Higher History: European and World

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Higher History: European and World

Germany, 1815–1939
A study of the growth of nationalism in nineteenth century Germany leading to the overcoming of obstacles to unification of the nation by 1871, and the development of extreme nationalism after 1918, illustrating the themes of nationalism, authority and conflict.

Mandatory content

Illustrative areas

1. An evaluation of the reasons for the growth of nationalism in Germany, 1815–50

2. An assessment of the degree of growth of nationalism in Germany, up to 1850

3. An evaluation of the obstacles to German unification, 1815–50
4. An evaluation of the reasons why unification was achieved in Germany, by 1871

5. An evaluation of the reasons why the Nazis achieved power, in 1933

6. An evaluation of the reasons why the Nazis were able to stay in power, 1933–39

Effects of French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars; military weakness; cultural factors; role of the Liberals; economic factors; the Zollverein.

Supporters of nationalism — educated middle class, Liberals; opponents of nationalism; attitudes of peasants; political turmoil in the 1840s; the Frankfurt Parliament, divisions; the collapse of revolution in Germany, 1848–49.

Divisions among the nationalists; Austrian strength; German princes; religious differences; economic differences; indifference of the masses; resentment towards Prussia.

Prussian military strength; Prussian economic strength; the decline of Austria; the role of Bismarck; the attitude of other states; actions of Napoleon III.

Weaknesses of Weimar Republic; resentment towards the Treaty of Versailles; economic difficulties; social and economic divisions; the appeal of the Nazis after 1928; the role of Hitler; weaknesses and mistakes of opponents.

Establishment of a totalitarian state; the crushing of opposition; fear and state terrorism; social controls; propaganda; successful foreign policy; economic policies; social policies.

Higher History – European and World
The Growth and Failure of German Nationalism

  1. 1850

Issue 1 - An evaluation of the reasons for the growth of nationalism in Germany, 1815–50

Issue 2 - An assessment of the degree of growth of nationalism in Germany, up to 1850

Issue 3 - An evaluation of the obstacles to German unification, 1815–50

This is the only topic for which there are three different issues and essay questions. You must make sure that you identify correctly the questions which may come up for this topic.

Background – Europe in 1815

1. Provide definitions for the following: -










2. Provide information about: -

Holy Roman Empire (First Reich)

Hapsburg Dynasty

Hohenzollern Dynasty

Emperor Napoleon I

Prince Metternich

Growth of Nationalism – Impact of the French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars

3. Explain in detail the impact of the Napoleonic Wars on the German States. (Mention reduction to 39 states, liberalism and nationalism).

4. Explain the impact of the decisions made at the 1815 Congress of Vienna on the German states.


a) The Deutscher Bund

b) The two leading states in the Bund

c) How the formation and structure of the Bund helped to keep the German states divided
Ref: Richards, Chapter 10, Cameron, Robertson and Henderson, pp56-58

Factors Favouring Nationalism in the German States
5. Make a spider diagram illustrating the things that the German states had in common, i.e. what they shared. (Mention: language, race, history, music, literature, philosophy, military weakness and anything else that you can think of)
Ref: PowerPoint ‘Factors favouring German nationalism’

Obstacles to Nationalism in the German States
6. Explain the following external and internal obstacles to German nationalism:

Austrian strength and opposition

Opposition from other European countries (e.g. France and Russia)

Religious differences

Opposition from the rulers of individual states

Divisions within the nationalists

Indifference of the masses/Attitude of peasants

Resentment towards Prussia

Ref: PowerPoint ‘Obstacles to German nationalism’

Growth of Nationalism – The Liberals and the Burschenschaften
Ref: PowerPoint ‘Early Nationalism in the Universities’
7. Describe and explain the growth of nationalist societies (Burschenschaften) in the German states after 1815.
8. Describe the events of the 1817 Wartburg Festival and the murder of Kotzebue.
9. What were the Carlsbad Decrees of 1819?
10. What impact did these Decrees have on German nationalism?
11. Describe the events of the 1832 Hambach Festival.
12. Explain the Six Acts of 1832?

  1. How important was this cultural/intellectual nationalism in the period 1818 – 1850 (do this as a +/- table)?

Growth of nationalism – Economic Factors and the Zollverein

  1. a) Describe the population growth, urbanisation and industrialisation in the German states

during this period.

b) What impact did these developments have on German nationalism?

