1 An official ideology, to which everyone
is supposed to adhere, focussed on a final
‘perfect state of mankind’.
2 A single mass party, usually led by one
man, organized in a hierarchical structure
and either superior to or intertwined with
the state bureaucracy.
3 Monopoly of Control: a technically
conditioned near-complete monopoly of
control by the party
4 Monopoly over communications: a
near-complete monopoly exercised over all
means of effective mass communications.
5 Secret Police: a system of physical or
psychological terroristic police control.
6 Economic control: central control and
direction of the entire economy by the party
Similarities between Nazism and Fascism are profound.
The symbols of the young Nazi Party were as unoriginal as
The swastika was already popular with other right-wing
groups before it was adopted by the Nazis.
The skull and crossbones, which would become infamous on
the caps of the SS, had been used by the German cavalry.
Even the stiff-armed Roman salute was taken from the
greeting used by Mussolini’s Fascists.
The period after the First World War was a violent time in
defeated Weimar Germany but from the first the Nazi Party
was an exceptionally violent movement.
In 1921 ‘Storm Detachments’ were formed to protect Nazi
meetings and to disrupt the gatherings of rival parties.
Battles between Nazi Storm Troopers and the followers of
other political parties would be a common feature of German
political life until 1933.
INTERPRETATIONS OF NAZISM
National Socialism is sometimes, by some historians,
included in the totalitarian model which includes the Marxist-
Leninist system of rule, and by argument over the degree to
which Hitler’s contribution to Nazism made it unique.
At one extreme Hitler is viewed as a relatively insignificant
individual who derived his substance largely from his role as
titular leader of the Nazi Movement.
At the other extreme, in complete contrast, National
Socialism is regarded as ‘Hitlerism’, with Hitler making the
essential contribution for the ideology, aims, objectives, and
propaganda of Nazism.
INTERPRETATIONS OF NAZISM
A Middle Class Movement:
Nazism has been interpreted by some historians, notably by
Professor Ernst Nolte, as a predominantly middle-class
movement. For the German Social Democrats and
Communists, with their view of history as class struggle, it
was logical to perceive Nazism as an incorporation of middle-
class interests dressed up in fresh rhetoric.
Nolte in a series of major works interpreted Nazism as a
specifically bourgeois reaction to the spectre of Bolshevism.
THE 25 POINT NAZI PARTY
The ideas and programme of the Nazi Party just after the end
of the First World War included the following:
1 All Germans should be united into a Greater Germany.
2 The Treaties of Versailles should be overturned.
3 Germany should have land and territory (colonies) to feed
its people and settle her surplus population. This land should
be given to the German people because of their racial
THE 25 POINT NAZI PARTY
4 Only those of German blood may be members of the
5 No Jew may be a member of the German nation.
6 Only members of the German nation may vote.
THE 25 POINT NAZI PARTY
7 All non-German immigration must be stopped.
8 It must be the first duty of each citizen to work for the
general good of the nation.
9 Education must ensure that all children understand the
importance of the state and their role within the state.
10 No religious beliefs should be allowed that contradict
11 All income unearned by work should be abolished.
12 Personal enrichment from war must be regarded as a
crime against the nation. Therefore, all war profits should be
13 The country requires a strong central government for the
14 The leader must be obeyed.
15 Parliamentary democracy has failed the German people. It
is weak and leads to Communism.
16 Communism is evil. It places the working class before the
For the Leader to permit a rival
institution, whether it be the party or
the state bureaucracy, or the army, to
maintain any kind of secure existence
or independence in relation to him is to
run a serious risk of overthrow.
Hitler, in his ‘Tabletalk’, frequently laid
stress on the superiority of the ‘Leader
State’ (Fuehrerstaat) over any other.
For Hitler, the Leader after his election or
choice by acclamation, acquired the kind of
supreme authority which could not in any
circumstances be challenged on legal or
other grounds because he then embodied
the will of the people.
NAZI IDEOLOGY: THE
The three main dictators of the interwar
period (1918 – 1939), Mussolini, Hitler,
and Stalin were elevated by propaganda
machinery on a scale unknown in
modern times to a position not only of
Leaders, but of Leaders who were
alleged to be endowed with qualities
which raised them far above the level of
Bombast, fraud, hysteria, and mass
hypnosis was employed to make gods out
of sordid psychopaths and tricksters.
Hitler was clearly the main
influence on Nazi ideology;
his anti-Semitism dated from his
experience in pre-war Vienna,
intensified by his belief that
Jews had undermined the war
effort and Jewish politicians had
signed the armistice and
created the Weimar Republic.
In Mein Kampf, Hitler claimed that
the killing of 12,000 to 15,000 Jews
in Germany during World War One
by means of poison gas might have
saved the lives of hundreds of
thousands of German soldiers.
The belief that the Jews had been
responsible for Germany’s defeat in
World War One must have exerted a
powerful influence upon Hitler when
World War Two was approaching.
RESULTING IN MASS
The mass murder of six million Jews has placed an indelible
stamp upon the twentieth century.
Hitler’s Third Reich exploited all the advantages of modern
technology to transport Jews from most parts of Europe to
various killing sites, including specially constructed
LEADING NAZI: HEINRICH
HIMMLER, HEAD OF THE SS AND
Himmler was an idealist of sorts since he romanticized and
idealized the German race, the German soldier, and the
He developed fixations about those who he believed
threatened his cherished causes – above all, about the Jews.
Himmler also shared Hitler’s view that elimination of
allegedly defective Germans would strengthen the future
THE IDEOLOGY OF HIMMLER AND
OTHER NAZI’S: ANTI-COMMUNISM
Himmler, like Hitler, was also a vehement anti-Communist
but, also like Hitler, he regarded Bolshevism as a surface
For Himmler, Bolshevism was only a part of the Jewish
The Soviet Union was thus condemned to extermination
since it was viewed as a Jewish-Bolshevik conspiracy and
Russians were also regarded as an inferior, sub-human race.
One historical interpretation has argued that the Nazi regime
employed different methods to persecute Jews, at times
permitting party or private violence against Jews, but more
often restraining it, while introducing one piece of legislation
after another against Jews.
These zigzag policies reflected Nazi hostility toward Jews,
but they did not lead inevitably to the conclusion that Hitler
had a preconceived plan to wipe out all the Jews of Europe.
Another set of historians has argued that genocide evolved
due to changing circumstances. In this interpretation, the
Nazis turned the idea of a Jewish “reservation” in Poland,
after the conquest of Poland in September 1939.
In 1940 there was also a Nazi plan to ship millions of Jews to
Madagascar, which, however, the continuation of the war
against Britain precluded.
ANTI-SEMITISM: FRUSTRATION AT
THE RUSSIAN FRONT
Professor Arno Mayer of Princeton University has argued
that the Nazis turned against Jews out of frustration over the
failure of the Blitzkrieg against the Soviet Union, and out of a
desire for revenge, with the Wehrmacht generals playing at
least as important a role as Hitler, Himmler, and the SS.
ORIGINS OF THE FINAL SOLUTION
Professor Meyer also argues that the Nazi fears of, and
hostility toward, the Soviet Union were translated into the
Final Solution because of the perceived link between Jews
Genocide became, in this view, a by-product of the war in the
GENOCIDE PLANNED DURING THE
Professor Brozat believes that Hitler shaped the climate and
context of decision-making during the war but did not
personally plan genocide and did not approve it until the end
of 1941 or early 1942, after the killing was well under way.
MOMMSEN: HITLER COULD NOT
COPE WITH GENOCIDE
Professor Mommsen believes that Hitler could not cope with
the measures implied by his own anti-Semitic rhetoric; he
was a charismatic figurehead who left the hard decisions for
Mommsen pointed out the absence of evidence that anyone
in Hitler’s headquarters even discussed the extermination of
HIMMLER: THE KEY FIGURE OF
The most important figure behind the escalating
persecution of the Jews, Mommsen stated, was
Heinrich Himmler, whose ambition made him
determined to outbid the other officials seeking a
role in Jewish policy, and whose organization gave
him means to carry out mass murder.
THE FUEHRER MYTH
A Cult of the Fuehrer developed and was
consistent with Nazi ideology as part of the
Fuehrerprinzip and the concept that Hitler was a
man apart sent to save Germany, an idea that
originated from Nietzsche’s ‘superman’.
German history and the psychology of the German
people required a ‘saviour’, rather than a politician
elected to lead a democratic state.
THE FUEHRER MYTH
The worship of Hitler developed through everyday
social rituals like the adoption of the Heil Hitler
Organisations like the SS and the Hitler Youth were
personally bound to Hitler and the Army’s Oath of
Loyalty also suggested Hitler was more than an
THE FUEHRER MYTH
Oath of loyalty for Soldiers of the Armed
'I swear by God this sacred oath: I will
render unconditional obedience to Adolf
Hitler, the Führer of the German Reich and
people, Supreme Commander of the Armed
Forces, and will be ready as a brave soldier
to risk my life at any time for this oath.'
