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Volksgemeinschaft

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Essay Planning – Social / Cultural policies

 

Area

Nazi Germany

Historiography

Volksgemeinschaft – the development of People’s Community. How successful was it?

Robert Ley – The only people who still have a private life in Germany are those who are asleep

Kershaw – The Nazis did not bring about a ‘social revolution’ – it was incapable of doing so – they focused on a transformation of values and beliefs – a psychological revolution rather than one of substance

Schoenbaum – there were profound changes in the structure and values of society

Sax and Kuntz – Volksgemeinschaft was to be the result of action. Opposed to Gesellschaft (society) that was impersonal and economic. The integrated society. Volksgemeinschaft needs to penetrate the core of every individual to believe in something bigger, and on racial lines. Class, occupation, values had to be broken down and rebuilt.

Did they achieve this?

Jacques Delarue, Nazism and German Society, 1994.

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

Mallman and Paul, ‘Omniscient, Omnipotent, Omnipresent?’ in Nazism and German Society, 1994: “The Nazi regime was quite definitely not in the position to engage in comprehensive surveillance or perfect repression. Although the Nazi regime’s aspirations were totalitarian, the reality was not.”

Legal / political

  • January 30th 1933 – Hitler is appointed Chancellor
  • February 27th 1933 – Reichstag Fire
  • February 28th 1933 – Decree of the Reich President for the protection of the Nation and the State – Issued by Hindenburg – used by Hitler
  • March 5th 1933 – Elections – 88% turnout, Nazis receive 44% of the vote, Nazis control radio, police and use propaganda
  • March 13th 1933 – Ministry for Public Enlightenment and Propaganda established
  • March 24th 1933 – Enabling Act – ‘Law for Terminating the Suffering of the People and the Nation’ – passed by the Reichstag giving power to the government, in effect, Hitler, for 4 years
  • May 2nd 1933 – All Trade Unions incorporated into the DAF
  • July 14th 1933 – No new political parties allowed – KPD and SPD banned and other parties dissolved themselves
  • July 20th 1933 – Concordat with the Vatican
  • October 14th – Reichstag dissolved
  • November 12th 1933 – Nazi candidates win 92% of votes for the new elections
  • January 15th 1934 – Law for the reconstruction of the state – Local councils dissolved and Nazi Reich governors created to run states
  • June 30th 1934 – Night of the Long Knives
  • August 1st 1934 – Law Concerning the Head of State of the German Reich – merges the role of the President and the Chancellor – Fuhrer and the Reich Chancellor’ – confirmed by plebiscite
  • August 2nd 1934 – President Hindenburg died
  • August 2nd 1934 – Army swears oath of loyalty to Hitler
  • There was no legal way to remove Hitler

Opposition did not disappear when they did not have access to the decision making body – they went underground. Berlin Red Patrol. Hanover Socialist Front. However these organisations were small, did not legal members, access to funding and were hunted by the Gestapo.

Dachau – First concentration camp opened 1933

Nationwide Plebiscites - % of people voting in favour

  • 1933 – 95%
  • 1934 – 90%
  • 1936 – 96%
  • 1938 – 99%

How can a historian trust the election results?

Religion

  • Religion is incredibly important in Germany and 90% are religious. Catholics follow the Pope, in Rome, outside Nazi control
  • 1933 – SA order to attend church (Concordat agreement had just been signed)
  • July 1933 – Reich Church created to co-ordinate all protestant churches
  • 1934 – Confessional Church breaks away from Reich church.
  • 1934  -Catholic Bishops Conference declares religion is not based on blood or race but only the divine
  • 1934  -Two protestant bishops arrested but released after outcry
  • 1935 – 700 Prussian Protestant Ministers arrested for criticising Nazi neo-paganism
  • 1936 – Bishop Galen thanks HITLER FOR THE Rhineland
  • 1936 - National Socialist Teacher’s League encouraged to not teach religion
  • Confessional Pastors circulate messages criticising Nazis – 100s are sent to concentration camps
  • 1937 – 200 priests are put on trial for currency trafficking
  • 1937 – order to ban crucifixes withdrawn

1933 – 22 million Catholics – 32% of population, powerful Z party and youth organisations – mostly gone by 1939

1933 – 40 million protestants – 58% population, small youth organisation

German Christians’ a group wanting to restructure the church on racial lines. Called themselves the SA of the Church.

Confessional Church – about 5,000 clergy opposed to Nazi involvement in religion

German Faith Movement – wanted to replace Christianity with a pagan Nazi faith. 3.5 million members 1939

Pope Pius XI allowed the dissolution of the centre Z party, signed the Concordat, but then became disillusioned and wrote the Encyclical ‘With Burning Grief’ in 1937. 