Ref: McGonigle pp13 - 18
15. a) What was the Zollverein?

b) When and why was it established?

c) By 1836 how many states were members of the Zollverein?

d) Which state did not become a member of the Zollverein and what effect did this have?

16. In what ways could it be argued that the Zollverein promoted German nationalism?
17. In what ways could it be argued that the Zollverein did not promote German nationalism?
Ref: PowerPoint ‘The Zollverein’

Growth and Failure of Nationalism –

The 1848 Revolutions and the Frankfurt Parliament
Ref Cameron, Robertson and Henderson pp59 – 61, Richards pp116 - 120
The 1848 Revolutions
18. Explain the revival of German liberalism after the succession of Frederick William IV to the throne of Prussia (Ref: Richards p108 and 116)
19. What factors were common causes of revolution in nearly every European state in the 1840s?
20. What happened to Prince Metternich (the Austrian chancellor) in 1848?
21. What effects did revolution in Austria have on German nationalism?
22. Describe events in Berlin in 1848.
23. What was the nature and purpose of the Frankfurt Assembly?

24. What were the main issues over which delegates disagreed?

25. Describe the eventual collapse and dissolution of the Assembly.
26. Create a detailed spider-diagram explaining the reasons why political nationalism failed to unite the German states in 1848 – 49. (Take care to consider the general reasons for failure as well as the specific ones related to the collapse of the Frankfurt Assembly.)
Ref: Grey table on p61 Cameron, Robertson and Henderson.
Postcript – Erfurt and Olmutz
27. Explain what the Erfurt Union and the Humiliation of Olmutz were.
28. Analyse the importance of Erfurt and Olmutz with reference to:

The opposition of kings and princes to nationalism and liberalism

The opposition of Russia and Austria
Ref: PowerPoint ‘The Erfurt Union 1849’
29. Copy and complete …

Otto Von Bismarck, the man who eventually played the leading role in uniting Germany, described the period before 1850 as ‘The time when nothing happened’. It is certainly clear that nationalists had not achieved their goal by 1850, in that Germany was not unified. However, Bismarck’s statement is not entirely accurate in that …..

Growth, Extent and Failure of Nationalism

Past Paper Questions

2009 – How important were economic factors in the growth of national feeling in Germany during the period 1815 to 1850?
2010 - ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2011 – How important were cultural factors in the growth of national feeling in Germany between 1815 and 1850?
2011 – To what extent was resentment towards Prussia among the German states the main obstacle to unification by 1850?
2012 – How strong was nationalism in Germany by 1850?
2013 – ‘By 1850 political nationalism had made little progress in Germany.’ How valid is this view?
2014 – How important was the Zollverein in the growth of German nationalism between 1815 and 1850?
2014 – ‘The German princes were the most important obstacle to German unification before 1850.’ How valid is this view?
2015 – By 1850 supporters of nationalism had made significant progress in their aims. How valid is this view?

The Unification of Germany

1850 – 1871

Issue 4 - An evaluation of the reasons why unification was achieved in Germany, by 1871

Germany was formally unified on 18th January 1871, at the end of the Franco-Prussian War. In the Hall of Mirrors at the Palace of Versailles the German Empire was proclaimed. Wilhelm I of Prussia became the first German Kaiser and Otto Von Bismarck became the first German Chancellor.

Attempts to unify the German states before 1850 had been unsuccessful. There are several reasons why Germany became unified in the period 1850 – 1871.
In this section we will consider:-

  1. Prussian economic strength

  2. The decline of Austria

  3. Prussian military strength

  4. The leadership of Bismarck

  5. The actions of Napoleon III

Prussian Economic Strength

(Ref: Power Point – ‘Growing Prussian Economic Strength’)

In the 1850s and 60s Prussia’s economy continued to grow. Economically, Prussia was starting to outstrip Austria. ‘This would have far-reaching political, economic and military consequences for both powers.’ (McGonigle)

  1. Describe the growth of Prussian industry (mention coal, iron and railways).

  1. Why was the acquisition of the Rhineland so important to the growth of Prussian industry?

  1. Explain the continued importance of the Zollverein during this period.

Bismarck famously said in 1862 that it would be ‘iron and blood’ that would unite the German states. The British economist J.M. Keynes, however said that German unification was due more to ‘coal and iron’.