THE FUEHRER MYTH
The three main dictators of the interwar period (1918 – 1945),
Mussolini, Hitler, and Stalin were elevated by propaganda
machinery on a scale unknown in modern times to a position
not only of Leaders, but of Leaders who were alleged to be
endowed with qualities which raised them far above the level
of ordinary men.
Bombast, fraud, hysteria, and mass hypnosis was employed
to make gods out of sordid psychopaths and tricksters.
In their fall and defeat they were revealed as tyrants, often
incompetent in everything except the art of keeping
themselves in power.
THE FUEHRER MYTH
Both Fascism and National Socialism were
essentially the products of the ambition and
energy of one man – Fascist Italy of Benito
Mussolini and Nazi Germany of Adolf Hitler – even
if the one man could not have succeeded except in
the circumstances which time and place offered in
order to enable him to snatch at victory.
Had Hitler been born, say, in an Essex village in 1889 instead
of an Austrian village, he would no doubt have ended on the
gallows or in a madhouse.
THE FUEHRER MYTH
Under totalitarianism, the Leader dominates the
state. Hitler’s ideology never exalted the state: the
state was always recognized as subordinate to the
party, though both existed to do the will of the
Since the Fuehrer was not only head of the party but also the
mystical voice of the German Volk, it was comparatively easy
for him, granted the conditions of latent German mass
hysteria, to build himself up into the position of unique
Leader, apart from and above both party and state.
HITLER’S MASS SUPPORT WAS
Hitler’s mass support was alone insufficient to bring him to power.
By the end of July 1932, two presidential elections, and a Reichstag
election had brought Hitler his peak level of electoral support,
before the ‘seizure of power’, of 37.3% of the vote.
As the leader of by far the largest party in the Reichstag, with
230 seats, Hitler demanded the Chancellorship. At an
audience in August 1932, Reich President von Hindenburg
refused point blank to appoint him.
The consequence was a deepening crisis of
confidence within the Nazi Movement.
Strong nationalist feelings remained in Germany after the
First World War – encouraged by the apparent injustice of the
Treaty of Versailles (1919).
Hitler was a staunch German nationalist who had left multi-
racial Austria-Hungary and fought for Germany in the First
NAZISM AND THE
From the outset Hitler emphasized that the Nazi Party would
not be a working-class party like the Social Democratic Party
or the Communist Party.
The Nazi Party was above all a German nationalist workers’
party, that is, a party that put the interests of German labour
above those of the international labour community.
NAZI POSTER PROMOTING
NAZI SUPPORT FOR GERMAN
The Nazis would continually underscore the theme of putting
German workers first to gain working-class support
throughout the Weimar period (1919 – 1933).
Nazi party leaders asserted that both the Social Democrats
and the Communists had betrayed the German working-class
and that the Communists in particular placed the interests of
international bolshevism before the national interests of the
CAMPAIGN POSTER, 1932
GERMAN LABOUR: A PILLAR
OF THE NAZI PARTY
German labour was a pillar of the Nazi Party from 1925 to
The fortunes of German blue-collar labour alternated
between growth and decline during the Weimar era (1919 –
1933). Workers briefly enjoyed social and economic gains
after World War One. The Weimar constitution accorded
German labour the right to organize, recognition of collective
bargaining, state commitment to expanding social welfare,
and constitutionally guaranteed parity between labour and
capital in the formulation of economic policy.
NAZI PROPAGANDA POSTER
WALL STREET CRASH,
OCTOBER 1929: GREAT
However, the effects on Germany’s working-class of the
Great Depression were devastating. Starting in 1930,
unemployment among blue-collar workers skyrocketed, while
wages declined very sharply.
In September 1929, just before the Wall Street Crash, 17% of
organized metalworkers were either unemployed or working
part-time. By autumn 1930 that figure jumped to nearly 45%.
UNEMPLOYMENT QUEUE AT
A BENEFIT OFFICE,
THE NAZI RESPONSE TO THE
For the Nazis, the National Socialist German Workers’ Party
(NSDAP), the Great Depression created an opportunity to
gain working-class votes and support. Unlike so many other
Weimar political parties, the Nazis promised action to deal
with mass unemployment.
In October 1930, the Nazis called for the introduction of a
one-year compulsory labour service to help overcome
NAZI POLICY TO DEAL
The Nazis proposed a programme whereby the state would
constitutionally guarantee employment opportunities. Their
1930 programme also called for the creation of a public
To finance the works programme, the Nazis proposed the
establishment of a state building and loan association.
THE NAZI IMMEDIATE
The centrepiece of Nazi economic policy before 1933 was the
Immediate Economic Programme. Through this programme
the NSDAP showed itself to be the only major German party
eager to assimilate the ideas of economic reformers such as
At the core of the NSDAP Immediate Economic Programme
were recommendations to establish full employment.
HITLER WITH A SHOVEL
(BUILDING THE BUNKER WHERE
HE SHOT HIMSELF LATER ON IN
THE NSDAP IMMEDIATE
The programme called for a massive state-funded public
works project, to include housing and highway construction
as well as the establishment of new agricultural settlements,
soil improvement programmes, and land conservation.
The programme recommended expenditures of 10 billion
marks to employ nearly 2 million labourers.
NAZI PUBLIC WORKS
The NSDAP electoral strategy in 1932 focused heavily on the
major themes of public works, job creation, and autarkic
Through an intensive development of Germany’s own
economic resources, Germany would become self-sufficient
and regain its own economic self-determination.
NO PREMONITION OF
The average German who voted for or joined the NSDAP
before 1933 did not envision the concentration camps, World
War Two, or the destruction of Germany.
Political opportunism led the Nazi Party to downplay its anti-
Semitism, racism, xenophobia and hypernationalism before
EVA BRAUN AGAIN
(BECAUSE SHE LOOKS
NAZI POLICY AFTER
Once in power the Nazis quickly abandoned their pre-1933
political strategy and pursued their hidden agenda of
territorial expansion and racial persecution.
It is highly unlikely that the millions of self-interested German
citizens voting for or joining the Nazi Party in 1932 could
have realized at the time that their decision would culminate
in first dictatorship, then a world war, and finally the
The Nazis between 1930 and 1933 attracted a huge, broadly
based constituency of German voters principally by
appealing to people’s material interests i.e. voted with their
Many Germans calculated that of the competing Weimar
political parties, the Nazis offered them the best prospects
for a better life.
PROBLEMS AND THE RISE OF
The economic depression starting in 1929 was a crucial
factor in creating the climate in which the Nazis could gain
support on a national level.
Before the Wall Street Crash the NSDAP were a minor party
who had won just 12 seats in May 1928; in 1930 they won 107
seats becoming the second largest party in Germany.
IMPACT OF THE WALL
STREET CRASH OF OCTOBER
The impact of the Wall Street Crash of October 1929 led to
political problems, with coalition governments unable to
agree on how to deal with the situation.
The collapse of coalition governments showed the
weaknesses of Weimar and gave Hitler and the Nazis the
opportunity to promise strong government and economic
HITLER’S APPOINTMENT AS
Hitler’s appointment as chancellor of Germany on 30th
January 1933 was neither illegal nor surprising. In a system
of proportional representation such as that of Weimar, when
no party gained an electoral majority, it was customary for
the leader of the largest party to become chancellor.
Hitler did not sneak into power in January 1933; Hitler was
appointed chancellor because he was the head of the Nazi
Party, the single largest political party in Germany.
HITLER IS APPOINTED
CHANCELLOR BY PRESIDENT
VON HINDENBURG, 30TH
INCENTIVES TO JOIN
THE NAZI PARTY
For the unemployed, largely young and working-class, the
offer of employment, shelter, and food made joining the
NSDAP’s organizations very enticing.
Incentives to join the NSDAP came as well from the pre-
existing social networks in which people lived, prayed,
socialized, and worked together.
INCENTIVES TO JOIN
THE NAZI PARTY
Social networks such as family, friendship circles, and civic,
occupational, and religious affiliations contributed
significantly to individuals’ decisions to join the NSDAP.
Even before Hitler’s appointment as chancellor in January
1933 the NSDAP had jobs to offer. Between 1925 and 1933
the NSDAP had developed a government-in-waiting,
comprising numerous specialized branches and
THE REAL MESSAGE
Nazism in effect was Hitlerism. And from Hitler himself in
Mein Kampf we obtain the real message of Nazism – the
conquest of Russia, the extermination of the Slavs and the
colonization of the East.
This Eastern policy was essential to Nazism; all other
positive aims – the conquest of France or Britain – were
subsidiary and incidental to it.
NAZISM: THE CONQUEST
The offence of France was its traditional policy of Eastern
alliances, which had enabled it, for three centuries, to
intervene in Germany.
The offence of Britain was its refusal to be content with a
maritime supremacy and its insistent tradition of preventing
the domination of Europe by a single Continental power.
THE REAL MESSAGE
But the offence of Russia was the existence of Russia.
As Russia’s crime was its existence, so its judgement was
extermination. The war against Russia was to be a war of
extermination, a crusade, a ‘war of ideologies’, in which all
conventions were ignored.
