Gcse history revision nazi germany 1933 – 39 the estabalishment of the dictatorship life in nazi germany

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1933 – 39

Hitler was appointed Chancellor in January 1933.
However he was still in a very weak position. This was for several reasons:

  • Only three out of eleven members of the government were Nazis (a coalition government)

  • The NSDAP had less than half the seats in the Reichstag. In fact the NSDAP had only 196 seats out of a possible total of 572 seats whereas the SPD and the KPD had a combined total of 221 seats)

  • Hindenburg could sack him at any time.

  • He faced opposition from within the NSDAP.

And yet by March 1933 Hitler had established himself as a Dictator – democracy had collapsed.

And by August 1934 he had removed any possible threats to his position as Fuhrer of Germany. He had created a totalitarian state and gained absolute power.
1. By gaining control of the Reichstag and ending democracy
Hitler wanted to be able to pass laws to increase his own powers. However in January 1933 he didn’t have an overall majority. He therefore immediately called for a general election for 5 March. He then set about persuading the German electorate to vote for the NSDAP.
1. The use of terror and fear.

Violence and terror were used to intimidate the opposition. There were about 70 deaths in the weeks leading up to voting day.

2nd Feb 1933: Hermann Goring drafted 400 000 SA and SS men into the police force so that Nazi power could be used legally.
2. The use of propaganda

Once again the NSDAP received large amounts of money from leading industrialists to help with the propaganda campaign. Goebbels used posters, radio broadcasts, newspaper articles, mass meetings and parades to make sure the message of Nazism was everywhere.

1st Feb 1933: Hitler announced a new motorway construction programme.
3. The importance of the Reichstag Fire

One week before the election on 27th February 1933 the Reichstag was set on fire. It is not known who started the fire but the Nazis arrested Marinus van der Lubbe, a Dutch Communist.

This was a wonderful opportunity for Hitler and Goebbels to exploit. They claimed that the Communists were about to stage a takeover.
Hitler asked President Hindenburg for extra powers to deal with the plot.
Hindenburg was convinced that Germany was in danger and issued the ‘Law for the Protection of the People and State’. This emergency law suspended basic civil rights.
It allowed for imprisonment without trial – this allowed the Nazis to imprison large numbers of their political opponents – approx 4000 Communists were arrested.
It also ended press freedom. This allowed the Nazis to ban Communist and Socialist newspapers.
The Nazis were therefore able to destroy the Communist election campaign.
However despite all the propaganda and violence the NSDAP did not gain a majority.

Hitler was forced to form an alliance with the National Party.

Even then he still did not control the two-thirds of seats that were needed in order to be able to change the constitution.
4. The importance of the Enabling Act

The Enabling Act was passed on 24th March.

It gave him and his government full powers for the next four years.
Why did the Reichstag allow its powers to be destroyed?

  • Communists not allowed to vote

  • SA intimidated members

  • Catholic Party agreed to support it as promised they would be allowed to run church without interference from the State

  • Many members happy to see the destruction of democracy – they wanted a strong leader.

The Enabling Act had very important consequences.

The Weimar Constitution was over.

Democracy had ended.

Hitler now had the power to pass laws to take total control of Germany. He was now Dictator.

2. The policy of Gleichschaltung: the policy of bringing German society into line with Nazi philosophy.
March 1933: the first concentration camp set up at Dachau – used for re-education of political opponents
May 1933: Trade Unions banned. It was replaced with the National Labour Front which decided wages. Strikes were made illegal. Any one who complained would be sent to a camp.
April 1933: The Gestapo set up – the secret police. It could arrest and imprison those suspected of opposing the state.
July 1933: The Law Against the Formation of Parties. This made the NSDAP the only legal political party in Germany.
Jan 1934: The Parliaments of the 18 Lander (districts of Germany) destroyed. This took away the power of the landers.
By the end of 1934 Hitler had also taken control of the legal system:

All judges had to be members of the NSDAP

October 1933: the German Lawyers Front was established.

1934: the People’s Court was established to try cases of treason. All the judges were loyal Nazis

3. By destroying all opposition from within the NSDAP
The importance of the Night of the Long Knives: Operation Hummingbird

On the night of 30th June 1934 Rohm and other members of the SA were seized and executed by SS firing squads. About 400 people were murdered.

Why did Hitler order the death of Rohm?

  1. Rohm was a threat to Hitler. Hitler heard that Rohm was planning to seize power. Rohm did not like Hitler’s close relations with the industrialists and army leaders. He wanted changes to help the workers and had strong socialist views, eg he wanted more government interference in the running of the country in order to help the workers and he wanted to move away from Germany’s class structure and bring greater equality.