  1. Explain the meaning of the quotes above from Bismarck and Keynes.

The Decline of Austria

(Ref: Power Points – ‘The Decline of Austria’ and ‘Prussian Growth/Austrian Decline’)
In the 1850s and 1860s the balance of power within the German states began to swing away from Austria and towards Prussia. Economically, militarily and politically Prussia was becoming the dominant state.

  1. Why did Austria’s political power decline in the 1850s? (Mention: death of Schwarzenberg.)

  1. Explain the failure of Austria to establish an alternative Zollverein in 1852 and the impact of Austria’s industrial backwardness on her military strength.

  1. Explain why Austria’s previously good relationships with Russia ended. (Mention: Crimean War)

  1. Why did Austria’s international power decline in the 1850s? (Mention: industrial backwardness and the French and Italian Wars)

Prussian Military Strength
The Key Men Come to Power
In 1858 Frederick William IV of Prussia was declared insane and his brother William, or Wilhelm, became Regent. In 1861 Frederick William died and William became Prussian King (Wilhelm I)
King William was a very different man to his older brother. He was by training and profession a soldier – thus, he was willing to use war an instrument of foreign policy. He was keen to avenge the ‘Humiliation of Olmutz’. Also he believed in the Divine Right of Kings, i.e. that monarchs were appointed by God and responsible only to God for their actions; certainly monarchs should not give too much power to elected assemblies. However, Wilhelm was willing to appoint government ministers who were strong-minded.
In 1859 upon becoming Regent, Wilhelm appointed Albrecht von Roon to be the Prussian Minister of War. Von Roon was determined to strengthen Prussia’s army. Next, Wilhelm appointed Helmuth von Moltke as Chief of the Prussian General Staff.

  1. Explain von Roon’s and von Moltke’s plans to modernise and expand the Prussian army.

  1. Take a page and divide it into three sections. In each section, summarise the role and importance of the Prussian army in each of the three Wars of Unification with Denmark, Austria and Prussia. (Leave a page and come back and do this question when you have learned about the Wars of Unification

The Role of Bismarck
New taxes were needed to pay for the army reforms and the Landtag (Prussian parliament, dominated by Liberals) refused to agree to the new taxes. This resulted in a constitutional crisis over who ruled Prussia – King or Landtag? Wilhelm considered abdication but was persuaded by von Roon to summon Otto von Bismarck from Paris to resolve the crisis.

  1. Who was Otto von Bismarck and why was he chosen by Wilhelm to become the new Minister President of Prussia?

  1. Quote the most significant part of Bismarck’s ‘iron and blood’ speech and explain how it illustrates Bismarck’s future approach to the unification process.

  1. How did Bismarck resolve the crisis?

  1. Bismarck is famous for his opportunism and Realpolitik. Explain.

The Schleswig-Holstein Crisis and War with Denmark 1864

Ref: Richards pp143 - 146

  1. Put the following statements about the outbreak of the Prusso-Danish War of 1864 into the correct chronological order.

  • The Prussians and Austrians formed an alliance

  • Because there had been frequent disputes over the Duchies, the 1852 London Protocol guaranteed their virtual independence from Denmark.

  • These two states were largely independent, though technically the King of Denmark was Duke of both of them.

  • Holstein was a member state of the Bund.

  • In 1863 the new Danish King attempted to increase his control of the two duchies, thus breaking the London Protocol.

  • German nationalists protested to the Bund.

  • Bismarck saw this as an opportunity to promote Prussia as the champion of German interests.

  • Schleswig and Holstein were two Duchies (i.e. territories governed by a Duke) between Denmark and the Bund.

  • The Bund sent troops to defend the German population of the duchies.

  • War broke out on 1st February 1864.

  • Holstein had a largely German population, as did southern Schleswig. Northern Schleswig was mostly Danish.

  1. Who won the war and why? (Make sure to mention the isolation of Denmark – Ref Richards pp144 - 145)

  1. Give details of the 1865 Convention of Gastein.

  1. Why did Bismarck refer to the Convention of Gastein as ‘papering over the cracks’?

The Austro-Prussian War (The Seven Weeks’ War) 1866

Ref: Richards pp146 - 149
Bismarck’s primary goal had always been a Kleindeutschland, dominated by Prussia. In order to achieve this war against Austria was unavoidable. Building on what had been learned in the war against Denmark he began to prepare for such a war.