GERMAN INVASION OF
RUSSIA, JUNE 22ND 1941
INVADING THE SOVIET
UNION, JUNE 22ND 1941
NATURE OF NAZISM
Nazi racial ideology promoted the supremacy of Germans to
Slavs; ‘living space’ meant the conquest of their territory;
the rule of the German ‘master race’ meant the enslavement
of their surviving population.
The SS, the elite corps and self-described ‘political soldiers’
of the Nazi Party, were the most fanatical, most mystical
missionaries of the anti-Russian crusade.
An English historian, H.C. Allen, wrote: “Men are constantly
engaged in an, on the whole highly successful, effort to
adjust their ideas to circumstances and also in an effort, very
much less successful, to adjust circumstances to their
Hitler achieved the latter. He adjusted circumstances to his
ideas. For example, the circumstances of the Versailles
Treaty restrictions he adjusted to his ideas of Germany’s
renewal and re-armament.
SEPTEMBER 1938: PRIME
CHAMBERLAIN WITH HITLER
HITLER AS A
Hitler himself said that he was a revolutionary. He said that
he was to be the leader of a national revolution. So he saw
himself throughout his entire political career.
Hitler was convinced of his destiny in the history of Germany
as the fulfiller of a national revolution. He was not a
HITLER AND MUSSOLINI, MUNICH
CONFERENCE, SEPTEMBER 1938
Hitler viewed the conservative bourgeoisie as his enemies as
well as Communists, Social Democrats, Jews and Slavs.
The bourgeois civilisation of the nineteenth century was
something which Hitler helped to destroy. Certainly Europe
ceased to be the centre of world politics after the Second
PRIME MINISTER NEVILLE
CHAMBERLAIN WITH THE PEACE
AGREEMENT SIGNED BY HITLER AND
HIMSELF, CROYDON AIRPORT, 1938
A PEOPLE’S PARTY
The Nazi Party was a people’s party. Unlike all other political
parties in Weimar Germany, the NSDAP were a true people’s
party, since they gained votes and membership from all
elements of German society.
The NSDAP were neither a typically lower-middle class nor a
predominantly Protestant or decisively capitalist-supported
BENITO MUSSOLINI (ITALY’S
FASCIST DICTATOR) AND
HITLER AS A
True to himself as a revolutionary, Hitler’s main sympathies
and loyalties were directed towards the German workers.
He loathed the bourgeoisie and their values.
As the effects of the Depression hit Germany, the Nazis
shifted their focus increasingly to the merits of autarkic
economic development and job creation, thus demonstrating
their support for German workers.
CHARLIE CHAPLIN AS
HYNKEL (THE GREAT
NAZI POLICY: AUTARKY
The NSDAP put the interests of German industry ahead of
those of foreign industry.
To this end, NSDAP officials denounced Weimar
governments and those in big business who had allowed
foreign labourers into Germany to take jobs from German
For example, the Nazis blasted Weimar governments for
admitting more than 200,000 foreign workers into Germany
between 1929 and 1930.
HYNDEL PLAYING WITH HIS
GLOBE (CHARLIE CHAPLIN IN
THE GREAT DICTATOR, 1940)
THE NAZI PARTY AS A VIABLE
CHOICE FOR MANY GERMAN
The NSDAP became a viable choice for many German
workers because of the party’s ability to generate a set of
innovative ideas to redress the economic problems
confronting workers during the Depression.
Job creation served as the theme of a series of speeches that
Hitler delivered during 1931 and 1932 to groups of traders
HEINRICH HIMMLER, HEAD OF THE
SS AND GESTAPO, THE MOST
FEARED MAN IN GERMAN-OCCUPIED
THE DEPRESSION AND
THE RISE OF HITLER
It is inconceivable that Hitler could ever have come to
power had not the Weimar republic been subjected to the
unprecedented strain of a world economic crisis.
Given Germany’s non-democratic past history, the
establishment of a dictatorship to protect the economic
interests and social privilege of the middle classes, was the
most likely outcome of the Depression.
TENSION BETWEEN A MILITARY
TAKEOVER AND THE
PARLIAMENTARY ROAD TO
Hitler’s powers of leadership were subjected to their most
severe test in the early 1930s. Once the Nazis became a
major factor in German politics, tensions arose between
those party leaders and members who wanted a military
takeover and those who supported parliamentary methods
to achieve power.
The SA, the Nazi party’s stormtroopers (paramilitary force)
led by Ernst Roehm, had grown to 500,000 men by
December 1932 and took part in bloody street brawls with
Communists and Social Democrats.
NAZI REVOLUTION VIA THE
As the middle classes turned towards voting for the Nazis,
Hitler had every reason to suppose he could bring about
the ‘National Revolution’ via the ballot box.
Accordingly, he had to exert all his political skill to hold the
exuberant SA men in check.
However, despite impressive electoral successes, power
still eluded the Nazis.
ERNST ROEHM, LEADER OF THE SA
SHIFT IN THE BALANCE OF
POLITICAL POWER 1930 - 1933
Hitler was saved from political defeat by a
fundamental shift in the balance of
political power in Germany between 1930
Under the impact of the ‘general crisis of
capitalism’ parliamentary democracy was
paralysed and superseded by an
From spring 1930 German chancellors relied on President
Hindenburg’s emergency powers, supported by the ultimate
sanction of military force, to pass essential legislation.
General Kurt von Schleicher, last chancellor of the Weimar
Republic 1932 – 33, needed Hitler’s support in order to
disguise the military force on which his government rested.
NAÏVE BELIEF IN BEING
ABLE TO ‘CONTROL HITLER’
Naively General Schleicher and Franz von Papen
(chancellor in 1932) believed that they could buy support
from the Nazis without giving Hitler real power.
For his part, Hitler was working assiduously to ingratiate
himself with the king-makers in accordance with his long-
standing conviction that the ‘National Revolution’ would
only succeed with the support of the forces of law and
For most of summer 1931, Hitler visited
influential industrialists trying to persuade
them that he would not allow the radical
wing of his party to exert influence once
he was in power.
Only in this highly favourable atmosphere
is Hitler’s coming to power in January
FEAR CAUSED BY THE
The economic depression was vital in
creating the climate in which the Nazis
could gain support on a national level.
The fear and disorder caused by the
depression brought Hitler to the
chancellery of Germany.
Without a significant shift in the attitude of
many industrialists and great landowners
towards National Socialism at the end of
1932, Hitler’s appointment as chancellor in
January 1933 would scarcely have been
Only when these circles threw their weight behind Papen’s
efforts to draw Hitler into the government, did the situation
change decisively in his favour.
WHAT THE NAZIS OFFERED
What the Nazis offered the industrialists was not only
assured markets at home but the prospect of high profit
Through the destruction of parliamentary democracy and
the suppression of the trade union movement, the Nazis
would make it possible to reduce drastically the social
contributions which had added to production costs in the
1920s and to hold wages down to the depressed level of the
With the Nazi vote falling, the most powerful industrialists
in terms of political influence, redoubled their efforts to
rally the whole of industry round a Hitler chancellorship.
For Hitler it was most fortuitous for him that German
industry was moving towards the conclusion that National
Socialism was the only viable economic alternative
precisely at the time when Hitler’s followers were becoming
HITLER APPOINTED CHANCELLOR
On 28th January 1933, General von Schleicher resigned as
chancellor having failed to obtain a Reichstag majority or
persuade President von Hindenburg to give him dictatorial
On 3oth January 1933, Hitler was appointed chancellor. He
had the full support of President von Hindenburg.
Legislation passed in the following months was not
submitted to the Reichstag but promulgated as decrees by
using the president’s emergency powers.
JOSEPH GOEBBELS, NAZI
NAZI PROPAGANDA UNDER
Propaganda in all totalitarian dictatorships habitually depict
the dictator as the saviour of his people from some danger
real, or more usually imaginary, and as the man of action who
decides what is best for his country with clarity of mind and
singleness of purpose.
GOEBBELS’S MINISTRY OF
The Goebbels ministry of propaganda
took good care to promote the image of a
united, efficient and monolithic state.
Goebbels did this so successfully that
Germans and foreigners alike believed
that the Nazi state was a good deal more
efficient and powerful than it really was.
CULT OF THE
A Cult of the Fuehrer developed and was
consistent with Nazi ideology as part of the
Fuehrerprinzip and the concept that Hitler
was a man apart sent to save Germany, an
idea that originated from Nietzsche’s
German history and the psychology of the
German people required a ‘saviour’, rather
than a politician elected to lead a democratic
EVERYDAY SOCIAL RITUALS
IN THE THIRD REICH
The worship of Hitler developed through
everyday social rituals like the adoption of
the Heil Hitler salute.
Organisations like the SS and the Hitler
Youth were personally bound to Hitler and
the Army’s Oath of Loyalty also suggested
Hitler was more than an ordinary
WAFFEN SS ON PARADE (THE
ARMED WING OF THE NAZI
A WAFFEN SS GENERAL
WEARING THE DEATH’S
HITLER’S LOATHING OF THE
Bourgeois morality would have no place in the Nazi ‘new
order’. Slavs would be forcibly removed from their farms
and turned into agricultural labourers deprived of
education and condemned to toil for their German masters
after the conquest of Russia.
