
• Customers were
harassed if they
entered Jewish
Jewish Policy
• In 1935 Hitler passed the
Nuremberg Laws,
depriving Jews of their
citizenship, voting rights,
and the right to marry
• Businesses were
confiscated and Jews
were encouraged to leave
the country – but other
nations refused to accept
Jewish Policy
• In 1938 a German
diplomat in Paris was
murdered by a French
• The SS orchestrated a
massive retaliation
against German Jews –
Kristallnacht (Crystal
night) – so named
because of the vast
expanses of broken
Jewish Policy
• The damage was
– 814 shops were looted.
– 191 synagogues were
burned down.
– Officially 36 Jews were
beaten to death – but
the reality was worse.
– 20,000 Jews were sent
into “protective custody”
in concentration camps.
Jewish Policy
• Most Germans were
numbed by the event –
but they accepted the
increasing harassment
of their neighbours
without a murmur.
• This silence also met
the persecution of
Gypsies and
Jewish Policy
• Jews were barred from
theatres, concerts, movies
and other public
• They could not buy
jewellery or gold.
• They could not walk on
certain streets.
• Finally, they were forced to
wear large yellow stars to
make them stand out
clearly – and were banished
to ghettos – the last stage
before the “final solution,”
which would begin in 1942.
Race Theory
• The Party philosopher,
Rosenberg, took racial theory
to absurd lengths.
• He argued that race was the
primordial force in society –
upon it language, art, beauty,
progress and achievement
were all based.
• Germans were, naturally,
superior to all others.
• Blood and Soil together
produc ed the “folk soul.” This
made it blasphemous to allow
German soil to be
contaminated by an alien race.
Race Theory
• This version of Social
Darwinism encouraged
imperial expansion.
• Hitler spoke of
Lebensraum, living space,
at the cost of
neighbouring countries.
• In addition, the
(Germans living abroad),
were encouraged to
return to the Reich.
Life in Hitler’s Germany
• For those not among the
scapegoats, life was
increasingly comfortable.
• Hitler brought economic
stability and relative
prosperity (at a cost to
the persecuted).
• His reduction of
unemployment and
creation of a strong
business climate
endeared him to
businesses and workers.
The Economy
• Hitler was committed to a
policy of autarky –
intending that Germany
become economically
• Production targets were
set by Hitler’s Minister of
Economics, Hjalmar
Schacht, in the 1934 Four
Year Plan.
• Though the aim was for
total self-sufficiency, the
target was impossible.
The Economy
• It was possible for coal, iron
and light metals, but not for
copper and tin.
• Food supplies would continue
to be imported.
• A barter trade system allowed
Germany to stand outside the
world currency system. The
mark could be maintained at
an unrealistic level and barter
allowed Hitler to wage
economic warfare by buying
crops at artificially high prices
and drawing countries into
economic dependence on the
Reich – as was done with
Greece, Jugoslavia, Romania
and Bulgaria.
The Economy
• Unemployment was
greatly reduced.
– In January, 1933 it stood
at 6 million.
– By December, 1934 it
stood at 2.6 million.
– By 1937 it was 1 million.
– In 1938 there was a
labour shortage.
The Economy
• Worker loyalty was
ensured by full
employment and by state
administered welfare and
social insurance plans.
• Even holidays were
planned by the Kraft
durch Freude (Strength
through Joy), which
organized and supervised
leisure activities.
• The lion’s share of
funding and production in
this economic rebuilding
was for armaments and
military related work.
• Hitler announced
rearmament in 1934.
• In 1935 conscription was
introduced (which
reduced unemployment).
• An air force, the
Luftwaffe, was openly
created in 19354.
• In 1936 a new,
powerful, warship was
launched – the Graf
Spee. Soon to be
followed by the even
more powerful
Bismarck and Tirpitz.
• In 1938 the army was shaken
up, with the replacement of
Fritsch, the Commander –inChief and the War Minister.
• Hitler assumed the position of
War Minister personally.
• By this time, the old high
ranking leaders could no
longer count on the support of
those below them in a showdown with Hitler.
• The conscripts and junior
officers – who gained rapid
advancement in an era of
rearmament – were, for the
most part, ardent Nazis.
• By 1939 the army numbered
730,000 men, with a further 1
million reserves.
• Germany’s air-force had twice the
numerical strength of Britain’s.
• In 1939, Germans spent 16 times
as much on armaments as in
• Even autobahn (highway)
construction projects had military
purpose, allowing the swift
deployment of troops.
• New synthetic oils, rubber and
wool were developed (with
indifferent success) to avoid the
strategic weaknesses noted in
World War I.