  1. How did Bismarck ensure French neutrality in any future war between Prussia and Austira? (Mention Biarritz and the actions of Napoleon III)

  1. What were the terms of the Prussian alliance with Italy drawn up in April 1866.

Bismarck was aware that the Russians would not help the Austrians (because of the Crimean War) ; nor would the British (whose interests were not involved).

Because of the terms of the Italian alliance and in the interests of making the Austrians appear to be the aggressors, Bismarck began to subtly to provoke the Austrians into a declaration of war. Issues between Prussia and Austria over access to Schelswig and Holstein were used by Bismarck to provoke the Austrians into mobilisation. The Austrians also took the issue to the Bund, breaching the Convention of Gastein. When the Austrians urged the Bund states to attack insolent Prussia, Bismarck took this as a declaration of war.

  1. Why did the Prussians win the war so quickly? (Mention: The Italians, The greater number of Bund states on the Prussian side, The Prussian needle guns, Prussian use of railways, the telegraph, Prussian military leadership, the Battle of Konnigratz/Sadowa)

  1. Explain what Bismarck did when the French attempted to claim territory in the Rhineland as compensation for their neutrality. (Ref: Richards p147)

  1. Why did Bismarck want to ‘avoid wounding the Austrians too severely’ in the peace treaty?

  1. What consequently were the terms of the Treaty of Prague?

The most important outcome of the Austro-Prussian War was the dissolution of the Bund and the creation of the North German Confederation:-

    • A confederation of all of the German states north of the River Main.

    • It was not completely voluntary. Prussia simply annexed states which objected to being members of the confederation.

    • Wilhelm became the first President of the North German Confederation which was completely dominated by Prussia.

    • It was a state in its own right and controlled armed services and foreign policy.

    • The member states retained control only of their internal affairs.

    • Four southern Catholic states, the biggest being Bavaria were not part of this Confederation.

    • Austria was not part of the confederation.

The Franco Prussian War 1870 – 1871

Ref: Richards pp151 – 154

  1. What were the terms of the secret military alliances made with the four southern states?

  1. What indication do these alliances give of Bismarck’s likely next move?

  1. Find some good historiography in your textbooks to illustrate the contrasting views of historians on the extent of Bismarck’s planning for the Franco-Prussian War.

  1. Explain briefly how a problem over the Spanish throne led to an increase in tension between France and the North German Confederation.

Concerned at the possibility of war, Wilhelm I went against Bismarck and withdrew Leopold’s candidature. Napoleon III sent his ambassador to the spa town of Ems to obtain a written assurance from Wilhelm that there would be no future Hohenzolleren (Prussian) to the Spanish throne. This demand was foolishly in the form of an ultimatum.

Wilhelm politely refused to give any such guarantee. He dismissed the French ambassador and sent a telegram to Chancellor Bismarck detailing the French demands and giving a summary of what had taken place.
While Wilhelm ‘supposed that he had made a fine stroke for peace’ (AJP Taylor), Bismarck edited and altered the tone of Wilhelm’s telegram before releasing it to the press upon whom it had an electrifying effect. The French Emperor, politicians and public were enraged at what now appeared to be a snub to the French by the arrogant Prussians and France declared war on the North German Confederation the 19th July 1870. Once again Bismarck had shown that he was a master opportunist.

  1. Why did France fight alone (Ref: Richards p154)?

  1. Why did the four southern states fight with the North German Confederation? (You should know this!)

  1. Why did the Prussians win the war?

  1. Explain how Napoleon III was overthrown and taken prisoner (Ref Richards p99 – 101)

After the French surrender, but before the final peace settlement was agreed, the formal unification of Germany took place. On 18th January 1871 in the Hall of Mirrors in the Palace of Versailles, the formal proclamation of the German Empire took place. Wilhelm was declared Kaiser and Bismarck Chancellor of the Second German Reich.

  1. Explain why the French found this proclamation particularly humiliating.

  1. What were the terms of the Treaty of Frankfurt, May 1871?

Here are some good quotes for you.