Wholesale transportation of populations from the German-
occupied lands of Europe might be employed to remove
undesirable elements such as the Czechs.
STERILIZATION OF JEWS,
CZECHS, SLAVS AND OTHER
Nazi ideas to be applied to the Jews, Slavs and other
‘undesirables’ in the occupied nations and inside Germany
itself included sterilization.
In addition after the conquest of Poland in September 1939
Himmler, head of the SS and Gestapo, on Hitler’s direct
orders, murdered tens of thousands of prominent Polish
citizens in a calculated bid to rob the Poles of their natural
LEBENSBORN (“SOURCE OF
Lebensborn (“source of life”) was a
programme created by Heinrich Himmler.
It was designed to boost the German
population by encouraging citizens,
especially SS members, to have more
SS officers came under pressure to have sexual
intercourse in order to reproduce four children, inside or
CHRISTENING OF A
LEBENSBORN CHILDREN: CHILDREN
OF ‘GOOD ARYAN RACIAL STOCK’
KIDNAPPED IN THE EASTERN
OCCUPIED COUNTRIES AFTER 1939
AN SS OFFICER INTERVIEWING
ARYAN WOMEN ASSIGNED FOR
BREEDING FOR THE REICH
YOUNG GERMAN WOMEN WITH THEIR
BREEDING OF THE ‘MASTER
Ten maternity homes were set up across Germany where
8,000 to 12,000 Lebensborn children were born. Some stayed
with their mothers, but many were adopted by families of SS
About 60% were born to unmarried mothers, the rest to wives
of SS men.
LEBENSBORN (“SOURCE OF
As the Third Reich expanded , Lebensborn homes were set
up across Europe. In Norway some 10,000 babies were born,
most fathered by SS officers to Norwegian mothers.
Children with “Aryan” characteristics were kidnapped from
their homes in German-occupied territories by the SS.
HITLER MOCKED GERMAN
Between 1929 and 1933 millions of Germans turned their
back on their previous party allegiances and decided to
support Adolf Hitler and the Nazis.
They did this knowing that Hitler intended to destroy the
German democratic system.
Hitler himself mocked German multi-party democracy and the
30 or so parties that were standing against the Nazis.
The most important precondition for Hitler’s rise in popularity
between 1929 and 1933 was the apparent failure of
democracy in the face of the economic depression.
In March 1930 the coalition of the Social Democrats and the
Liberal People’s Party that had previously governed Germany
collapsed when they couldn’t agree how best the crisis
should be handled.
SOUP HANDED TO
‘A STRONG MAN’ NEEDED
TO SOLVE GERMANY’S
There was a sense in Germany from 1929 onwards that a
‘strong man’ was needed to unite the country and
overcome the economic depression and high
It was the belief that the difficult economic situation needed
to be controlled through ‘solidarity.’
Therefore some Communists and other Germans started to
believe that the ‘solidarity of socialism’ across national
boundaries was impossible.
In the economic depression, many Germans started to
think that as individual countries were now pursuing their
own national self-interest, it was better to vote for the Nazis
to protect Germany’s own self-interest.
In addition the Nazis were viewed as having great
credibility since they were former soldiers and also
A CATCH-ALL PARTY
The Nazi party gained members and support from all
sections of German society including from bricklayers,
factory owners and aristocrats.
National community: The Nazis said: “We have to share
with each other.” i.e. they promoted the idea of Germany as
a national community.
The Nazi party between 1929 and 1933 also stood against
They stood against ‘racial mingling’.
By January 1930, just four months after the Wall Street
Crash, there were more than three million Germans
In this atmosphere of crisis, many Germans willingly heard
Hitler’s message of ‘solidarity’ and national unity.
The economic crisis and the Nazi message of national unity
led to the Nazi’s remarkable breakthrough in the general
election of September 1930. Their share of the vote leapt
from 2.6% to 18.3% and they became the second largest
party in the Reichstag.
The Nazis did not put forward a detailed programme of
policies however. Instead the German electorate seemed to
be voting for an emotional idea (national solidarity)
embodied in the charismatic person of Adolf Hitler.
NAZI SUCCESS IN THE
SEPTEMBER 1930 ELECTION
A combination of dynamic leadership, Hitler’s gifts as an
orator and their skill at propaganda, led to the electoral
success in the September 1930 with the Nazis winning 107
seats in the Reichstag.
The open-air rallies of the annual Nazi Party Congress
which was attended by nearly 200,000 people.
The Nazis also paid careful attention to their clearly
identifiable areas of electoral support.
RURAL SUPPORT FOR
The Nazis were strong in the rural areas of Protestant north
Germany, such as Schleswig-Holstein, and in the east,
around Posen, Pomerania and East Prussia.
They were also strong in rural towns all across Germany.
They were popular with the lower middles classes, the elderly
and students, but their most devoted followers were farmers
and farm workers.
AQA EXAM QUESTION,
Q) How far was Hitler’s rise to power from 1928 to January
1933 due to the support he received from the German elites?
Answers: Include in your answers the following:
1 the backing of Hugenburg, Chairman of the DNVP (the
German Nationalist People’s Party), through his media
empire, which gave the NSDAP exposure before the 1930
election when they made a breakthrough.
AQA EXAM ANSWERS, JUNE
The DNVP (German Nationalist People’s Party) was an
assembly of pre-World War One conservative remnants,
including the German Conservative party, the Free
Conservative party, the anti-Semitic movement, the Christian
Social movement, the Pan-German Association and some
pre-war right-leaning National Liberals.
AQA EXAM ANSWER, JUNE
Hugenburg backed the Nazis from 1929. Radio stations and
print media owned by Hugenburg were put at the disposal
of the Nazis.
Von Papen, the chancellor of Germany, lifted the ban on the
SA Nazi Storm Troopers in the summer of 1932 which
allowed the NSDAP to intimidate opponents and become
the largest party in the July 1932 election.
Von Papen also intrigued with Hugenburg’s son to have
Hitler made chancellor in the belief he could be controlled.
AQA EXAM ANSWER, JUNE
Both the army and influential businessmen and financiers,
for example Schacht , head of the central state bank, the
Reichsbank, informed President von Hindenburg that he
should appoint Hitler; both feared the rise of communism
and the army were attracted by Hitler’s commitment to
AQA EXAM ANSWER, JUNE
Hindenburg actually prevented Hitler’s rise to power before
January 1933 as he was reluctant to appoint a known enemy
of democracy who was also an Austrian ex-lance corporal.
Hindenburg referred to Hitler as a ‘Bohemian corporal’.
PRESIDENT VON HINDENBURG
AND HITLER RIDE IN AN OPEN
CAR FOLLOWING HITLER’S
APPOINTMENT AS CHANCELLOR
AQA EXAM ANSWER, JUNE
Fear of communism: the upper and middle classes feared the
rise in support of socialism/communism.
The KPD (German Communist party) had won 100 seats by
November 1932, partly due to the depth of the economic
So the upper and middle classes turned to the Nazis who
promised to crush communism.
AQA EXAM ANSWER, JUNE
Hitler positioned himself as the political messiah who would
guide Germans out of the chaos of the depression. In that
context he emphasised themes of national renewal.
Hitler talked of removing a democratic system that had, he
claimed, failed Germany; and the ‘righting’ of the ‘wrongs’ of
the Versailles Treaty.
HITLER SPEAKING IN A
SOMEWHAT QUITE MOOD (JUST
BEFORE THE USUAL RANT)
NOVEMBER 1932 ELECTION:
NAZI VOTE DECLINED
In the November 1932 election, the Nazis polled two million
votes less than in the July 1932 election and their overall
share dropped by 4% to 33%.
Yet despite the fall in the Nazi vote, the fundamental difficulty
faced by chancellor Von Papen still remained – lack of
CHARLIE CHAPLIN, THE
GREAT DICTATOR, FILM 1940
NAZI USE OF MEETINGS
The Nazis differed from other parties by holding meetings
before, during and between elections, often selecting
particular regions for saturation coverage.
These meetings were a means of reinforcing solidarity
among isolated activists.
Their electoral machinery was permanently mobilised.
HITLER AS A TWENTIETH
Savonarola, the 15th century Florentine statesman, described
a prince as a tyrant who terrifies his subjects. Spying
balefully on the world from his strongly fortified palace, as
sensitive to approaching prey or predators as a spider
delicately balanced at the centre of a web, he dominates the
life of all around him.
Thus a description of both Hitler and Stalin.
Entertaining the ambassadors of foreign powers at his own
table in the Berghof, he makes decisions that affect the
well-being of all his subjects without consulting anyone
except his favourites.
All threats to his sole authority he resists with absolute
ferocity. Savonarola’s prince is solitary, vicious, and
grindingly cruel to those who stand in his way. As Hitler
HITLER AND HIS GIRLFRIEND AT
THE ‘NATIONAL SOCIALIST
The Nazis claimed that their creation of a dictatorship in 1933
– 34 was a ‘National Socialist Revolution’.
