Quote Bank and Key Information The Second Reich 1900-1919 The Constitution of the Second Reich

A bit of extra foreign policy for all the fans

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A bit of extra foreign policy for all the fans

  • In 1925, Stresemann agreed to Germany’s post-war borders with France as part of the Locarno Pact

  • Germany was admitted to the League of Nations in 1926

  • The Young Plan 1929 increased repayment tern to 59 years and reduced annual payments

  • A right-wing coalition, including the DNVP and the Nazis with some backing from nationalist industrialists like steel magnate Fritz Thyssen, organised a referendum opposing the Young Plan. Their proposal only attracted the support of 13.9% of people who voted

Weimer culture and society in the 1920s

  • In art, George Grosz and Otto Dix produced works reflecting on the impact of the First World War and satirising the Junker class

  • In architecture and design, the hugely influential Bauhaus movement created modern designs for buildings, furniture and graphics

  • Lively jazz scene in Berlin

  • In cinema, Germany had a world-leading industry and expressionist works, such as Fritz Lang’s Metropolis (1927) were particularly influential

  • Gay life flourished in Berlin and some young women in cities were able to pursue careers and live in an independent manner

The Rise of the Nazis

  • In 1920, Drexler (founder of the German Workers’ Party (DAP)) and Hitler drew up the party programme for the newly named National Socialist German Workers’ Party (NSDAP), the 25 Points and IN 1921 Hitler became leader, or Fuhrer, of the party.

  • The 25 points contained the key elements of the Nazi Party message. Hitler developed this ideology in speechers and his books Mein Kampf (1925) and Zweites Buch (1928)

  • His main ideas were –

  • German nationalism: to develop German power, needed ‘living space’ (Lebensraum). The Treaty of Versailles should be repudiated do accompany them

  • Racial ideas: Aryans at top – Germany needed to be racially pure

  • Anti-Semitism: Jews inferior race group

  • Social Darwinism: ‘survival of the fittest’

The early years of the party

  • The Munich Putsch. 8th November 1923, Hitler, Rohm and the SA (Sturmabteilung) (backing of Hindenburg) took control of a conservative right-wing meeting and Hitler announced a national revolution. Only lasted a day

  • Hitler found guilty of treason and received a 5 year sentence, only serving 9 months

  • Party in disarray during this period, as the Nazis were banned in Bavaria and Hitler in jail

  • Benefits of the Putsch:

  • Hitler was able to write Mein Kampf in prison, outlining his vision and ideology

  • Hitler reconsidered his tactics, and decided to use the Weimar system to try gain power and not through force

  • Hitler made some vital changes to the party….

  • Hitler persuaded the Chancellor of Bavaria to lift the ban on the party in 1925

  • In 1925, a small bodyguard for Hitler led by Heinrich Himmler, the Schutzstaffel (SS) were formed

  • At the Bamberg Conference 1926, Hitler asserted his ideology and the Fuhrerprinzip (Hitler as Fuhrer)

  • Hitler also established a national party network during this time. Regional party bosses called gauleiters, were appointed by and accountable to Hitler

  • 1926 – Hitler Youth founded and had 25,000 members by 1930

  • Nazis received 6.5% of the vote in May 1924, but only 3% in December elections

  • Agrarpolitischer Apparat (AA) founded in 1930 to draw peasantry into Nazi ‘movement’

  • Nazis distributed 600,000 copies of their Immediate Economic Programme

  • Over 6000 people had passed through Nazi speaker training school by 1933

  • 1931, Nazi membership rose from 390,000 to 800,000

  • “We must struggle with ideas, but if necessary also with fists” – Hitler on SA

  • Sturm-Abteilung (SA) had 500,000 members by 1933

  • 1921-23 and 1930-34 SA led by Ernst Rohm (umlaut). “Since I am an immature and wicked man, war and unrest appeal to me more than good bourgeois order.”

  • Nearly 100 paramilitary members killed in July 1932 alone

  • 1928 – Nazis receive 2.6% of the vote

Economic crisis in Germany 1929-1933

  • Following the Wall Street Crash in October 1929, the US economy experienced a severe depression due to German dependence on US loans

  • Uh Oh…

  • National income shrunk by 39% between 1929-1932

  • Industrial production declined by more than 40%

  • Number of unemployed rose to around 6 million by 1932

  • By 1933, 33% were unemployed

  • Some 50,000 businesses went bankrupt

  • 1931 – 5 banks collapsed including the Danatbank

  • Homelessness and poverty increased and people’s standard of living decreased

Political crisis in Germany 1929-1933

  • The Grand Coalition led by Muller (umlaut) fell apart as parties disagreed over the issue of unemployment benefits