Mosse – ‘Bismarck’s task of unifying Germany was made easier by circumstances. If he played his hand with great skill, it was a good one in the first place’
Bismarck – ‘A statesman is like a man wandering in a forest who knows his general direction but not the exact point at which he will emerge from the wood.’

  1. Find at least two more quotes about Bismarck’s overall contribution to unification yourself. (Ref: Power Point ‘Bismarck – Opportunist or Architect?’)

Past Paper Questions

  1. How important was German economic growth in bringing about the unification of Germany by 1871?

  1. How important was Bismarck’s leadership in the achievement of German unification?

  1. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

2010 How far was Bismarck’s success in unifying Germany between 1862 and 1871 due mainly to mistakes made by others?

2011 -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2012 ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2013 How important was the attitude of foreign states in the achievement of German unification by 1871?
2014 To what extent was Prussian military strength the main reason for German unification being achieved by 1871?
2015 -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------

The Failure of the Weimar Republic and

The Rise of the Nazis

1918 – 1933
Issue 5 - An evaluation of the reasons why the Nazis achieved power, in 1933

On 9th November 1918 The Kaiser abdicated and a new German Republic was created. This republic came to be known as the Weimar Republic as its constitution was drawn up in the town of Weimar in 1919.

On the 9th November Adolf Hitler, who had fought in the German army during the first World War, was in hospital recovering from a British gas attack a few weeks earlier which had temporarily blinded him. News of the end of the war delighted most of the other patients, but not Hitler. Later he wrote ‘I knew all was lost. Only fools, liars and criminals could hope for mercy from the enemy. In these nights hatred grew in me, hatred for those responsible for the deed. Miserable and degenerate criminals! ….. My own fate became known to me. I decided to go into politics.’
However, it was not until fifteen years later in 1933 that Hitler and the Nazis came to power. There are several factors responsible for the ultimate failure of the Weimar Republic and the rise to power of the Nazis. In this topic we will look at:

  1. The legacy of the Great War

  2. The weaknesses of the Weimar Republic

  3. Economic difficulties

  4. The appeal of the Nazis after 1928

  5. The role of Hitler

  6. The weaknesses and mistakes of opponents

The Legacy of the Great War

It has been argued that the Weimar Republic was ‘doomed from the start’; partly because this regime was always associated with Germany’s defeat in the First World War.

The Armistice – 11 November 1918
1. Explain who the ‘November Criminals’ were; why they were called this and what the Dolchstüss was. (Page 103 Cameron, Robertson and Henderson)
The Treaty of Versailles – 28 June 1919
2. Summarise why the peace treaty was so despised in Germany. Don’t write a huge list of the terms, try to summarise in a paragraph. Mention the following – diktat, territorial losses, disarmament, war guilt, reparations and lack of collective security (pp103 – 104 C, R&H)
3. How can it be argued that the new regime was unfairly associated with Germany’s defeat in the Great War?

Weaknesses of the Weimar Republic

The Constitution of the Weimar Republic
4. Explain how proportional representation and Article 48 (the ‘suicide clause’) resulted in serious weaknesses in democracy for Germany. (pp104 – 105 C, R&H)
Even before the constitution of the new republic was drawn up, the regime faced the first of three putsches in five years.
The Spartacist Revolt – Dec 1918 – Jan 1919
5. Describe briefly what happened and explain in detail how this revolt weakened the Weimar Republic. (p105 C, R&H)
The Kapp Putsch – March 1920
6. Describe briefly what happened and explain in detail how this revolt weakened the Weimar Republic. (pp105 - 106 C, R&H)
The Munich Putsch (aka the Beerhall Putsch or the Nazi Putsch)- Nov 1923
7. Describe briefly what happened and explain in detail how this revolt weakened the Weimar Republic. (pp108 C, R&H)
Three major revolts in such a short space of time seriously weakened the authority of the Weimar Republic. The new regime had enemies on both sides of the political spectrum.

Economic Difficulties –

the Hyper Inflation of 1923 and the Great Depression of 1929

The Weimar Republic faced a political and economic disaster when French and Belgian troops invaded and occupied the Ruhr in January 1923.