  2. To secure the loyalty of the army. The army felt threatened by Rohm and the SA. Rohm wanted to incorporate the army into the SA. The army did not like the socialist nature of the SA. Hitler knew he needed the support of the army for when Hindenburg died and when he planned to combine the posts of Chancellor and President.

  3. To secure the support of the SS and the Gestapo. Neither Himmler nor Goering liked Rohm of the SA.

  4. As an absolute warning that he would not tolerate any opponents. It is often seen as a turning point – when there could be absolutely no doubt of Hitler’s power in Gemany.

4. The death of Hindenburg
On the death of Hindenburg Hitler was able to abolish the position of President and take all powers for himself as Fuhrer – leader of the German state. All officers of the army were called on to take a personal oath of loyalty to the Fuhrer. This was of crucial importance in securing the dictatorship.
By the end of 1934 Hitler controlled the legal system, the army and the Reichstag.
The Nazi police and security organisations meant it was not impossible for anyone to escape the power and grip of the Nazis/

Finally it is also worth mentioning that one of the reasons why Hitler was able to destroy democracy so easily was because the process had already begun by President Hindenburg before Hitler was even made Chancellor. In fact most historians date the ending of democracy in Germany from March 1930. This is when the government broke up after being unable to decide what to do about the Wall Street Crash. From this time Hindenburg ruled by emergency decree – as allowed by Article 48 of the Weimar Constitution. This meant that he could make laws without asking the Reichstag.

Make sure you can answer the following questions:

  1. Was the use of propaganda the most important reason why Hitler was able to set up a dictatorship between 1933 and 1934? 16

  1. Why did the Hitler order the Night of the Long Knives? 8

  1. What were the consequences of the Reichstag Fire? 8

  1. Describe the key features of the Enabling Act. 6

  1. Explain how Germany changed between January 1933 and August 1934 8

Make sure you can answer the following questions:

  1. How did life change for children in Nazi Germany? 8

  1. How did life change for women in Nazi Germany? 8

  1. How did life change for the workers in Nazi Germany? 8

  1. Describe how Hitler took control of the church. 6

  1. Why did Hitler dislike the Jews? 8

  1. Explain the effects of Kristallnacht. 8

  1. Describe how Hitler used terror and fear to control Germany 8

  1. Was the use of terror the main reason why Hitler faced little opposition between 1933 and 1939? 16

What were Hitler’s plans for children?
Hitler knew that the future of the Third Reich depended on the youth.

‘Whoever has the youth has the future’

He knew he would have to indoctrinate the children to fully support him and Nazi ideology. Children would have to accept without questioning their role in the creation and maintenance of the Third Reich.

For the boys this meant preparing them for their roles as soldiers.

For the girls this meant preparing them for their roles as wives and mothers.
Hitler also knew that it would be much easier to indoctrinate the children than their parents. The children would grow up not knowing anything else.
In 1933 he said: ‘When an opponent declares “I will not come over to your side”, I calmly say “Your child belongs to us already”.
Children were indoctrinated at school and in the Hitler Youth.
Everyone in Germany had to go to school until the age of 14. After that schooling was optional. Boys and girls went to separate schools.
All aspects of school life were taken over by the Nazis and used to indoctrinate the children.
The teachers

All teachers had to swear an oath of loyalty to Hitler and join the Nazi Teachers’ League.

The classrooms

The classrooms were decorated with swastika flags, photographs of Hitler and racist material.

The lessons

Every lesson began with the pupils greeting their teacher with the Nazi salute and chorusing Heil Hitler.

The curriculum was changed to prepare students for their future role.
Hitler wanted fit and healthy men and women so 15% of time was devoted to physical education. Sport was the means to create a fit and disciplined army and fit and healthy women. For boys boxing became compulsory. There was also a lot of time spent on team games.
Girls took needlework and homecrafts.

New subjects such as race studies were introduced to put across Nazi ideas on race and population control. Children were taught how to measure skulls and classify racial types. They were also taught that Aryans were superior and should not marry inferior races such as Jews.

History: the means of indoctrinating Germans about their past. German nationalism could be emphasised as could the story of the Nazi revolution and Hitler’s part in it. German mythology and the achievements of the Aryan race were also emphasised.
Biology: the means to deliver Nazi racial theory.
German: the study of German language and literature was intended to create a ‘consciousness’ of being German. Children read books such as the Battle of Tannenberg which glorified Germany’s role in WWI.
Geography: explained and justified the need for Lebensraum
Maths: Even this subject could be used to pass on NSDAP ideology. Equations could be used to work out how much money could be saved by closing down mental homes or how long it would take a bullet to travel.
There were also special schools created :
Napolas: National Political Training Institutes. These were the military academies for boys 10 –18. They would then go directly into the armed forces, usually the Waffen-SS.
The Adolf Hitler Schools. These were the finishing schools for the future governors of Germany.
The Ordensburgen or Order Castles. It was a distinct honour to attend one of these schools and graduates went straight into the higher ranks of the armed forces or NSDAP.