  • Following this, subsequent governments were minority administrations which lacked Reichstag support. Chancellor Bruning’s government failed to get backing for its budget in July 1930

  • Chancellor von Papen’s government lost a vote of no confidence in 1932 whilst von Schleicher’s administration lasted for only 2 months

  • Bruning and von Papen relied heavily on presidential decrees, as governments in this period went from ‘parliamentary democracy’ to ‘presidential government’

  • In July 1932, von Papen and Hindenburg also used Article 48 to seize control of regional government in Prussia, still the largest and most populous German state, whose left-wing SPD led government they objected to

  • Governments failed to handle crisis, Bruning nicknamed the “hunger Chancellor”

  • In 1931, 44 emergency decrees issued under Article 48. Only 5 in 1930

  • July 1932 election, Nazis receive 37.3% of the vote – 230 seats. Become the largest party in the Reichstag

The Growth of Nazi Support

Election date



July 1932

Vote percentage




Number of seats




  • July 1932 – Nazis become largest party in the Reichstag

  • A much larger number of people voted for the Nazi Party than were members

  • Nazi members were most likely to be young (2/3’s of members in 1930 were aged under 40) and male, partly because the party did not encourage active female participation

  • However, women were more likely to vote Nazi than men.

  • Catholics were less likely to support the Nazis than Protestants, as the majority of Catholic voters supported the Centre Party

  • Urban dwellers were less likely to vote Nazi

  • Working-class people formed the largest number of Nazi Party members at 31%, but were on average less likely to be members of the party than most other social classes. This apparent paradox can be accounted for as at 46%, the working class formed the largest social group in Germany

  • Office workers and the self-employed or Mittelstand were over-represented as party members

  • Thomas Childers – “a catch-all party of protest” to describe Nazi vote tactics

  • March 1933 – Nazis receive 43.9% of the vote to gain 288 seats – KPD only got 81 seats

  • July 1932 election – 51% of Schleswig-Holstein voted Nazi (rural, protestant) whereas only 24.6% of Berlin voted for them

  • William Carr – “The old established middle class…felt instinctively that this man meant what he said: he would destroy Marxism and restore the old values.”

  • Robin Lenman – “the hard core of Nazi supporters were male, Protestant and broadly speaking, middle class.”

  • Richard Overy – “Nazism became the authentic voice of the small townsmen, the anxious officials and small businessmen, the peasant who felt he had a raw deal from the republic.”

  • Jeremy Noakes – “Nazism was weakest in the big cities…particularly in predominantly Catholic ones.”


  • Messages about bread and work were deployed in working-class areas

  • Joseph Goebbels 1934 “Propaganda was our sharpest weapon in conquering the state”

  • ‘Deutschland Erwache!’ to the military elite

  • Messages about the Weimar Republic’s supposedly lax moral standards were tailored to conservative mothers

  • Anti-Semitic messages were targeted at small shopkeepers

  • First party to use radio and film. E.g. Triumph of the Will (1935) which portrayed Hitler leading Germany to glory

  • Nazis benefitted from their association with the DNVP, as their leader Alfred Hugenberg put his media empire at the service of Nazi propagandists

  • Must be noted that the Nazi’s vote increased dramatically even in areas where they did not target propaganda

  • Joseph Goebbels, Propaganda Minister, cultivated an image for Hitler as Germany’s heroic saviour

  • During the 1932 presidential election, Hitler’s campaign ‘Hitler over Germany’ portrayed the Nazi leader as dynamic and modern as he harnessed modern technology to put his message across, and used an aeroplane to campaign

Support from the conservative elite

  • 1932, Hindenburg appoints von Schleicher as Chancellor, Hitler refused the role of vice-Chancellor

  • What led to Hitler’s appointment as Chancellor?

  • As crisis continued, elites were fearful of communist takeover. The KPD had seen its vote increase from 3.2 million in 1928 to 5.9 million in November 1933. Influential industrialists and bankers, including Hjalmar Schacht, IG Farben and Gustav Krupp persuaded Hindenburg to elect Hitler

  • Von Papen, Hindenburg’s son Oscar and state secretary Otto Meissner worked to persuade Hindenburg

  • Many elites, like Hugenberg and steel manufacturer Fritz Thyssen contributed to Nazi’s funds

  • Von Schleicher’s plan of gaining popular legitimacy for his government by working with part of the Nazi movement and the Trade Unions collapsed