The Occupation of the Ruhr – Jan 1923
8. Explain why the French and Belgians occupied the Ruhr and what the reaction of the Weimar government was to this. (p106 C, R&H)
Hyper-inflation 1923
9. Explain why the occupation of the Ruhr led to hyper-inflation and why this led to unpopularity for the Weimar Republic. (pp106 – 107C, R&H)

Analysis - However, the Nazis did not come to power in 1923, the Nazi putsch failed and Hitler ended up in prison. Therefore, there must have been factors other than the weaknesses of the Weimar Republic that led to the rise of the Nazis.

Indeed during the so-called Golden Years of the Weimar Republic the regime recovered, both politically and economically.

The Golden Years – 1924 - 1929
10. Explain Germany’s recovery during this period. Make sure that you mention Stresemann, the Ruhr, the Rentenmark, the Dawes Plan, Locarno and the League of Nations. (pp109 – 110 C, R&H)

Analysis - By 1928 there was almost no inflation in Germany; German industries were booming and the level of unemployment was low. Germany had also been accepted as a “civilised nation”, by the other European democracies. During this time there was little support for the extreme political parties.

11. How many seats did the Nazis win in the 1928 Reichstag elections?
12. What did Hitler call the ‘Golden Years’?
The Great Depression
However, in October 1929 two events happened that had devastating consequences for Weimar Germany. Firstly Gustav Stresemann died, depriving Germany of her most capable politician and, secondly, the American Stock market on Wall Street crashed.
This resulted in the collapse of American banks and businesses and eventually a world-wide economic depression. Germany was hit particularly badly as the German economy was so reliant on American loans. When these loans dried up the short-lived economic recovery of the Golden Years was over. German industries, businesses and exports collapsed. The net result of this economic catastrophe was massive unemployment in Germany.

13. How many German were unemployed by 1932?

During these extreme times, the moderate political parties, such as the Centre Party and the SPD could offer no quick solutions to Germany’s problems, but the extreme parties apparently could. Consequently, more and more Germans voted for the Nazis and the KPD (communists).

14. What were the 1930 election results for the Nazis and the KPD and what position did this give the Nazis in the Reichstag?

15. What was the July 1932 election result for the Nazis and what position did this give the party in the Reichstag?

The Appeal of the Nazis after 1928

The Nazis, unlike most of the other parties had a broad appeal, across all the social classes.

16. Explain the electoral success of the Nazis, under the following headings:

  • Fear of communism

  • Promises of quick solutions to Germany’s economic problems

  • The Führer Principle

  • Foreign policies

  • Anti-Semitism

  • Effective propaganda

  • Financial backing

  • Social and economic divisions/wide electoral appeal

The Role of Hitler

There is no doubt that much of the Nazis’ rise to power can be attributed to the leadership of Adolf Hitler.

17. Summarise Hitler’s strengths under the following headings:
Hitler’s war record

Hitler’s skill in organising the party

Hitler’s oratory and charisma

Indeed, Hitler stood against Hindenburg in the 1932 Presidential Election. He did not win, but he came a very respectable second to Hindenburg (venerable war hero and President 1923 – 32)

18. How many votes did Hindenburg and Hitler receive in the 1932 presidential election?

The Weaknesses and Mistakes of Opponents

The inherent weaknesses of the Weimar constitution made a united opposition to the Nazis difficult. However there are other reasons why none of the other German political parties effectively opposed the Nazis’ rise to power.

19. Explain how the left-wing parties (the KPD and the SPD), which would have been the natural enemies of the Nazis, were permanently split after the Spartacist Revolt:

Other reasons for a lack of effective opposition the Nazis:

  • Although the KPD attracted considerable support in Reichstag elections, German Communists did not make a determined attempt to protect democracy in Germany because their master in Moscow, Stalin, had ordered them to help bring down the Weimar Republic in order to pave the way for a workers’ revolution.

  • The Social Democrats (SPD) were the main supporters of the Weimar Republic, yet they did not effectively oppose the Nazis because their leaders were unwilling to use force and were weary and dispirited by bickering within the party and falling support for the party during the Great Depression.

  • The right-wing parties (the D.V.P. and the D.N.V.P.) were largely sympathetic to the Nazis, therefore did not oppose them.

  • Gustav Stresemann died in the same month as the Wall Street Crash and his death deprived the Republic of its strongest and most able defender.

  • Until the late 1920s the Nazis were not viewed as a serious threat to democracy. Until 1930 they had little popular support and their ambitions and policies were underestimated and misunderstood.