THE HITLER YOUTH: the Hilter Jugend
These organisations played a vital role in the indoctrination of the children.
Boys attended the Little Fellows from 6 to 10, the German Young People from 10 to 14 and the Hitler Youth from 14 to 18 when they would normally end up in the army.
Girls attended the League of Young Girls from 10 to 14 and then the League of German Girls up to the age of 18.
Both organisations emphasised sport and team work but the girls also received education in motherhood and preparation for marriage.
From 1936 membership was compulsory. All other youth organisations were banned.
By 1939 there were 7 million members.

Explain the effects of the indoctrination on the children.
There is no doubt that the indoctrination worked. The regime did mesmerise a generation of young people. This is for several reasons:

Many children reacted favourably to the strength and dynamism of Nazism.

Many enjoyed the power that it gave them.

Some also saw it as a means to rebel against the older generation.

The reign of terror and the use of propaganda meant that the children grew up in a society knowing nothing else than Nazism and Adolf Hitler.
Hitler created a generation who were willing to fight and die for him. It is of no surprise that when Hitler made his last appearance in April 1945 it was to the youth of Berlin. Nor is it of no surprise that it was the youth, some as young as 5, who fought most fanatically for him in the last days of the war.
However by 1939 there was some rebellion and resistance by the youth as they grew increasingly fed-up with the regimentation and petty restrictions of life in Nazi Germany.

The Edelweiss Pirates were set up in 1934. They listened to forbidden music, grew their hair, wore their own choice of clothes, beat up members of the Hitler Youth, and wrote anti-Nazi graffiti on walls. The Navajos were a similar organisation.

Later on during the war the White Rose group was set up by students.


When Hitler became Chancellor in 1933 there were several areas that concerned him about the position of women in Germany.

1. There had been a big decrease in the number of babies born in Germany. In 1900 there had been over 2 million babies born. In 1933 this figure dropped to less than one million.
2. There had been a big increase in female employment.
3. The immorality of women. Hitler was very concerned about the changing appearance of women – wearing make-up, smoking and cutting their hair. All of this was seen as part of the overall decline of moral standards during the Weimar Republic.
Hitler believed that the role of women was to stay at home and have children – lots of children, in fact as many children as possible! His aim was to increase the number of children born to racially pure Germans.
In 1934 he said ‘….her world is her husband, her family, her children and her house’.
However it is also important to point out that this did not mean the Nazis saw women as inferior or second class to men. Women’s roles were equally important to those of men, just different.
How did the Nazis try and raise the birth rate in Germany?
1.Legal changes

Abortion was made illegal in 1933.

It was made illegal to advertise or distribute contraceptives.

Divorce was made easier amongst childless couples.

Many jobs in the professions were closed to women.
2.Propaganda constantly reminded women of their duty.
Posters portrayed the ideal Aryan women surrounded by her large Aryan family – often shown as a Madonna figure. All propaganda glorified motherhood and the large family.

Women were encouraged to go back to traditional views on women – they were not to wear make-up, smoke or wear trousers. They should wear their hair in a bun or plaits.

Slimming and excessive sport was regarded as unhealthy and a possible hindrance to child birth.
The Nazi slogan of Kinder, Kuche, Kirche – Children, Church, Kitchen - was used to remind women that a woman’s place was in the home looking after her children and her husband.

Fertile mothers were awarded the Honour Cross on 12 August – Mother’s Day which had been changed by Hitler to be on the same day as his mother – bronze for four, silver for six, gold for eight, 11 the mother got to meet Hitler. The coining of the phrase ‘I have donated a child to the Fuhrer’

On 10 May 1933 all women’s organisations were told that they must integrate into the Women’s Front. Gertrud Scholtz-Klink was placed in overall charge. Under her leadership over 1.5 million women attended maternity school and half a million studied home economics between 1933 and 1938.
3.Financial incentives:

  • 1933: marriage loans of 1000RM (about two months salary of an average worker). The loan was only given if the woman gave up work. For each child born the amount to be repaid was reduced by 25%.

  • Family allowances were introduced – the more children a couple had the more money they were entitled to.