Pope Pius XII elected 1939 condemned Communism but not directly Nazism

Bishop Galen – initially welcomed Nazism, then became a big opponent of it, criticising euthanasia, preaching against Nazism

Martin Niemoller, originally welcomed Hitler, nationalist, but then founded the Confessional Church, arrested 1937 and remained in prison until 1945

1936 – church groups disbanded and Hitler Youth compulsory

1933, 65% children attended church school, 5% by 1937, almost vanished by 1939

1933-1939, 200 priests accused of sexual abuse

Youth

  • 95% loyal to Hitler
  • Rapid membership increase after 1933, plus compulsory membership
  • Brainwashed kids --> students prepared to sacrifice themselves for the Nazi loyalty
  • Hitler Youth became the dominant monopoly over German's Youth's spare time
  • The hope - an array of institutions would replace traditional ones such as the Church and family
  • They used fun and active based movements to attract the youth, and intimidation if that did not work
  • The Hitler Youth established 1926, expanded rapidly after 1933
  • All youth organisations apart from Catholic ones were taken over, 1933
  • 1932, 108,000. 1934, 3,500,000. 1936, 6,000,000 members
  • 1935, 3,400,000 participants in sports. 1939, 7 million.
  • Those attempting camps: 1935-7, 973,000. 1937, 97,000.
  • 1935, rally of Hitler Youth and League of German Girls, 900 pregnancies.
  • Bernhard Rust, Nazi Education Minister: the purpose of education is to make the state more important than individuals
  • 1936, 30% of teachers voluntarily joined the Nazis. National Socialist Teacher’s League. By 1937, 97% had joined
  • Curriculum changes: By 1936, physical education took up at least 2 hours a day. 1935, all text books had to be approved.  
  • 1939, all denominational schools abolished
  • New schools made for Nazi leaders: 1933 – National Political Institutes of Education. These were taken over by the SS in 1936. There were 21 by 1938.
  • Higher education suffered: 1933, 113,000 students attended, and in 1939, 57,000. A reduction in the importance of higher education.
  • 1933, Law for the Restoration of the civil service saw 10% of university lecturers removed, about 1,200 for religious or political reasons.

  • Edelweiss Pirates, the collective name for dissatisfied groups aged 14-17. Mostly boys, some girls. Local groups had local names such as Roving Dudes, Kittelbach pirates.
  • Earliest records of the groups is 1934, about 2,000 groups existed in 1939
  • Sing songs, non-Nazi activities, beating up Nazi Youths
  • Swing groups, middle class and night clubs, Jazz, often members of Nazi Youth but nominally. Counter identity through music
  • Hunted and killed by Gestapo

Failures:

Many youth managed to escape the "compulsory memberships" and rival groups emerged

Many turned away from Hitler Youth in later 1930s

The Hitler Youth became less successful with more military training and Nazi lectures etc.

Growing opposition to Hitler Youth - rejection of it + non-Nazi ideas

Economic groups

Big business – Landowners and industrialists benefited. Trade unions were broken, private ownership remained. Coal producers had bad relations, as did any firm who were geared for export or opposed self-sufficiency.  1937, some businesses charged with sabotage if they did not support self-sufficiency, e.g. Thyssen the iron baron fled to Switzerland 1939. Daimler-Benz gained greatly from rearmament – profits rose 800%.

Reichswerke Herman Goering, was a national steel works established – businesses were pressured to invest 130 million RM of 400 million. It expanded to become the largest industry in 1939. It overtook all private firms.

IG Farben benefited making synthetic rubber and oil. It lent its knowledge to the government for autarky and in returned gained 50% of government investment and by 1943 owned 334 plants. By the end of the war it had half of its workers from labour camps.  

Mittelstand – Theorists Freder and Wagener wanted to protect the farmers and Mittelstand. The 1933 Law to Protect Retail Trade banned new department stores and taxed large stores. The number of small businesses declined because the government did not pay on time and rearmament needed large business. The 1933 Reich Entailed Farm Law protected small farms that could no longer be sold and had to be passed to one person, but it did not help them prosper.

Workers – Only 35,000 of 25 million male workers were unemployed and labour shortages meant there 435,000 foreign workers in Germany. Wage freezes were bypassed by Christmas bonuses and insurance schemes. Rearmament industries had better wages than consumer industries. Although pay went down in real terms, life was so much better than during the depression, an average wage of 35 marks a week was 10 times more than dole during the Depression. Wages only increased by 1% a year during the Nazi period and membership dues and NSV (welfare contributions) were at 18% compared to 15% of the Weimar period. They lost power in trade unions but they gained better facilities through the DAF (German Labour Front).

Farmers – production up 20%, imports down, 435,000 foreign labour needed 1939, tax concessions, status of peasants improved, ‘Blood and Soil’, reduced fertiliser prices, subsidies for mechanisation. The Entailed Farm Law tied all peasants to their farms to support production – small farms, 33% of German agriculture, were less than 30 acres, and now could not be sold and only passed to one person. It meant they were fixed to the land, could not get loans because they could not out up their land as security for deposits.