The ‘Fatal Error’ of 1933

Although the Nazis did not have an overall majority, they were the largest party in the Reichstag by July 1932 and, by rights, Hitler should have been appointed Chancellor at this point. However, President Hindenburg did not trust Hitler and was reluctant to appoint him Chancellor. Therefore another election was called for November 1932.

20. What were the November 1932 election results for the Nazis?
The Nazis were still the biggest party, but the Nazi support was beginning to decline. However, by this point, Weimar democracy was in chaos. In 1932 alone there had been 60 presidential decrees (using Article 48). A series of Chancellors – Bruning, Von Schleicher and Von Papen had been unsuccessful in leading unstable Reichstag coalitions. The SPD, which had been the main party in almost all of the Reichstag coalitions, eventually left government when unemployment benefit was cut.
At this point Franz Von Papen, who had been Chancellor himself, persuaded a reluctant Hindenburg to appoint Hitler as Chancellor.

21. When was Hitler appointed Chancellor?

There were only three Nazis in the new cabinet of twelve and Von Papen was Vice-Chancellor. Von Papen was confident that he could control the supposedly inexperienced and naïve Hitler. He boasted – ‘we have hired him’ and ‘within two months we will have pushed Hitler so far into the corner that he’ll squeak’.

Clearly Von Papen was wrong as, two months later, a Nazi dictatorship was established with the passing of the Enabling Act.

Rise of the Nazis/Failure of Weimar
Past Paper Questions

  1. How important was the leadership of Hitler in the rise of the Nazis to power in Germany by 1933?

  1. How important were weaknesses and divisions among his opponents in explaining Hitler’s rise to power by 1933?

  1. “Hitler’s promise of a better future for the German people was the most important reason for the growth in support for the Nazis up to 1933.” How accurate is this view?

  1. --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

  1. How important were economic factors in the rise to power of the Nazi Party between 1919 and 1933?

  1. To what extent were the weaknesses of the Weimar Republic the major reason for the rise of the Nazi Party between 1919 and 1933?

  1. --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

  1. --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

  1. How important was resentment towards the Treaty of Versailles as a reason why the Nazis had achieved power by 1933?

The Nazis in Power

1933 - 1939

Issue 6 - An evaluation of the reasons why the Nazis were able to stay in power, 1933–39

On 30th January 1933, President Hindenburg appointed Hitler as the Chancellor (Prime Minister) of Germany. Hitler was in a very weak position:

  • Von Papen, the deputy Chancellor was an experienced politician and believed that he could control the politically naïve Hitler.

  • There were twelve ministers in the cabinet, but only two were Nazis.

  • The Nazis did not control a majority in the Reichstag, having gained only 33% of the votes and 196 seats in the last election (Nov. 1932).

  • Hindenburg had appointed Hitler and could dismiss him at any time.

However, in a matter of months the Nazis had established a one-party state and, with Hindenburg’s death in 1934 and Hitler’s appointment as Führer, the Nazi dictatorship was complete.

The Third Reich, as the Nazi regime is known, didn’t last for the 1000 years that Hitler had planned; but it did survive until 1945, when Germany was defeated in the Second World War.
So how did the Nazis establish complete control of Germany and what impact did Nazi rule have on the German people? In this topic we will look at:

  1. The creation of a Nazi dictatorship/totalitarian state

  2. Gleichschaltung and social control

  3. Fear and state terrorism

  4. Propaganda

  5. Nazi foreign, economic and social policies

  6. The crushing of opposition

Nazi Dictatorship

The Establishment of a Totalitarian State

From the very inception of the regime the Nazis consolidated their power. Less than a month after Hitler’s appointment as Chancellor came the first opportunity.