4.Lebensborn programme of 1935: Fountain of Life

The idea of Himmler – this policy encouraged women to have children of the SS whether they were married to them or not.
Did these strategies work?
No. Hitler failed to raise the birth rate. In fact it actually declined between 1936 and 1937.
Historians have argued that the failure of the Nazis to increase the population was down to several factors:

  1. The propaganda stressed the need to have children out of duty to the state not because of personal fulfilment and happiness.

  2. There was a shortage of houses

  3. Men were often away on the labour service or conscription.

  4. The number of marriages did not increase hugely – between 1933 and 1939 it rose by 9%.

  5. Despite Nazi ideology women were needed in the workforce. Between 1933 and 1939 the number of women in the workforce increased from 11.6 to 14.6 million. The introduction of conscription created a labour shortage.


The creation of a pure race
More than anything else Hitler’s policies were shaped by his attitudes towards race.
Hitler believed strongly in the importance of the purity of the German blood. He believed in the superiority of the Aryan Nordic German Super race – the Herrenvolk.

He was determined to create a super race through a combination of two policies:

  1. through building up the population of the Aryan race

  1. through the destruction of all those who were ‘alien to the community’ – the asocials and all those who were weak or handicapped.

Hitler was anti-semetic. He had an obsessive hatred of Jews.
This was for several reasons:

  1. Hitler wanted a pure Aryan race. He believed that Germany’s future was dependent on the creation of a pure Aryan racial state. The Jews had contaminated the German population. They were the Untermenschen or subhumans. They were the opposite of the Aryan race. He said that the Jews wanted to destroy and corrupt the Aryan race. They did not care about Germany and were like parasites.

  2. He used them as scapegoats for all of Germany’s problems. They were to blame for Germany’s defeat in WWI, hyperinflation in 1923 and the Great Depression of 1929.

  3. During his time in Vienna he had become increasingly jealous of the Jews. Vienna was very anti-Semitic and Hitler heard more and more how the Jews were evil money lenders and an evil force out to destroy civilisation. T

  4. It is also important to emphasise that Hitler was responding to the anti-Semitism in Germany.


Boycott of Jewish shops and businesses organised by the SA.

Thousands of Jewish civil servants, lawyers and university teachers sacked.

As Hitler felt more secure in his position the persecution of the Jews intensified. Hindenburg was no longer around to place any restraints on Hitler. Most historians believe that Hitler was placing more pressure on the Jews in the hope to persuade them to leave the country.

14 November 1935: the Nuremberg Laws

During the Nuremberg rally of 1935 Hitler gave orders that a law to purify the German race should be drawn up in the space of two days.

The Reich Citizenship Law

Only a person of German blood could be a German citizen. All Jews were therefore no longer allowed to be a German citizen. They were not allowed to vote or raise the German flag.

The Law for the Protection of German Blood and Honour

Germans now required licences stating that their marriage partners were fit to marry. Marriage and sexual relations between Jews and German citizens was banned. Marriage to Gypsies and Negroes was also forbidden.

An increasing number of notices appeared in resorts, public buildings, cafes: ‘Jews not Wanted’. Parks, swimming pools, restaurants and public buildings were all closed to Jews

The Jews had a brief respite during this year. The Olympic Games were held in Berlin and the world’s media were all there.


During this time there was a huge increase in the persecution of the Jews. Hitler was now fully secure in his position as Fuhrer and faced no opposition. It is also likely that the advent of war made him aware that more and more Jews were going to come under his control. He was still hoping to persuade as many as possible to leave. It also made good economic sense to take control of Jewish businesses.

In 1938 a series of laws were passed which aimed to humiliate the Jews and force pressure on them to leave Germany:

Jews were force to sell or liquidate their businesses at very low prices.

Jewish doctors and dentists were forbidden to offer their services to Aryans. Jewish lawyers were banned.

Jewish children were compelled to take the names Sarah or Israel as an additional forename.

All Jews were forced to carry identity cards

Jews banned from cinemas, theatres and sports facilities.

Jewish pupils were banned from schools and universities.
9 November 1938: Kristallnacht
On 8th November 1938 a young Polish Jew walked into the German embassy in Paris and shot the first official he met. He was protesting against the treatment of his parents in Germany who had been deported to Poland.
Goebbels used this as an opportunity to organise anti-Jewish demonstrations which involved attacks on Jewish property, shops and synagogues. So many windows were smashed in the campaign that the events of 9-10 November became known as ‘Crystal Night’ of the ‘Night of the Broken Glass’.
100 Jews killed and 20 000 sent to concentration camps (although a few were released after a few months)
However many Germans were disgusted at Kristallnacht. Hitler and Goebbels were anxious that it should not be seen as the work of the Nazis. It was portrayed as a spontaneous act of vengeance by Germans. Hitler officially blamed the Jews themselves for having provoked the attacks and used this as an excuse to step up the campaign against them. They were fined one billion Reichmarks as compensation for the damage caused.

