Evans and Jenkins Hitler’s determination to create the Volksgemeinschaft of Aryans of a healthy
physical and mental condition ‘proved to be the most consistent, coherent and revolutionary aspect of
Ian Kershaw One aspect of the attempt to create the Volksgemeinschaft was the removal of the
Jews from participation in German society. In this the Nazis were completely successful. Otherwise the
attempt to create the Volksgemeinschaft was not successful. The churches still retained people’s
loyalty; there was little change in traditional class loyalties, especially among the workers; the impact on
the youth was limited and signs of tension, conflict and opposition among youth were apparent by the
later 1930s.
Tim Kirk Despite ‘the ambitious rhetoric of its propaganda’ the Nazi regime did not bring about the
B Sax and D Kuntz The Nazis only partially realised National Socialist ideology…Failure resulted
from inner contradictions within the ideology itself and from the gap between Nazi ideals and the
realities of German society…Nazi policy often ignored the great difficulties confronting modern industrial
societies, and it therefore failed to create the Volksgemeinschaft.
Jill Stephenson The creation of the Volksgemeinschaft was ‘an aspiration of the Nazi leadership that
remained at best only partially fulfilled.’ As an ideal it had considerable appeal in the early 1930s, but
ultimately the kind of commitment the theorists of the Volksgemeinschaft required was lacking.
Ian Kershaw Adulation of Hitler made the person of the Fuhrer ‘the focal point of basic consensus’ and
formed ‘a crucial integratory force’ in the Nazi system of rule; that is, it brought most Germans together
and had a strong emotional appeal. The “Hitler Myth” legitimated the actions of the regime, defused
opposition and enabled Hitler to be freed from the constraints of traditional political elites and
institutions. It sustained the regime and helped to cover up its failures.
Robert Gellately The crucial factor in the Nazi rule of Germany was the willingness of most people to
go along with it or at least not oppose it. So, for example, however frightening the police state was, the
efficient functioning of what was a seriously understaffed secret police was dependent on the
cooperation of ordinary Germans in denouncing their fellow citizens.
Roderick Stackelberg The linchpin of the Nazi system of rule was Adolf Hitler, who made or
approved all final decisions on matters of strategy and policy.
Jeremy Noakes The Nazi Party and the SS were crucial organisations in implementing Nazi rule. So,
for instance, at regional level the Gauleiters, who were directly responsible to Hitler, played a key role in
governing the country. The SS controlled the police and its own prison camp system and this gave it
‘awesome power’.
Richard J Evans (2005): Terrorism was only one of the Third Reich’s techniques of rule but the Nazis
also wanted to rouse the people „into positive endorsement of their ideals and policies and to change
people‟s minds and spirits…This meant propaganda…‟
Tim Kirk (2007): The Nazis used coercion though did not rely on it alone to maintain order. „They also
sought to win acclamation using propaganda and censorship to do so.‟
Roderick Stackelberg (2007): A major source of Hitler‟s growing popularity „was the improvement of
the German economy.‟
Evans and Jenkins: Although there were limits to the power of the SS, its influence was varied and
Jeremy Noakes (2008): One explanation for the regime‟s initial relative success is that it created an
„overarching consensus by mobilising the German people behind a programme of national revival
identified with Hitler‟s leadership. „Furthermore, the traditional German elites – army, civil service,
business and professionals – „perceived in National Socialism some aims and values which they
shared, most notably a strong German nationalism.‟
Richard J Evans (2005): In his critique of Gellately, Evans argues that Nazi terror was “nowhere
more apparent than in the emerging power and fearsome reputation of the Gestapo”. The Gestapo
attained “an almost mythical status” as all-seeing and all-knowing although “the reality was rather
different”. Yet even so, Nazi Germany was not a self-policing society: “Denunciation was the
exception, not the rule as far as the behaviour of the vast majority of Germans was concerned.”
Ultimately it was the Gestapo and the agencies it employed, exploited and worked alongside “who
kept Germans under surveillance, not the German people”. Moreover, everything that happened in the
Third Reich took place “in a pervasive atmosphere of fear and terror, which never slackened…’ And
the Nazis did not just use terrorism to coerce the people; they also went to “unprecedented lengths” in
propaganda to gain the enthusiastic support of the people and to change people’s hearts and minds.