The Reichstag Fire – 27 February 1933
1. Describe brieflythe Reichstag Fire
2. Explain the terms of the Decree for the Protection of the People and State, which was passed on the night of the fire
The March Election - 5 March 1933
3. Describe briefly the March election, indicating whether it was free and fair. Also give the result for the Nazis. (Page 115 C, R&H)
The Enabling Act - 23 March 1933
4. Explain how the Act was passed and what it did.
The Other Political Parties.
5. Describe the process by which Germany became a one-party state. (Page 115 C, R&H)
The Night of the Long Knives - 30th June 1934
6. Explain how Hitler eliminated internal enemies from within the Nazi Party. (Page 116 C, R&H)
Führer – August 1934
7. Explain the death of Hindenburg, and how Hitler became Führer. (Page 118 C, R&H)
Thus, only a year and a half after Hitler had been appointed Chancellor, he was Führer of a one-party state, with virtually unlimited political power.
Next, the Nazis took control of all state and national institutions. This process was known as the Gleichschaltung (Co-ordination).
Gleichschaltung and Social Control

8. Explain how the Nazis took control of the following organisations and institutions:

Trade Unions (Page 115 C, R&H)

The Civil Service (Page 118 C, R&H)

The Police

The Courts (Page 119 C, R&H)

The Army (See your notes on the Night of the Long Knives)

Local Government (Page 118 C, R&H ‘The States’)

Education and Youth Organisations (Page 119 - 20 C, R&H)

The Churches (Page 119 C, R&H)

Fear and State Terrorism
9. Explain how the Nazis created a police state and used terror to maintain their regime. Mention:
1. The Gestapo and the use of informers. (Ref: ‘Nazis: A Warning from History’)

2. The SS and concentration camps. (Page 117 C, R&H)

  1. The example of Germany’s Jews. (Page 117 C, R&H)

10. Make notes on how the Nazis used propaganda to maintain control sing the Prezi ‘Propaganda’

Nazi Foreign, Economic and Social Policies

The Nazi regime existed and was maintained not solely through dictatorship and terror. any of the Nazis’ policies were popular and the regime had a great deal of genuine support from many of the German people.
11. Explain why the following policies were popular:
Economic and Social Policies

Full Employment (Page 120 - 121 C, R&H)

State Socialism and KdF (Page 121 - 122 C, R&H)


Foreign Policies

Mention: reparations, re-armament, Rhineland, Anschluss, Lebensraum

The Crushing of Opposition

There were several reasons for the lack of opposition to the Nazi regime:

  1. Organized opposition to the Nazis quickly became almost impossible. Within months of coming to power the Nazis had created a one-party state and their policy of Gleichschaltung meant they dominated national institutions and organs of the state. They arrested political opponents (especially leading socialists and communists) and trade union leaders. In addition, the Gestapo created a police state. Even so, individual Communists resisted the Nazis – ‘despite chaos among the leadership … despite betrayal and torture, thousands of dedicated Communists accepted terror and torture – at a time when little thought was given to resistance ion Germany or abroad.’ And ‘After 1936, all that was left was the self-sacrificing resistance of individuals, and minute groups.’ – Bracher.

  1. Of course, many Germans were happy to accept Hitler’s rule. At least the Nazis provided strong government. ‘The ineffectiveness and failure of German resistance to Nazism had its roots in the strife-torn political climate of the Weimar Republic’ – Kershaw.

  1. Also, many Germans, having grown up in the Kaiser’s Germany, adopted and simply accepted the new regime‘traditional attitudes towards state authority imposed an inner inhibition’ – Bracher.

  1. Army generals, who could have overthrown Hitler, were won over by rearmament and the removal of Röhm (who had wanted the Army and the SA to be amalgamated).

  1. The Protestant and Catholic churches tended not to oppose the Nazis – one reason being that the Nazis had crushed Germany’s communists. Yet some brave Christians did oppose the Nazis. For instance, Jehovah’s witnesses refused to accept Nazism and many were executed or imprisoned in concentration camps. A Protestant minister, Pastor Paul Schneider, declared that Hitler was an agent of the Devil. Schneider was arrested, tortured and killed by lethal injections.

Nazis in Power
Past Paper Questions

  1. To what extent did Fascist governments rely on fear to stay in power? Discuss with reference to either Nazi rule in Germany between 1933 and 1939 or Fascist rule in Italy between 1922 and 1939.

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  1. To what extent was Nazi control of Germany from 1933 to 1939 due to the popularity of their policies?

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  1. ‘Through their economic policies the Nazis gave the people what they wanted.’ How valid is this as a reason for the Nazis maintaining their power between 1933 and 1939?

  1. ‘Propaganda was crucial to the maintenance of power by the Nazis.’ How accurate is this view?

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  1. How important was the use of fear and terror as a reason why the Nazis were able to stay in power, 1933 – 1939?

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