During 1939 new laws were published almost daily which continued to limit the freedom of the Jews. Jews could not use a tram without a delousing certificate which had to be renewed weekly. Jews had to salute all Nazis personally. They had to wear a yellow star at all times on their left sleeve. They were constantly humiliated and persecuted by the Nazis. They were beaten up, made to fight each other at gun point and clean toilets with their bare hands.

In 1939 Himmler was appointed Reich Commissar for the Consolidation of German Nationhood – this placed the fate of the Jews at the mercy of the SS.
On 30th April Jews were evicted from their homes and forced to live in ghettos.
The anti-semetic measures introduced by Hitler during the pre-war years did persuade about one – half of the 500 000 Jews in Germany to leave. When they left they were stripped of their belongings and property.
July 1941: the Final Solution.

1. Many people in Germany were anti-semetic. There was a long standing tradition of hostility to Jews since the Middle Ages. Hostility was based on religion – rooted in the religious hostility of Christendom to the Jews as the murderers of Christ. However many Germans were also jealousy of the Jews economic wealth and power.
It was therefore easy for Hitler to build on the hostility that was already held by many German people. They became an easy scapegoat for Germany’s weaknesses and problems – particularly her defeat in WWI.
2. Propaganda was used very effectively to intensify anti-semetism.

Hatred for the Jews was spread very effectively by Julius Streicher in his newspaper Der Sturmer.

Films such as The Eternal Jew portrayed the Jews as parasites and rats.

In schools children were constantly told that Jews were inferior. Jewish children were humiliated in front of their class.


At first the Nazi approach was gradual. The early moves gave no suggestion of the end result.


Ordinary Germans were powerless to stop the increasing persecution. There are examples of some resistance. For example some Germans did try to break the boycotts of Jewish business. However resistance was quickly seen as a waste of time. There were practical problems of how to offer resistance – what could be done?


By 1934 it was clear that anyone who showed any opposition to the Nazis would be dealt with harshly by the Gestapo and SS and possibly sent to concentration camps. To show sympathy or to protect the Jews was to risk one own’s freedom or one own’s life.


Many Germans later claimed that they did not know the extent to which Jews were being persecuted.

Which other groups were persecuted?
Ideal Germans were ‘socially useful’. They had a job and contributed to the state.
People who didn’t contribute were seen as a burden on the community. These included those who could not work, the unhealthy, mentally disabled, tramps and beggars.
These people were seen as a threat to the future strength of the German race. They were worthless and expensive to the state. They had to be removed.
There were also socially undesirable groups such as alcoholics and homosexuals. They were seen as dangerous and a bad influence on others. They also had to be removed.
14 July 1933: the Nazi Sterilisation Law

This allowed Nazis to sterilise people with certain illnesses. These came to include alcoholism, poverty, prostitution and crime.

Between 1934 and 1945 about 700 000 people were sterilised.
Many ‘undesirables’ were sent to concentration camps, including homosexuals and prostitutes. In 1938 tramps, beggars and gypsies were added to the list.
The Child Euthanasia Programme of 1938-9.

Midwives were required to report cases of babies born with defects. Euthanasia was to be carried out on all children up to the age of 3 who had any physical or mental defect. It was later extended up to 12 and 16 year olds.

This policy led to the deaths of 5000 children either by lethal injection or starvation.
1939 it was extended to adults. Individuals were given no choice – were selected and gassed. Included epilepsy, feeble mindedness, senile illness – ie old.



One of Hitler’s promises had been to reduce unemployment.
In 1933 unemployment was 6 million.

By 1938 unemployment was half a million.

It therefore looks like he performed an economic miracle – especially because there was a world wide depression going on.
Explain how Hitler was able to reduce unemployment?

1. Job creation schemes

Hitler spent billions on job creation schemes.

1933: 18.4 billion marks

1938: 37.1 billion marks.

This money was used to create jobs building of motorways and housing. This created jobs in other industries such as engineering, iron and steel.

2. Invisible unemployment.

Unemployment was also reduced by pressurising women and Jews out of jobs and by putting people in camps – not by creating new jobs.

3. The Labour Service Corps

The Labour Service Corps was a scheme to provide young men with manual jobs. From 1935 it was compulsory for all men between the age of 18 and 25 to serve in the corps for six months. Workers lived in camps, wore uniforms, received very low pay and carried out military drill.