On the face of it, the Nazi Revolution was not really a
revolution at all. The French Revolution of 1789 and the
Russian Revolution of 1917 swept away the existing order by
force and replaced it with something that the revolutionaries
regarded as entirely new.
THE ‘NATIONAL SOCIALIST
The Nazis used both the rhetoric of revolution and also
claimed that they had come to power legally and in
accordance with the existing political constitution.
They took few concrete steps to abolish the central
institutions of the Weimar Republic or to replace them with
something else – the eventual abolition of the Presidential
office in 1934 was a rarity in this respect.
“THE REICH WILL NEVER BE DESTROYED IF
YOU ARE UNITED AND LOYAL”
DIRECT HISTORICAL LINE
FROM THE FRENCH
REVOLUTION TO NAZISM
Some historians have argued that a direct historical line can
be drawn to Nazism from the French Revolution of 1789, the
Jacobin ‘Reign of Terror’ in 1793 – 94, and the implicit idea of
a popular dictatorship in Rousseau’s theory of the ‘General
Will’, decided initially by the people but brooking no
opposition once resolved upon.
LINK BETWEEN THE FRENCH
REVOLUTION AND NAZISM
The French Revolution was indeed remarkable for its
rehearsal of many of the major ideologies of the following
two centuries, from communism and anarchism to liberalism
and conservatism. But National Socialism was not among
The Nazis, indeed, thought of themselves as undoing all the
work of the French Revolution and rolling back the clock to
the early Middle Ages.
NAZI IDEOLOGY WAS RACIAL
The Nazi concept of the people was racial rather than civic.
All the ideologies to which the French Revolution had given
birth were to be destroyed. The Nazi Revolution was to be the
world-historical negation of its French predecessor, not its
THE FRENCH REVOLUTION
The French revolutionaries of 1789 possessed a clear set of
doctrines on the basis of which they would introduce the
sovereignty of the people through representative institutions.
The Bolshevik revolutionaries of October 1917 aimed to
overthrow the bourgeoisie and the traditional elites and
usher in the rule of the proletariat.
THE NAZIS WERE ANTI-
The Nazis had no explicit plan to reorder society, no fully
worked-out model of the society that they wanted to
Hitler seems to have regarded the conquest of power as the
essence of the Nazi Revolution.
For him the Revolution was a changeover of personnel in
positions of power and authority.
Hitler’s aims were set out in Mein Kampf in 1924 but also in
conversations with an aide in 1932 – 34 and in official
German records in 1941 – 42 when the Third Reich was
apparently winning the Second World War; and finally in
February 1945 when Hitler first acknowledged the final defeat
MEIN KAMPF, 1924
In his book, Mein Kampf, Hitler declares himself to be a
student of history convinced by his studies that a new age of
history is now about to begin. He also declares clearly what
kind of age this will be.
The age of small, maritime powers ruling the world through
sea-communications, seapower and the wealth built up by
overseas colonisation, he says, is now closing.
1890, HAD AN ENORMOUS
POLICYMAKERS IN ALL THE
Instead of distant overseas colonies, which have become
useless, power will now depend on great land-masses such
as modern techniques can now at last mobilize.
Moreover, thanks to those same techniques, whatever power
succeeds in mobilizing such land-masses can base upon
them a lasting empire.
The only question for Hitler is which power can mobilize the
modern techniques first? i.e. Germany or Russia?
Hitler had faith in Germany; he believed that Germany could
Not Weimar Germany of course, defeated, demoralised,
HITLER’S FAITH IN
And even monarchist Germany could not do it; could not
gain a great land-mass and build a lasting empire. The
monarchy was too weak; it had had its chance under Kaiser
Wilhelm II and failed. Moreover, it was too conservative.
The monarchists only aimed for restoration, the restoration
of the frontiers of 1914, the colonies of 1914.
MEIN KAMPF, 1924
But the frontiers of 1914, say Hitler in Mein Kampf, are
anachronistic in the new age, and so are the colonies: such
an ambition is, to him, meaningless and contemptible.
“Monarchies serve to keep empires; only revolutions can
conquer them,” Hitler said.
And so, in 1923 – 24, Hitler advocated a revolution, a
historic revolution, comparable with the Russian
HITLER VIEWED HIMSELF AS
THE MAKER OF THE NAZI
Hitler made it perfectly clear that he was himself the leader
and maker of such a revolution in geo-politics.
He was, he said, one of those world-phenomena which
occur only at rare intervals in time, at once philosophers
able to understand and practical politicians able to exploit
the turning-points of world history.
If only he could obtain power, Hitler wrote in 1924, he would
create, out of German nationalism, now red and raw with
defeat, a revolutionary force which would resume the
historic mission of Germany and conquer.
HITLER’S STATED AIMS IN
Hitler in Mein Kampf clearly stated that the
historic mission of Germany was not to
conquer distant overseas colonies, which
was the failed policy of Imperial Germany,
but to conquer the vast land-spaces of the
East by defeating Bolshevik Russia.
The distinguished English historian, Sir Robert Ensor, read
Mein Kampf and after 1933 he consistently maintained that
Hitler would make war.
PREDICTION OF HITLER’S
Sir Robert Ensor, distinguished English historian, author of
‘England 1870 – 1914’, a volume in the Oxford History of
England, declared roundly in 1936 that Hitler would annex
Austria in the spring of 1938 and either cause a European
war or a European surrender to avoid war over
Czechoslovakia in the autumn of 1938.
When Ensor’s predictions were verified and he was asked
to give his reasons he stated: “I had the advantage – still
too rare in England – of having read Mein Kampf in the
AUSTRIA, MARCH 1938:
POPULAR WITH THE
HITLER’S AIMS, 1932 -
Statesmen in the Western Powers, Britain and France, did
not take Mein Kampf seriously. Obviously this had
enormous influence upon the course of world history. For
example, the British Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain,
seriously believed he could make a peace deal with Hitler
and avoid a world war.
Hence at Munich in September 1938, Chamberlain
undertook negotiations with Hitler which dismembered
Czechoslovakia, the only democracy in Central Europe.
CHAMBERLAIN AND HITLER,
HITLER’S AIMS EXPRESSED
IN MEIN KAMPF, 1924
Hitler’s thoughts expressed in Mein Kampf (1924) were still
heavily influenced by Baltic German thinkers and writers
who considered the Soviet Union as the product of an
essentially Jewish revolutionary intelligentsia (symbolised
by Leon Trotsky) which, deprived of the Baltic German
stock which had provided so many leading figures in
Tsarist Russia, was bound to fall and to disintegrate under
its own weight.
THE REALITY OF THE 1930S
However, by the time Hitler was appointed chancellor in
1933, the views expressed in Mein Kampf did not
correspond with reality.
The Soviet Union as a consolidated power was a fact of the
The leading question therefore is why Hitler involved
Germany in the murderous struggle of the Second World
War and in particular in war with the Soviet Union.
AQA EXAM QUESTION, JUNE
2012: EXPLAIN WHY THE NAZIS
WERE INTOLERANT OF
DIVERSITY (12 MARKS)
Nazi ideology demonstrated a belief in a superior Aryan
race, anyone who was not part of this race, such as Jews,
or did not work for the good of the national community (the
Fatherland), such as Gypsies, were not welcome in Nazi
Anti-Semitism was clearly influenced by Hitler; his anti-
Semitism dated from his experience in pre-war Vienna,
intensified by his belief that Jews had undermined the war
effort and Jewish politicians had signed the armistice and
created the Weimar Republic.
AQA EXAM QUESTION, JUNE
2012: EXPLAIN WHY THE NAZIS
WERE INTOLERANT OF
DIVERSITY (12 MARKS)
The Nazis believed that democracy was weak and had led
to the problems of Weimar Germany. Only a dictator and a
one party state could strengthen Germany and restore her
to the greatness experienced under Kaiser Wilhelm II.
Alternative ideologies like communism and socialism were
evil because men were not equal and the nation state, not
the international movement, was what mattered.
NAZI PROPAGANDA: THE
HITLER AS MASS MURDERER
Hitler attempted to establish an empire by wars of
conquest; a Nazi empire, the “Thousand Year Reich.” But
unlike other conquerors in history such as Alexander the
Great and Napoleon, he committed deliberate mass murder
and thus he is the greatest criminal in world history.
Hitler had countless harmless people put death, for no
military or political purpose. Instead his barbaric anti-
Semitic policies led to the death of millions and he was
quite simply a mass murderer.
HITLER’S MASS MURDERS
Hitler’s mass murders were committed during the Second
World War but not as acts of war. The mass murders were
committed due to his own personal hatred of Jews. The
mass murders impeded the conduct of the war because
thousands of able-bodied SS men were diverted from the
front to carry out genocide.
The mass murders of Hitler made it impossible for the
Allied Powers to negotiate any peace deal with the Third
Reich and from January 1942 the Western Allies proclaimed
their war aim as the unconditional surrender of Germany.