• Nikolaus Wachsmann (2008): Hitler’s police apparatus “commanded extensive weapons of
repression”. Fear of the Gestapo “was widespread”. The Gestapo drew extensively on support from
outside its ranks. “It used information and denunciations from paid informers, low-ranking party
activists, and state and municipal agencies, as well as from the general public.” In addition, German
judges did not need any prompting to crack down on the left opposition. In all, several tens of
thousands of people had been sentenced for treason by 1939, usually for their connections with the
Communist Party.
Hite and Hinton: “In many ways Hitler’s economic policy was successful… This success
helped make him arguably the most popular ever German leader.”
• Tooze: Hitler’s economic recovery programme was important for its propaganda value in
creating a feeling of optimism.
• W Benz: The Four Year Plan and the drive for rearmament helped to ensure that wages did not
keep pace with rising prices and resulted in cutbacks in consumer goods which created discontent
among the people. The regime countered this discontent with propaganda and where this failed it
resorted to terror.
• Kirk: Hitler’s economic policies ensured that, in spite of tensions, the relationship between big
businesses and the new regime remained good. However, Nazi economic policies left the
Mittelstand disappointed and caused resentment in the countryside. From 1935 there were
complaints among workers about rising prices and poor wages, and the regime’s popularity was in
• Johnson: The German people consented more than they were coerced, but terror was real and it
helped the Nazis to build and strengthen their power.
• Burleigh: The actual operational capacities of, say, the Gestapo, may have been modest but that
does not mean that terror was unimportant in strengthening the Nazis’ power.
• Gellately: After 1933 the great majority of Germans soon became devoted to Hitler and they
supported him. Terror was not needed to force the majority or even a significant minority into
line. Coercion and terror were highly selective and did not rain down universally on the heads of
the German people and whatever coercion there was, was not as important as consent.
Paul Bookbinder (1996): “By 1929 Germany had become the world’s second industrial power behind the United
States. Real wages rose, and the standard of living for many increased dramatically.”
• Richard Bessel (1990): while recognising Germany’s “substantial economic recovery from the dark days of
1923 … as well as impressive advances in the development of the social welfare system” pondered that such
advances may have carried the seeds of their own destruction. “Rather than a boom for Weimar democracy,
the social welfare system proved a time bomb with a rather short fuse.”
• Such pessimism was earlier expressed by Knut Borchardt (1979) whose interpretation of the failure of Weimar
centred upon its lack of room for manoeuvre apparent in the middle ‘stable’ phase of 1924-29. Summarising
Borchardt’s arguments, Ian Kershaw writes: “A major internal weakness arose from excessive wage levels
of German workers resulting in the main from government interference in the labour market, through, for
example, the introduction of compulsory wage arbitration and increased employer contributions to social
insurance payments.”
• Richard J Evans (2005): “the idea that democracy was on the way to establishing itself at this time (1924-28) is
an illusion created by hindsight… and the fact that the two major bourgeois parties, the Centre party and the
Nationalists, soon fell into the hands of avowed enemies of democracy boded ill … Not even in the relatively
favourable circumstances of 1928 had the parties of the ‘Weimar coalition’ succeeded in gaining a majority in
the Reichstag.”
• Eberhard Kolb (1984): In reviewing Borchardt’s arguments, writes: “Altogether Borchardt concludes, the
German economy in 1925-29 must be described as ‘an abnormal’, in fact, a sick economy.” Kolb’s estimate is
“it is generally accepted that the economic situation in Germany was highly precarious even before the world
• Detlev Peukert (1987): wrote of “the illusion of domestic stability”; the years between 1924 and 1929 seem
stable only by contrast with the periods of crisis that preceded and followed them. There were deep structural
tensions in German society including those created by the peace treaty and the foundation of the Republic in
1918-19. 1924-29 was a period of intense modernity and experiment; but, argues Peukert “the exceptionally
severe check to Germany’s economic growth that followed the First World War reduced the scope for
compromises and trade-offs.” The ‘cult of modernity’ provoked intense conservative reaction.
• Adam Tooze (2006): “One key factor contributing to the de-stabilization of the Weimar republic after 1929 was
the disappointment of the hopes invested in America’s ‘new order’ by Germany’s pro-Republican forces. In
1923-24 the successful stabilization… had depended crucially on the involvement of the United States. From
1928 American lending to Germany began to fall.”
• Jonathan Wright (2002): in writing of Stresemann’s last days, talks of “preparing for Hugenberg and Hitler”
over ratification of the Young Plan. As early as January 1929 reports reached Stresemann of Hindenburg
hoping that confrontation and crisis would provide the opportunity to challenge the Grand Coalition with some
kind of authoritarian government.