4. Rearmament

Unemployment was also reduced because of the impact of preparing Germany for war.

1935: conscription introduced.
Heavy industry such as coal, chemicals, oil and steel expanded.
Billions were spent building tanks, aeroplanes and ships.
However these jobs did not greatly benefit the economy.

Explain how the position of workers changed between 1933 and 1939?
In most ways the workers were worse off under Hitler.
Lack of freedom

Before 1933 workers had the right to belong to trade unions and go on strike.

However Hitler was determined to take control of the workforce.
May 1933: Trade Unions were banned. They were replaced by the German Labour Front. Strikes were made illegal. Any one who complained would be sent to a camp. This meant that workers could no longer negotiate for better pay or working conditions
Hours of Work

The average working hours increased from 43 hours to 47 hours

Cost of Living

Wages did go up at this time. However the prices of goods went up more. So people could not afford to buy as much.

Volkswagen Swindle

The German Labour Front organised this scheme. The idea was that the workers subscribed 5 marks a week to a fund which would eventually enable them to buy a car. However by the time the war broke out not a single customer had a car. Nor did they get any money back!

StrengthThrough Joy (KdF)

This was an organisation set up by the German Labour Front in November 1933.

It tried to improve the leisure time of the workers by providing a wide range of leisure and cultural trips. These included concerts, theatre visits, museum trips, holiday and cruises. All were provided at a low cost.
However very few workers could actually afford the more expensive activities.
Beauty of Work

This was a department of the KdF that tried to improve working conditions. It organised the building of canteens, better lighting, swimming pools and sports facilities.

However it actually caused lots of resentment as the workers had to carry out the improvements without pay.

Hitler wanted to destroy the power of the church.
The Nazis wanted total control of Germany – the church was a potential obstacle and threat. Hitler needed to make sure that he would be able to do what he wanted without any opposition.

The church taught very clear rules of behaviour and attitudes that were in conflict with Nazi aims and beliefs.

The church had a highly organised structure that could be used to spread anti-Nazi attitudes throughout Germany.
However the NSDAP was also wary of the church. Hitler realised that he would have to be very careful in his dealings with the church and the religious leaders of Germany.
How did the NSDAP try to eliminate the threat from the church?
1. By lulling it into a sense of false security.
To begin with Hitler looked like he would work with the church.

In 1933 he said that ‘Christianity was the unshakable foundation of the moral life of our people’.

20 July 1933: Signing of the Concordat.

The Catholic Church was guaranteed religious freedom and the right to conduct its own affairs without interference from the state.

In return Hitler was guaranteed that the Church would not interfere in political affairs.
The Church was willing to work with Hitler as they agreed on many issues:

- hatred of Communism and Socialism

- attitudes towards women, divorce and contraception.
2. By taking control of it from within
Hitler was able to take control of the Protestant Church by setting up his own Protestant Nazi Church called the German Christians. This branch of Protestantism regarded themselves as the ‘SA of the Church’. They adopted Nazi-style uniforms, salutes and marches. Their slogan was ‘The swastika on out breasts and the cross in our hearts’.
3. By setting up his own alternative religion called the German Faith Movement.

It completely rejected Christian ethics and replaced Christian ceremonies with pagan equivalents. It centred on the worship of nature; particularly the sun.

4. By using propaganda to present himself as the messiah and saviour of Germany.

Posters often reflected religious imagery, eg the use of light from the sky.

5. Persecution and intimidation

As Hitler became more confident in his position within Germany so persecution and outright hostility towards the church increased. From 1935 the NSDAP introduced a series of measures that aimed to wear away the church’s hold over the people. The Gestapo arrested 700 Protestant ministers who were opposed to the Nazis.

1936: the Nazis ran campaigns pressurising children not to attend Church schools or youth movements. Hundreds of Catholic priests and nuns who opposed the Nazis were taken to court and charged with offences ranging from illegal currency dealings to homosexuality.

1937: Christmas carols and nativity plays were banned from schools.

1938: Priests were stopped from teaching religious classes in schools.

1939: All remaining Church schools were abolished.