JEWISH PEOPLE ARRIVING
AT A GERMAN
HITLER’S AIM: GERMAN
HEGEMONY OVER EUROPE
Hitler hoped to achieve Germany’s hegemony in Europe
and direct rule in Russia. His aim was a German-dominated
power structure with the new colony of Russia at its base
and with the other European countries as satellites.
Instead what actually happened was the hegemony of the
United States in Western Europe and of the Soviet Union in
Eastern Europe. After 1945 Germany was divided between
the two superpower blocs and not re-united until 1990.
INITIAL ACHIEVEMENTS OF
HITLER 1933 - 39
Hitler’s achievements from 1933 to 1939 confused and
disarmed his opponents within Germany – Social
Democrats, trade unionists, liberal Germans.
Hitler’s party became an organisation superior to any other
German party and rallied mass votes behind it from 1928 to
1933. It outstripped its main opponent, the Social
Democratic Party and it had a dynamism which the Social
The Nazi Party obeyed only one dominating will, it was full
of fighting spirit and was a powerful steam-engine in
German politics from 1928 onwards.
NAZI PARTY (NSDAP) SEATS IN
THE REICHSTAG 1928 TO 1933 –
TOTAL SEATS IN REICHSTAG =
May 1928 – 12 seats
Sept 1930 – 107 seats
July 1932 – 230 seats
Nov 1932 – 196 seats
March 1933 – 288 seats
CONSOLIDATION OF POWER
The Reichstag was burnt down on 27 February 1933. The
Nazi leadership and their German National coalition
partners were convinced of the Communist authorship of
the fire and the Dutch Communist Marinus van der Lubbe
was accused of starting the fire and executed.
The Nazi leadership truly believed that with the Reichstag
fire, an armed Communist uprising was imminent; it was
more than propaganda when they undertook to save
Germany from ‘Marxism’, it was an integral part of the Nazi
NAZI WISHFUL THINKING
After the Reichstag fire the Nazi cult of the leader obliged
Germans to regard Hitler’s political activity as the self-
assured conduct of a man who fully mastered the situation
and was clearly conscious of his aims.
Goring, Hitler’s right-hand man, represented himself as the
saviour of state authority from the Communist threat.
Hitler felt himself to be the champion of Europe against the
‘Asiatic plague’ of Bolshevism. In each case both Goring
and Hitler were the playthings of their wishful thinking.
THE REICHSTAG ON FIRE,
THE CONSOLIDATION OF
POWER: THE NIGHT OF THE
LONG KNIVES, 30TH JUNE 1934
The Army remained the only institution which had the
power to remove Hitler from office. The Army was not a
Nazified institution and still retained some independence
The ambitions of the Nazi storm-troopers, the SA, and of
their leader, Ernst Rohm were regarded as a serious threat
by the army leaders.
In the summer of 1934 SA units began stopping army
convoys and confiscating weapons and supplies.
Blomberg, the Defence Minister, with President von
Hindenburg’s support, threatened to declare marital law
and give the army power to deal with the SA.
ERNST ROHM, LEADER OF
THE NAZI SA STORM-
HITLER’S SHOWDOWN WITH
THE SA, JUNE 1934
Rohm and his SA para-militaries, with their internal and
military political aspirations for replacing the army, were
endangering the ‘arrangement’ of 1933 whereby Hitler had
been constitutionally appointed chancellor in return for
upholding institutions of the state such as the army.
A ruthless purge of the SA, known as the ‘Night of the Long
Knives’ was launched on 30th June 1934 when the SS,
acting on Hitler’s orders, executed the leadership of the SA.
THE BODY OF ROHM AFTER
THE NIGHT OF THE LONG
KNIVES, 30TH JUNE 1934
Hitler took the opportunity of the Night of the Long Knives
to execute conservative opponents including General von
Schleicher, the former chancellor in December 1932 to
Hitler by his action of executing the SA leadership had
shown himself to be a loyal partner of the alliance with the
army which afterwards accepted him as Hindenburg’s
successor and took an oath of personal loyalty in August
OATH OF LOYALTY TO ADOLF
HITLER TAKEN BY THE GERMAN
ARMED FORCES, AUGUST 1934
Oath of loyalty for Soldiers of
the Armed Forces:
'I swear by God this sacred
oath: I will render
unconditional obedience to
Adolf Hitler, the Führer of the
German Reich and people,
Supreme Commander of the
Armed Forces, and will be
ready as a brave soldier to
risk my life at any time for this
OATH OF LOYALTY TO ADOLF HITLER, 1934
THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE
HITLER MYTH, 1933 - 39
Every effort was made by Goebbels, during the decisive
early months of the Nazi regime, to promote the image of
Hitler as ‘people’s chancellor’ and the saviour of the nation.
Since the Hitler myth was a product of propaganda,
Goebbels had to deploy all his skills and resources to
achieve his objectives. Key events, such as the opening of
the Reichstag after the March 1933 election, were carefully
stage-managed to create pure political theatre with Hitler as
the central character.
THE RADIO GAVE US BOTH
HITLER AND THE BEACH
Technology can be used to promote both good and evil.
Radio and cinema newsreels, the new technology of the
early twentieth century, was used by Goebbels to promote
the Hitler myth, as well as the press and posters.
Celebrations for Hitler’s birthday on 20th April, when flags,
bunting and photographs of the Fuehrer were displayed in
towns and villages across Germany, were orchestrated to
project an impression of universal public acclaim for Hitler.
GERMANY NEEDED A
Looking at German history, the defeat of Germany in the
First World War, the hyperinflation of 1923, the economic
depression of 1929 – 33, and the lack of a democratic
culture, the psychology of the German people was waiting
for a ‘saviour’ to restore Germany as a great power.
The only experience in Germany of a functioning
democracy was the Weimar Republic of 1919 – 33 which
had failed to deal with the economic depression, had
produced weak coalition governments, and had not
restored Germany as a great power.
THE COLLAPSE OF THE
The most important cause of Weimar’s failure was that too
many Germans did not regard it as a legitimate regime.
There was a brief interlude between the armistice and the
publication of the terms of the Treaty of Versailles of June
1919 when a large majority of the German population was
willing to give the new order a chance.
This ‘dreamland’ episode ended abruptly when it became
clear that the adoption of democracy had not saved
Germany from a harsh peace settlement.
MAJORITY WERE OPPOSED
TO THE WEIMAR REPUBLIC
After the terms of Versailles became known, the majority of
the population opposed the Weimar Republic. Towards the
end of the Weimar years (1929 – 33) there was a virtual
consensus that the specific political arrangements of the
Weimar constitution had become unworkable.
By 1932 a majority supported a totalitarian replacement of
Weimar rather than the rule of law and democracy.
THE COLLAPSE OF SUPPORT
By 1930, after the economic depression had begun,
Germany could no longer be controlled by the existing
elites and pro-democracy political parties.
Hitler appeared to be the only personality in the political
spectrum outside the left who could command large
masses. By summer 1932 everything seemed to revolve
round the question how he and his mass following could be
used to make government viable again without handing him
total and irrevocable power.
ANTI-SEMITISM PART OF
During the last years of Weimar, anti-Semitism was also
part of the political package within the Republic’s politics.
Weimar Germany had a numerically small and highly
assimilated Jewish community, overwhelmingly urban and
The German-Jewish relationship was not without tensions
and the liberal expectation that the problem would simply
disappear was mistaken. Many ‘national’ Germans, even
apart from rabid anti-Semites, thought there was a ‘Jewish
Anti-Semitism did not, however, play a major role in turning
Nazism from a sect into a mass movement after 1929.
THE ARMY WAS SHIELDED
FROM PRYING POLITICAL
For the German army after Versailles, the limitation of its
size to 100,000 soldiers, turned it into a segregated
professional army with an officer corps drawn almost
entirely from the traditional military caste.
The defence ministers of the Weimar Republic saw it as
their task to shield the army from prying political eyes.
Another heavy burden imposed on the Weimar Republic
was the reparations question.
By keeping the wounds of defeat and national humiliation
open it made it virtually impossible to end the virulent
nationalist agitation against the republic at any time during
A lethal cocktail of anti-democratic, anti-liberal, anti-
modernist sentiment contained ingredients which had been
present in Germany long before 1918, but was rendered
more poisonous by the repeated reminders of national
The reparations problem kept the psychological
consequences of Versailles alive. In many German minds
their economic sufferings became directly linked with the
foreign oppression imposed upon the nation.
Yet Versailles was a compromise between French and
Anglo-Saxon aims and left Germany’s strategic potential for
the future intact.
If anything Versailles enhanced Germany’s potential
because of the situation in Eastern Europe, partly created
by the Treaty in June 1919.
THE SOVIET UNION: THE
The Soviet Union was excluded from international affairs
since it was an ideological pariah as a Communist state.
Thus Russia (the Soviet Union) could no longer play a role
in the Concert of Powers in Europe that it had done in the
The states of Eastern Europe would turn to Germany if
forced to choose between Moscow and Berlin.