  • Despite a decline in the Nazis vote, only 32% in November 1932 election – they were still the largest party in the Reichstag

  • German Conservatives: old Junker elite and new business class

  • On 30th January 1933, Hitler appointed Chancellor and von Papen vice

  • Papen boasted to intimates that "Within two months we will have pushed Hitler so far in the corner that he'll squeak." – oh how he was wrong

Nazi Consolidation of Power

  • July 1932 election – 100 killed and 7000 injured thanks to SA ban being lifted

  • The Reichstag Fire, 27th February 1933. A Dutch communist, Marinus van der Lubbe, was believed to of set fire to the Reichstag building – although now it is generally accepted it was done by the Nazis and framed on van der Lubbe. President Hindenburg declared a national emergency in response to the fire and the supposed communist plot

  • 28th February 1933, The Reichstag Fire Decree was issued and that suspended parts of the Weimar constitution, like: right to free speech, right of habeas corpus (so police could now arrest for any/no reason and people could be held indefinitely) and this led to mass arrests of communists

  • 5th March 1933, Nazis increased their vote share to 43.5%. Conducted in an atmosphere of violence, SA harassed and attacked the KPD and SPD, and many members of the KPD had been arrested before the election

  • 20th March 1933, Dachau opened and was the first concentration camp, the Nazi’s political opponents were imprisoned their

  • 21st March 1933, ‘Potsdam Day’: a propagandistic ‘day of national unity’ was held at Potsdam – seat of the Kings of Prussia and Kaisers of Germany. Hitler and Hindenburg appeared before huge crowds together – this helped legitimise Nazi rule

  • 24th March 1933, Enabling Act. Gave Hitler the power to issue law by decree, bypassing both the Reichstag and the President. Needed 2/3 majority to pass, this was achieved as the Centre Party were persuaded to back the Act, which was passed by 444 votes to 94. SPD members, some of whom were prevented from attending the vote by SA intimidation, were the only deputies to oppose the Enabling Act; members of the KPD were banned from attending

  • The Concordat with the Catholic Church of 20th July 1933 was designed to reassure Catholics by protecting their religious freedoms in return for an agreement that the Church would stay out of political matters

  • Gleichschaltung (Nazification). The law for the Restoration of Professional Civil Service of 7th April 1933 removed Jews and political opponents of the Nazis from the civil service, schools and courts. After independent trade unions were abolished, a Nazi labour organisation, the Deutsche Arbeitsfront (DAF) was established. The Nazis also moved to take over local government: regional parliaments were dissolved in March 1933 and Reich governors (usually Gauleiters) took over

  • In 1933…

  • Some 150,000 – 200,000 political opponents of the Nazi Party were imprisoned in 1933

  • Concentration camps were opened

  • The KPD were banned shortly after the Reichstag Fire, trade unions all shut on 1st May 1933, the SPD was banned in June 1933 and all other political parties disbanded by July 1933

  • Hundreds of left-wing newspapers were closed

  • In July 1934, Hitler had a number of political opponents murdered (including conservatives like von Schleicher) and supporters whom he believed to be a threat, such as Ernst Rohm (umlaut) of the SA on the Night of the Long Knives

How popular and efficient was the Nazi regime in the years 1933-1939?

Evidence that the regime was popular

  • A series of plebiscites were held in Nazi Germany on various issues – helped to create a climate of what historian Ian Kershaw has called ‘plebiscitary acclamation’


Plebiscite question

% in favour


Do you agree with the government’s decision to pull out of the League of Nations?



Do you endorse Hitler taking over Hindenburg’s remaining powers on Hindenburg’s death?



Do you want the Saarland to reunify with the rest of Germany?



Do you support the remilitarisation of the Rhineland?



Do you support the union of Germany and Austria (Anschluss)?


  • No significant attempts to overthrow the regime, and the plots that there were against Hitler came from lone individuals, like Georg Elser, or groups in the elite, such as a plan to remove Hitler orchestrated by General Bek in 1938.

  • Robert Gellately has argued that the regime was a ‘consensus dictatorship’ – evidence suggests the terror was not as widespread as first thought and some policies were genuinely popular….