What were the effects of these policies?
The Church put up very little opposition to Hitler
There was some opposition but it was very ineffective:
1. A breakaway church called the Confessional Church was set up in 1934 by Pastor Martin Niemoller. It did enjoy some success. In all about 7000 of the 17000 pastors in Germany joined the Confessional Church. However the Confessional Church was weakened by splits within the leadership. It was also only concerned with defending the Church against State interference and it failed to make any stand against moral issues such as the persecution of the Jews. Following the arrest of Niemoller in 1937 many of the pastors were frightened into leaving the Confessional Church and it became increasingly ineffective.
2. On 14 March 1937 Pope Pius XI issued a papal encyclical, a letter to all Catholic bishops, with the title Mit Brennender Sorge (With Deep Anxiety) in which he condemned the regime’s racial policies and the absence of natural law or justice in Nazi Germany. The pope objected strongly to the regime’s persecution of priests and accused it of breaking the 1933 Concordat. However it had no impact on the church within Germany and Hitler simply increased more policies to extend his control over the church, eg religious affairs were taken away from the Ministry for Church Affairs and handed to the SS.
The only examples of effective resistance against the NSDAP:

1937: the failure of the campaign to remove the crucifix from classrooms. This campaign was an attempt to undermine the influence of the church in schools. However it created so much hostility and civil disobedience, including petitions, schools strikes and mass meetings that it had to be abandoned. (although during the war it was successfully achieved)

1939: the church did protest against the sterilisation and euthanasia programme. This protest did eventually result in Hitler temporarily abandoning the programme in August 1941 although it did carry on unofficially in the camps.


This is very difficult to decide.

In order to decide whether Hitler was popular or not we can look at the amount of opposition there was to Hitler.

There was very little opposition between the years of 1933 and 1939. What opposition that did exist mainly began after the outbreak of war in 1939.

Assassination plots.

Since Hitler could not be voted out of power the only way of removing him was by assassinating him and replacing him with an alternative leader.

Through the first ten years of his rule there was no attempted coup. It was only during the last years of the war that plots against Hitler gathered any support (the most famous was the assassination attempt led by Colonel Stauffenberg in 1944)
Underground or organised resistance.

There are some examples of underground resistance but again most took place after 1939.

During the war many young people joined opposition groups such as the Edelweis Pirates or the Navajos. They showed their opposition by dressing in ways in which Hitler would disapprove and by listening to American music. They also sheltered army deserters and concentration escapees.

The most famous and serious opposition group was a group of Munich University students known as the White Rose. Led by Hans and Sophie Scholl and Christoph Probst this group worked against the Nazis by distributing leaflets, putting up posters and writing graffiti on walls. The leaders were all arrested and executed in 1944.

In 1936 Pastor Grueber formed a secret organisation to help Jews.

Other organised resistance included the sabotage of factories, railways and army depots. Some Germans also acted as spies passing on industrial and military secrets to other countries.

Low level opposition

Non-cooperation and grumbling. Many people refused to join the Party, refused to give the Nazi salute or refused to contribute to Nazi funds.


It is important to realise that many people were genuinely happy with Nazi rule.

For many people in the 1930s Hitler was their saviour. He kept his promises.

Many of the things that Hitler did made him popular. The following are a couple of examples you could use in an essay

  • his foreign policy: Rhineland 1936, Anschluss 1938, Czechoslovakia 1938

  • he created jobs

  • the middle classes were grateful to see the destruction of communism and socialism

  • the setting up of Beauty of Labour (better working conditions) and Strength through Joy (rewards for workers, eg theatre trips and cruisers)


The use of propaganda and censorship meant that people were constantly indoctrinated with the success of Nazi policies and were prevented from receiving reliable information.

The Department of Public Propaganda and Enlightenment had the job of controlling peoples’ opinions and beliefs. It was led by Joseph Goebbels. After the collapse of the Third Reich many Germans claimed they knew nothing about the extremes of German policy.


Anti- Nazi newspapers were closed. The Propaganda Ministry told newspaper editors each day what news they could and could not print.


Goebbels took over all radio stations and formed the Reich Radio Company.

Millions of very cheap radios called ‘The People’s Receiver’ were made. These could not pick up foreign broadcasts. By 1939 70% of households had a radio.

To make sure that people could listen to the radio when not at home, workplaces, cafes, schools and other public places had to turn on their radio for important events.

From 1938 loudspeaker pillars were erected in public squares all over Germany.

Typical broadcasts were Hitler’s speeches, German music and programmes about German history.

The Nazis also invented the idea of frequent news flashes and community programmes.

The Cinema

The cinema was popular so Goebbels encouraged new films. Well over a thousand new films were made. An examples of a propaganda films is ‘The Eternal Jew’.
Admission to cinemas was only allowed at the beginning of the entire programme so the audience had to watch newsreels and short documentaries which carried the Nazi message.
Rallies, Festivals and campaigns

Goebbels used rallies and campaigns to increase people’s loyalty to the Party. Each year a mass rally at Nuremberg brought together thousands of people for spectacular parades and displays in four huge arenas.