REVISING THE OUTCOME OF
With the Soviet Union and the United States excluded from
European affairs, the Germans, psychologically wounded
by defeat in 1918 and its consequences, could yet pin their
hopes on revising the outcome.
The main difference was between those on the right who
from the beginning saw revision of Versailles in terms of
outright defiance and those in the centre and on the left
who saw gradualism, fulfilment and negotiated change as
the only realistic means of revision.
DIVISIONS IN THE LEFT: WEAK
OPPOSITION TO THE NAZIS
The sharp divisions of the left throughout the Weimar
Republic (1919 – 33) resulted in a weak opposition to the
The German Communist Party (KPD) was under the control
of Moscow and thus of the needs of Soviet foreign policy. It
wasted its potential for opposition to the Nazis with futile,
self-destructive attacks on the Social Democrats (SPD).
Blind Marxist determinism led the KPD into the belief that
the destruction of democracy would inevitably bring about
the triumph of communism.
STRENGTH AND SUCCESS
OF WEIMAR’S OPPONENTS
The anti-republican, anti-democratic, anti-parliamentary,
anti-Semitic, anti-liberal stream was very broad and diverse
in Germany after 1918.
Artisans, shopkeepers, white-collar employees, peasants,
land-owners, house-owners, heavy industry, fashioned
themselves ideologies that were loosely related to each
other and to anti-republicanism.
STILL FROM ‘THE BOOK
THIEF’, NEW YORK TIMES
BESTSELLER BY MARKUS
THE DESIRE TO WORSHIP A
After the failures of the Weimar democracy, the majority of
the German people had a desire to worship a single leader,
to become a strong, united nation and to restore Germany’s
great power status.
In the conscious mind of the German people, Hitler
appeared to be sacrosanct (revered). As the Fuehrer (leader
of the nation), the Head of State, and the Commander-in-
Chief of the Armed Forces, Hitler exercised enormous
influence over the masses, using his personal magnetism
to do so.
THE PRESENTATION OF
HITLER TO THE GERMAN
Hitler was presented as tough, uncompromising and
ruthless in fighting and defeating the nation’s enemies,
both internal and external.
He was also presented as hard-working, toiling unstintingly
for his people while others slept.
Hitler was presented as a political genius who had
mastered the problems faced by Germany in 1933 and was
responsible for Germany’s ‘national awakening’, in which
order had been restored, the economy revived and
Germany had thrown off the humiliating shackles of the
Treaty of Versailles.
THE PORTRAYAL OF THE
Hitler was portrayed by Goebbels as dynamic, energetic
and forceful, in contrast with the ‘weak’ politicians of the
Weimar Republic (1919 – 33).
He was portrayed as living a simple life and sacrificing
personal happiness to devote himself to his people. He was
invariably shown as being alone and removed from the Nazi
Hitler was also promoted as the ‘guardian of traditional
morality and popular justice’. In reality he was to become a
HITLER PORTRAYED AS A
‘MAN OF PEACE’
Goebbels promoted Hitler as a ‘man of peace’ and a
statesman of true genius.
In reality Hitler led Germany into the most destructive war
in history and to total defeat, with his country in ruins and
divided in two by the superpower blocs, the United States
and the Soviet Union. Hardly a ‘statesman of true genius’!
RAISES THE RED FLAG OVER
FOLLOWING GERMANY’S TOTAL
DEFEAT IN MAY 1945
THE REALITY OF HITLER’S
Hitler, as Fuehrer, was surrounded by officials who
competed with each other to gain his attention and
implement his wishes.
Hitler supplied the vision, his ministers and officials
interpreted this and turned it into detailed policies.
He was actually very little involved in decision-making, still
less in administrative matters.
MAY 1941 – MAY 1945, AND
HITLER’S PRIVATE SECRETARY.
ONE OF THE MOST POWERFUL
MEN IN HITLER’S REICH.
THE REALITY: HITLER’S
Far from working hard, Hitler stayed up late watching films
and would usually not get up until mid-day.
His days were spent in eating, walking in the grounds of his
mountain retreat, the Berghof in Bavaria, and delivering
long, rambling speeches to his subordinates.
He disliked reading official documents and rarely got
involved in detailed discussions on policy. His officials
often had great difficulty in getting him to make decisions.
HITLER AT THE BERGHOF,
BAVARIA, HIS MOUNTAIN
For Hitler the only actors in the historical process are
nations or races, not classes or religions.
History for Hitler ‘is the description of the course of a
nation’s struggle for its life’.
‘Anything that happens in world history is merely the
manifestation of the self-preservation of the races.’
The state is ‘in principle only a means to an end, and sees
its end in the preservation of the racial existence of the
WINSTON CHURCHILL, PRIME MINISTER OF
THE UNITED KINGDOM 1940 – 45; 1951 – 55:
THE SAVIOUR OF HIS COUNTRY AND THE
CONQUEROR OF HITLER
NAZI IDEOLOGY: A
In their rise to power, Hitler and the Nazis put forward a
wide ranging but loose collection of ideas which, when
assembled, might be described as an ideology.
Nazi policy was first put forward in their Twenty-Five Point
Programme of 1920, a programme which was still officially
the statement of their aims in 1933.
Hitler’s ideas were not original; he borrowed from
nationalistic and racist writings of the 19th and early 20th
centuries that could be found in cheap pamphlets sold on
the streets of German cities.
THE VICTORIOUS RED ARMY OF THE SOVIET
UNION, BERLIN, MAY 1945
Hitler’s ideas were not coherent or consistent; he modified
his policy statements according to the audience he was
Hitler refused to be bound by the Nazi 1920 programme and
abandoned radical economic ideas in order to win the
support of the conservative-minded business community.
Much of Hitler’s speeches and writings were based on
irrational prejudices rather than on the ‘scientific basis’
which he claimed for his ideas and statements.
PRIME MINISTER WINSTON
CHURCHILL SITS ON HITLER’S
CHAIR DURING A VISIT TO
BERLIN, MAY 1945
IDEOLOGY: A DEFINITION
Ideology is defined as a system of ideas that an economic
or political theory is based on. A system is an organised
scheme or method.
In this sense the Nazis did not possess a coherent system
of political ideas, unlike communism.
Nevertheless part of the Nazis’ appeal was based on their
constant repetition of a number of simplistic ideas which
found a receptive audience among many sections of
THE DIARY OF ANNE FRANK:
ELOQUENT TESTAMENT TO
THE HUMAN SPIRIT
Hitler believed in Social Darwinism, the notion that life is in
essence a ruthless struggle for existence, in which only the
fittest would prevail.
In the brash, aggressive and militaristic atmosphere of
Imperial Germany (1871 – 1918), a young, insecure and
ambitious state adopted the ideas of Social Darwinism.
Hitler held on to these ideas inherited from Imperial
Germany. Pity was out of place in his worldview.
To feel concern for concentration camp inmates, the old
and the sick being put to sleep in euthanasia centres,
subject peoples suffering under the heels of the oppressor,
or enemy soldiers dying on the battlefield was sheer
sentimentalism, the corrupting legacy of a Christian-
The Nazi was expected to be hard and ruthless in obeying
the dictates of the higher law of nature for the sake of his
In the crude and bloody world of the Social Darwinists
organized violence was essential feature of political action.
“War”, Hitler remarked in 1944, “is therefore the unalterable
law of the whole of life – the prerequisite for the natural
selection of the strong and the precedent for the
elimination of the weak.”
The acceptance of Social Darwinism was the explanation of
the deep gulf separating western statesmen and Nazi
leaders on the subject of war.
SOCIAL DARWINISM: WAR
For western statesmen, war was an
admission of failure, and the supreme
tragedy to be avoided at all costs even at
the price of what to many seemed a
shameful surrender at Munich.
For Hitler war was ‘the father of all things’,
an ennobling experience to be treasured
by those privileged to take part in it.
CHAMBERLAIN WISHED TO
AVOID: ANOTHER WORLD WAR,
ESPECIALLY THE HORRORS OF
INFLUENCES UPON HITLER
Alien races as a biological threat to German racial purity
Hitler was greatly influenced by ‘The Foundations of the
Nineteenth Century’ by Houston Stewart Chamberlain
(1900) which became the bible of German racialism.
Chamberlain was a Germanophile and an ardent Wagner
enthusiast, and believed passionately in the redemptive
power of the Aryan race.
THE ARYAN RACE WITH THE
Chamberlain identified the Aryan race with the German
nation, mixing Social Darwinism, chauvinism and anti-
Semitism into a poisonous brew.
The history of mankind, as portrayed by Chamberlain, was
in essence a dramatic struggle of Wagnerian proportions
between two pure races – the German and the Jewish.
The German race embodied all that was superior in the
Greco-Roman heritage, the Jews were the deadly enemy of
mankind bent on world domination.