  • In the city of Wurzburg (umlaut): there was not an extensive network of terror as only 21 Gestapo officers covered the Wurzburg area (overstretched) and therefore these officers did not have time to mount surveillance against lots of people and relied heavily on denunciations from ordinary people in order to root out those who did not conform to the regime

  • Repression not that extensive, only 4000 (mostly a-socials) held in concentration camps in 1935. The use of these camps seems to of been widely known about and supported by many German people in the 1930s

  • 1933=unemployment at 6 million. 1936=1.6 million and economic growth returned

  • Strength Through Joy allowed some working-class people to enjoy more leisure activities. For example 28,500 workers for Siemens in Berlin were able to take a holiday due to the programme

  • In foreign policy, the army managed to peacefully and successfully remilitarise the Rhineland in 1936 and unify Germany with Austria in 1938

  • Evidence from reports produced by SOPADE, the SPD in exile indicates that people viewed these areas of Nazi policy positively

  • Pregnant ‘Aryan’ women were given free health care

  • By 1938, 2.5 million families benefitted from increased benefits for larger families

The Impact of propaganda

  • A ministry of Popular Enlightenment and Propaganda led by Joseph Goebbels was established in 1933 and promoted propaganda in various ways:

  • Newspaper editors were essentially censored as they were accountable to the Propaganda Ministry for what they published

  • Newspaper also received daily press briefings

  • The content of newsreels was controlled

  • Radio was used to propagate Nazi messages

  • The annual Nazi Party Nuremburg Rally became a showcase for Nazi power

  • Education and Nazi organisations like the Hitler Youth and the Nazi Women’s League were also used to promote Nazi ideas

  • Propaganda does undermine the ‘consensus dictatorship’ argument as the people could have been manipulated by propaganda into supporting the regime

  • The Hitler Myth – Goebbels worked hard to create an image of Hitler as a saviour of Germany

Times of Opposition

  • Active Resistance – such as attempts to overthrow the regime such as Bomb Plot of 1944

  • Protest – such as criticism of an aspect of Nazi policy. An example of this was Catholic priests reading out an encyclical from the Pope (With Burning Concern, 1937) condemning some Nazi ideas

  • Non-Conformity – failing to adhere to Nazi ideals by, for example, listening to American jazz, dressing in an unconventional manner, telling anti-Nazi jokes or complaining about Nazi life

The terror against the left

  • The SA broke up SPD meetings and arrested, imprisoned and in some cases murdered members of the SPD and KPD. Armed SA members also took over trade union offices in May 1933

  • Concentration camps were established to detain the regime’s opponent. In 1933, between 150,000 and 200,000 people were detained. Believing they had crushed the left, a third of prisoners were released in May 1933 and most of the remaining ones in August 1934

The Terror State

  • Under the Nazis, people lost the freedom of speech and the Gestapo could arrest anyone for no reason. Whilst a law of 24th April 1933 made seeking constitutional change a treasonable offence

  • From 1936, the head of the Schutzstaffel (SS), Heinrich Himmler, was in charge of a huge network of terror and repression including the SS, SA, security service, the police and the Gestapo

  • The courts suppressed opposition. In 1935, 5000 people were convicted of high treason. 23,000/53,000 prisoners were political prisoners

  • The regime kept an eye on people via agents such as party officials and Block Wardens who monitored their local areas for signs for deviancy

  • Gleichschaltung meant that the Nazis were in control of most aspects of the state

  • Between 1936 and 1939, the numbers held in concentration camps rose from 7500 to 21,000. The majority of inmates were classified as a-social: in Buchenwald: 8892 of the 12,921 detainees were labelled as a-social.

Histiography – Germans gave consent

  • Theory is based around the 1980s and 1990s

  • Fritz Stern ‘Germany coordinated itself’

  • Robert Gellately “Hitler was largely successful in getting the backing, one way or another, of the great majority of citizens”

  • Gellately “the Nazis aimed to create and maintain the broadest possible level of popular backing”

  • Gellately “the Germans generally turned out to be proud and pleased that Hitler and his henchmen were putting away certain kinds of people who did not fit in”

  • Eric Johnson – “A great majority of the German populace found ways to accommodate the Nazi regime”

Histography – Coercion

  • Tim Mason argues that the working class were the only class that did not consent. Saying “Every time the state tampered with the rights of living standards of the working class, it provoked a wave of resentment” – e.g when the Nazis tried to limit wages in 1938-39

  • Theory generally based 10-20 years after 1945

  • Delarue on the Gestapo – “Never before, in no other land and at no other time, had an organisation attained such a comprehensive penetration [of society], possessed such power, and reached such a degree of ‘completeness’ in its ability to arouse terror and horror, as well as in its actual effectiveness”

  • Roger Griffin The Nazis “neutralize opposition” using “nazification” e.g. “Curricular, textbooks, student assignments and lectures were soon applying Aryan principles”

  • Richard Evans “The Gestapo quickly attained an almost mythical status as an all-seeing, all-knowing arm of state security and law enforcement.”

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