People were expected to celebrate a new list of important days by attending speeches, parades and handing out flags


Jan: Day of Seizing Power

Feb: Founding of the Nazi Party Day

March: War Heroes Day

April: Hitler’s Birthday


Goebbels drew up guidelines for what was acceptable. Music should be German: folk songs, marching music and classical music by Wagner, Bach, Beethoven and Mozart. Jazz music and the jitterbug dance were banned because black people had written them.


Theatre should concentrate on German history and political drama.


Goebbels drew up a list of banned books which were removed by the Gestapo from bookshops and libraries. In May 1933 the Nazis encouraged students to burn books they believed were un-German.

In May 1933 students in Berlin burnt 20 000 books written by Jews and Communists in a massive bonfire.

Goebbels wanted books about race, war and the Nazi movement. One popular topic was the heroic action of German soldiers in WWI. Such books described the thrill of German combat and how Germans should be prepared to die for the Fatherland.


Hitler had very definite ideas on art.

He disliked modern art and sculpture – ‘Degenerate Art’

He preferred art which showed heroic German figures, the power of the master race or rural family scenes.


Hitler believed architecture was the finest of the arts and that it could influence people’s lives. He favoured two styles:

  • The monumental style: large and built of stone. They were often copies of the buildings of ancient Greece and Rome

  • The country style for family homes and youth hostels. These were traditional folk-style buildings using wood and stone and with shutters and pitched roofs


Success in sport was important to promote the Nazi regime.

The major sporting event was the Berlin Olympics of 1936. Everything about the games was designed to impress the outside world. With the media of 49 countries the Nazis could show the world that Germany was a modern well equipped society and that the Aryans were superior.

The Olympic stadium was the largest in the world – it could hold 110 000 supporters
The persecution of the Jews stopped
Germany won more medals than any other country – though not the 100 metres which was won by Jesse Owens – a black US athlete.

One major reason why there was so little opposition to Hitler was because people were only too aware of what would happen to them if they were discovered showing any form of opposition.
Heinrich Himmler was responsible for the police state.

He was in overall control of the SS, the concentration and extermination camps, the Gestapo and the police.

The Gestapo

This was originally the Prussian secret police run by Goering. After June 1936 it became the state secret police under the command of Himmler.
The Gestapo tapped telephones, intercepted mail, and spied on people. They had a network of informers throughout Germany. Anyone who so much as whispered any opposition to Hitler could be reported to the Gestapo by an informer and arrested. They could strike anywhere at any time against ordinary Germans. It was probably the Gestapo that the ordinary Germans feared the most.


The Nazi Party had a strong local structure. Every town was divided into small units called blocks which included only a handful of homes. Their local Nazi – the Block Warden – visited them weekly, collecting donations and checking up on them. These local leaders were also intended to act as the eyes and ears of the Party. They had to write reports on the ‘political reliability’ of their block residents.

The SS: the Schutz-Staffel or ‘protection squad’ : the Black Shirts

Originally the SS had been a private bodyguard of only 500 men for Hitler and the other Nazi leaders. In four years Himmler built it into an elite force of 50 000 tall, blond, blue-eyed Aryan ‘supermen’. The physical standards were very strict. The SS were ruthless and fiercely loyal to Hitler. In 1934 they helped Hitler crush the SA. He then made them into a separate organisation. They replaced their brown uniforms with black ones.
The SS then became the main means of terrorising or intimidating Germans into obedience. They had almost unlimited powers to arrest people without trial, search homes or confiscate property.
The ‘Death’s Head’ Units of the SS ran the concentration camps.

Concentration camps

The first concentration camps were temporary prisons set up by the SA and the SS in disused factories or warehouses or in hastily erected barbed wire enclosures in the countryside.
Opponents of the regime were taken there for questioning, torture, hard labour and ‘re-education’ in the early days of the Nazi regime.
By 1939 they had built up a massive business using their prisoners as slave labour.


Even if people were brave enough to try and show opposition to Hitler there was no-one or no organisations that individual Germans could turn to who could organise organised or legal resistance and opposition.
All trade unions apart from Nazi ones were banned.

All political parties apart from the NDSAP were banned.

All forms of media apart from Nazi ones were banned.

The legal force was taken over by the Nazis, including the police force.

The point to emphasise is that even if anyone wanted to oppose Hitler what could they do?

Probably a lot of people were genuinely happy with life in Nazi Germany – they welcomed the changes that Hitler made.

Many other people, particularly the younger generations, were fed so much propaganda that they came to believe everything they were told.
Other people were not happy. But there was nothing they could do to show their unhappiness. There were no opposition parties that could help them and if they showed any opposition to Hitler they would end up in a concentration camp. People learnt to keep quiet.

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