Historiography

a)        Browning: ‘The path was a gradual … descent past the point of no return’

b)        Kershaw: The road to Auschwitz was built by hatred but paved with apathy

c)        Leber: ‘The decision to resist an authority that in the eyes of the public was legal … was the act of an extremist. Such resistance was perilous…

It is believed that between 1933 and 1945, 3 million were confined for political crimes, 800,000 were sentenced for active resistance and 32,600 were executed – of these 12,000 had been convicted of high treason’

d)        Housden: ‘In the Third Reich it took courage just to say ‘hello’ in the street to someone wearing a yellow star. For that reason, we must not underestimate the achievements of anyone who did anything, no matter how small, to subvert the Nazi order.’

e)        Hiden: ‘The persecution of hundreds of thousands of Germans by the Hitler regime serves to illustrate that the dissent and nonconformity must have been widespread.’

Jews

  • Blamed for killing Christ and perceived to be wealthy, combined with social Darwinism, Jews were seen as a threat and a lower form of human species
  • Until 1939, the Nazis preferred a policy of emigration but the outbreak of war made this difficult
  • By 1941, 700,000 Jews had been killed – in unsystematic killings by mass shootings and gassing
  • 1942 – Wansee Conference, decided on the ‘Final Solution’

*Most Jews were still living in their homes in 1939, although subject to increasing discrimination. Deportation en masse did not happen until 1941. The mass killing of Jews in Poland started in 1939 and escalated in 1941 with the invasion of USSR

Summary of discrimination (see p. 342)

  • 1933: unofficial attacks on Jews; Boycott of Jewish shops – to prevent extreme radical groups attacking Jews; abandoned after 1 day
  • 1933: Law for the Restoration of the Civil Service – bans Jews from civil service, except Hindenburg had some exceptions
  • 1933: Entailed Farm Law – banning Jews from owning farms
  • 1934 – calm year
  • 1935 – Law for Protection of German Blood and Honour – forbids mixed marriages; Reich Citizenship Law – denies Germans of Citizenship; Law for the Protection of the Genetic Health of the German People – medical examination before marriage to prove themselves ‘Aryan’
  • 1936: quiet year and anti-Semitic posters removed for the Olympics
  • 1937: little action until Nuremburg rallies attacking Jews verbally
  • 1938: Anschluss – 150,000 more Jews. Himmler forces 45,000 to emigrate
  • 1938: April – registration of property over 5,000 RM
  • 1938: Jewish doctors, lawyers and dentists banned from treating Aryans; Jews must add Sarah or Israel to their names and have identify cards stamped with a J
  • 1938: Kristallnacht, November, series of anti-Semitic attacks – burning synagogues, 91 Jews killed, 20,000 sent to camps, Jews forced to 1 billion RM for the damages
  • 1938: Jews banned from economic life; awarding of contracts to public contracts banned; Jews banned from trade, shops, businesses; Jews excluded from schools, universities, cinemas, sports facilities
  • 1939: Reich Central Office for Jewish Emigration; established to promote emigration
  • 1939: September – war against Poland – thousands of civilians killed
  • 1939: Reich Commission for Strengthening Germanism: Polish Jews moved to Ghettos
  • 1939: Euthanasia programme begins

War

  • 1940: July, plans drawn up to move 4 million western Jews to Madagascar. 70,000 mentally ill people killed
  • 1941: War against USSR, political killings authorised, 500,000 Jews shot
  • 1941: July (or October) decision for ‘Final Solution’. October, emigration banned.
  • 1941: Mass deportations of German Jews to the East begins
  • 1941: December, mass gassing of Jews begins at Chelmno plant
  • 1942: Wansee Conference plans Final Solution. December, Gypsies moved to Auschwitz
  • 1934: expansion of extermination camps
  • 1944: Himmler ordered end of gassing of inmates and destruction of Auschwitz, remaining inmates evacuated away from Russian troops
  • 1945: January – Red Army reaches Auschwitz
  • 1945: April – Allied troops reach concentration camps

Estimated killed in death camps

  • 6 million Jews
  • 3 million Poles
  • 3 million Soviet prisoners of war
  • Up to 1 million gypsies
  • Thousands of homosexuals

Disabled children

  •  Law for the Prevention of Hereditarily Diseased Offspring, July 1933, outlines list of those who would be sterilised: Congenital feeblemindedness, Schizophrenia, Manic Depression, epilepsy, blindness, deafness, physical deformities, alcoholism – and can be done so against their will
  • In 12 years, 350,000 people were sterilised, with about 100 dying of the ‘Hitler cut’
  • By 1939, sterilisation turned to ‘mercy killing’ – Euthanasia
  • 1939, On the plea of a letter from a father to the Fuhrer, Hitler followed euthanasia
  • T4 unit – was a special unit to kill disabled children.
  • Children were killed by starvation, injection, gas – mobile vans ‘killer boxes’ or gas chamber ‘showers’
  • By 1944, 200,000 people were murdered. Parents were informed they were killed by disease
  • Killings were secret, and propaganda used to persuade the population to accept it: arguments of ‘mercy killing’ and saving the financial burden were used: such as ‘Victims of the Past’ – a programme shown before movies at all 5,300 cinemas