Chamberlain made a confident prediction that the Germans,
being the superior race, would be victorious over all their
Hitler idolized Chamberlain. He studied ‘The Foundations of
the Nineteenth Century’ and was deeply moved on meeting
the master, who was Wagner’s son-in-law, in Bayreuth in
One of the factors which possibly helped transform the
nationalist politician into the future Fuehrer was the old
man’s declaration a week later that in Hitler he recognized
THE HITLER YOUTH
The Hitler Youth was created in 1926 and in its early years
was relatively unsuccessful. When the Nazis came to power
in 1933, all other youth organisations, except those linked
to the Catholic Church, were either banned or taken over by
the Hitler Youth.
Only then did the Nazis’ own youth movement begin to
In 1936, a Law for the Incorporation of German Youth gave
the Hitler Youth the status of an official education
movement, equal in status to schools and the home.
THE HITLER YOUTH
By 1936 also, the Hitler Youth had been granted a
monopoly over all sports facilities and competitions for
children under the age of 14. Membership of the Hitler
Youth was made compulsory in 1939.
In the Hitler Youth, there was a constant diet of political
indoctrination and physical activity. Boys from the age of
ten were taught the motto ‘Live Faithfully, Fight Bravely and
The emphasis in youth activities was on competition,
struggle, heroism and leadership, as boys were prepared
for their future role as warriors.
THE HITLER YOUTH
Hitler Youth members had to swear a personal oath of
allegiance to the Fuehrer.
There was a set syllabus of political indoctrination which all
members had to follow and a heavy emphasis on military
Boys were taught to sing Nazi songs and encouraged to
read Nazi political pamphlets.
They were taken on hikes and on camping trips. Ritual,
ceremonies and the singing of songs reinforced their
induction into Nazi ideology.
THE LEAGUE OF GERMAN
The League of German Girls was the female equivalent of
the Hitler Youth. Its motto – ‘Be Faithful, Be Pure, Be
German’ – was part of a process of preparing girls for their
future role as housewives and mothers. Membership
became compulsory in 1939.
The girls were taught they had a duty to be healthy since
their bodies belonged to the nation. They needed to be fit
for their future role as child-bearers.
HITLER WITH SOME LEAGUE
OF GERMAN GIRLS
THE LEAGUE OF GERMAN
Girls were instructed in matters of hygiene, cleanliness and
Formation dancing and group gymnastics served the dual
purpose of raising fitness and developing comradeship.
At weekly ‘home evenings’, girls were taught handicrafts,
sewing and cooking.
In the Faith and Beauty groups, young women were
instructed in baby care and social skills such as ballroom
RULES OF THE LEAGUE OF
Your body belongs to your nation, to which you owe your
existence and for which you are responsible.
Always keep yourself clean, tend and exercise your body.
Light, air and water can help you in this.
Look after your teeth. Strong and healthy teeth are a source
Eat plenty of raw fruit, uncooked greens and vegetables,
first washing them thoroughly in clean water.
LEAGUE OF GERMAN GIRLS
RULES OF THE LEAGUE OF
Drink fruit juice. Leave coffee to the coffee addicts.
Shun alcohol and nicotine; they are poisons which impair your
development and capacity for work.
Take physical exercise. It will make you healthy and hardy.
Sleep at least nine hours every night.
Practise first aid for use in accidents. It can help you save
your comrades’ lives.
All your activities are governed by the slogan: ‘Your duty is to
LEAGUE OF GERMAN GIRLS
Many girls found their experiences in the League of
German Girls liberating. They could escape from the
constraints of home and develop a sense of comradeship.
Although strictly run on the leadership principle, the
League of German Girls was relatively classless, bringing
together on an equal footing girls from a wide range of
The League was part of the strategy for capturing the
minds of German youth and moulding them for the
purposes of the Third Reich.
LEAGUE OF GERMAN GIRLS PRACTICE GYM
LEAGUE OF GERMAN GIRLS:
‘Only the best German soldier is
suitable for you, for it is your
responsibility to keep the blood
of the nation pure.
German girl, your honour lies in
being faithful to the blood of
NAZI IDEOLOGY: ANTI-
The starting point of Hitler’s anti-Semitic beliefs was the
bland assumption that the state was the distinguishing
mark of any people, an indispensable organization existing
to provide work for all and representing the coercive power
without which a people could not assert the right to live.
Jews, according to Hitler, were unable to establish states
because they did not look upon work as a social obligation
and a duty performed for the good of the group as Aryans
The Jews were not just simple parasites to be rooted out of
Germany ‘one way or another’, but beings scheming and
plotting behind the scenes to conquer the whole world.
From its new headquarters in Moscow World Jewry was
now making a calculated bid to conquer Germany as the
next step towards world domination.
So once again the fatherland was in the front line, where
Hitler loved to be, facing an implacable foe bent on
enslaving the people.
JEWS ‘CORRUPTING THE GERMAN PEOPLE’
Jews were corrupting the German people by spreading
pernicious doctrines of ‘internationalism’, ‘pacifism’ and
The odd notion that war was an unmitigated evil was a
Jewish device to weaken the will of honest Germans to
solve their problems – as virile peoples ought to – by force.
As for the nonsensical democratic belief that all men were
equal, this conflicted with the basic Nazi principle that ‘the
best elements’ should govern while the majority obeyed
OF ADOLF HITLER
Whether or not Hitler’s father was brutal in his relationship
with his wife, Hitler believed this to be the case which,
psychologically, is what counts.
The death of Hitler’s mother in 1907 was a traumatic
experience for the eighteen-year old youth. It is significant
that pictures of his mother (but not of the father) were to be
seen in Berlin, Munich and at the Berghof.
A sense of guilt arising out of subconscious desire for
incestuous relations with his mother combined with a fear
of a ‘castrating father’ left Hitler with a basic feeling of
inadequacy and insecurity (with strong sexual undertones)
which he never overcame.
OF ADOLF HITLER
Some psychiatrists maintain that Hitler was indeed a sexual
pervert and this would have greatly intensified the feelings
of inadequacy. So, too, would the absence of a testicle,
revealed by the Soviet autopsy on Hitler’s remains found in
Berlin in 1945.
On entering politics in 1919 – 20 Hitler made strenuous
efforts to repudiate all that was weak and effeminate in his
own personality and to identify with a new and virile
superego – the ruthless and self-confident leader of men.
Patients with deep-seated feelings of inadequacy tend to
project onto those around them the resentment they feel
towards a parent or parents whom they hold responsible
for their plight.
Applied to Hitler, this means that the violent and bitter
attacks he launched on all who stood in his way might be
explained in terms of a deep sense of guilt about his own
sexual inadequacy and of a desire to avenge the wrongs
done to his mother by his father.
HITLER WITH HIS HALF-NIECE
GELI RAUBAL. SHE COMMITTED
SUICIDE IN 1931 AGED 23.
TO RECREATE THE MOTHER-
Hitler’s political career might be seen as an attempt to
recreate the mother-child symbiosis which he never
In the all-embracing community of the army and the Nazi
Party Hitler could insulate himself against reality in a
protective maternal cocoon where his infantile sense of
omnipotence and invincibility could flourish.
GERMAN LONGING FOR
HARMONY AND UNITY
Perhaps Hitler’s constant avowals that National Socialist
Germany was a people’s community speaking with one
voice was basically a response to the longing of a deeply-
divided people for harmony and unity?
Families in difficulties often choose an individual whom
they blame, quite illogically, for all that has gone wrong in
the family situation.
Might it not be that when Hitler singled out the Jews as
scapegoats for all the ills troubling Germany he was simply
projecting onto them the guilt complex felt by most
LONGING FOR DEPENDENCY
ON A LEADER
When Hitler transposed to Germany the love he felt for his
mother it might be argued that he was at the same time
satisfying the collective longing of the German people for
dependency on a leader.
Hitler offered the German people work, security and order,
he restored their sense of dignity and he reaffirmed the
authoritarian pattern of their family life.
DEFINITIONS: NSDAP (THE
The Nazi party (NSDAP) was founded by Anton
Drexler in Munich in 1919. Hitler became chairman of
the NSDAP in 1921.
Between early 1922 and the failed coup attempt of
November 1923 party membership rose from about
6,000 to around 55,000.
The party was banned after the 1923 failed attempt
at a coup (the Beer Hall Putsch) and was relaunched
CATHOLIC CENTRE PARTY
The party was founded in 1870 to defend Catholic interests in
the new German Empire (1871 – 1918), which was dominated
Its electoral support was remarkably stable between 1918
and 1933, and it was consistently represented in Weimar
The votes of the Catholic lower middle class and large
numbers of Catholic workers were crucial to this consistent
performance. The Centre was a committed pro-republican
party until the depression when it shifted back to the right. It
was dissolved in July 1933, but re-emerged after the war as
the Christian Democratic Union.
SPD (SOCIAL DEMOCRATIC PARTY)
Formed in 1875, the SPD was persecuted under the
chancellorship of Bismarck, but re-emerged to become the
largest single party in the Reichstag by the outbreak of the
First World War.
The party drew its support from the industrial working class
and sections of the lower middle class, but lost support to
the Communists during the depression.
The SPD was resolute in its support of the Weimar Republic,
and was banned by the Nazis in 1933.