Asocials

  • A broad term for anyone who did not fit ‘Volksgemeinschaft’
  • 1938, defined as vagabonds, gypsies, prostitutes, alcoholics, eccentrics, the workshy and juvenile delinquents
  • 1933, 500,000 vagrants rounded up. The ‘orderly’ who could work were given work and all others were put in concentration camps
  • As unemployment reduced, those not working were under pressure to find work\

Vagrancy became a police matter not one of social welfare

Homosexual

  • Homosexual behaviour deemed against the laws of nature and against birth rates
  • 1936 – Reich Central Office for the Combatting of Homosexuality and Abortion
  • Himmler concerned over finding 10 cases of homosexuality in the SS
  • 1937 – SS officers found to be homosexual sent to concentration camps and to be shot ‘trying to escape’
  • Between 10-15 thousand people sent to camps for homosexuality
  • Those charged were castrated

Lesbians were not seen as a threat to the nation

Gypsies

  • A small group, 30,000, they were not seen as a threat initially
  • 1938: Decree for the Struggle against the Gypsy Plague
  • 1939, Gypsies sent to camps before being sent to Poland
  • 1942, Gypsies sent to Auschwitz

20,000 Gypsies gassed

Additional information

  • 1933 – 525,000 Jews in Nazi Germany – 1% population
  • 1933-4, 38,000 Jews emigrated, emigration then slowed, and then increased 1938-1939 to 36,000 (Germany) and 77,000 (Austria)
  • 1939, 282,000 Jews had left Germany, 117,000 from annexed Austria
  • 1939, 202,000 Jews lived in Germany
  • October 1941, 163,000 Jews lived in Germany
  • From 1936 the allocation of raw materials was regulated by the Nazis, and was denied them to Jewish companies. These pressures made many Jewish businesses unviable and thousands ran at a loss or slipped into bankruptcy. 
  • When Hitler came to power in January 1933 there were around 100,000 Jewish-owned businesses registered in Germany; within five years around two-thirds of these businesses had changed hands and were no longer owned by Jews.
  • Businesses that remained in Jewish hands also came under increased pressure during 1938. In March the Nazi regime decreed that it would no longer sign contracts or do business with any Jewish-owned company. Jewish businesses were denied public contracts, tax incentives, and access to government services, raw materials and foreign exchange. Finding it impossible to operate, these businesses either closed down, changed hands or – in the case of large corporations – voted out Jewish directors and stockholders. 
  • Another significant avenue of Jewish property confiscation was the Reichsfluchtsteuer, or ‘Reich Flight Tax’. As the name suggests, this law required Jews fleeing Germany to pay a substantial levy before they were granted permission to leave. The flight tax was not an invention of the Nazis; it was passed by the Weimar Republic in 1931 to prevent Germany from being drained of gold, cash reserves and capital. In 1934 the flight tax was increased to 25 per cent of domestic wealth, payable in cash or gold. Further amendments in 1938 required emigrating Jews to leave most of their cash in a Gestapo-controlled bank. The Reichsfluchtsteuer generated enormous amounts for the Nazi regime. In its first year of operation (1932) it had raised less than one million Reichsmarks of government revenue – but by 1938 this amount had skyrocketed to more than 342 million Reichsmarks.
  • The most significant pre-war confiscation of Jewish property followed the Kristallnacht pogrom of November 1938.

Propaganda

Press

  • The Reich Press Chamber kept a record of all acceptable editors and journalists
  • October 1933, editors made responsible for all things printed and a clause against anything that weakened the Reich at home or abroad
  • The state controlled Press Agency provided 50
    % of all news for newspapers
  • Nazi publishing house, Eher Verlag took over most press, controlling 3% in 1933 and 69% in 1939

  • Film, schools, sports, parades, rallies, radio, press, posters, paintings, youth movements, literature, architecture.
  • 1933, the propaganda ministry was established under Goebbels, to help society conform to the norms of National Socialism,
  • Ministry for Popular Enlightenment and Propaganda, March 1933.
  • Reich culture chamber, 1933, to promote German Culture. It had the power to license artistic events and even close newspapers.

Radio

  • Radio had been in government hands since 1925 under the Reich Radio Company. In 1934, the Nazis established a unified radio system and purged it of all opposition.
  • The Nazis produced the subsidised ‘people’s receiver’. In 1933 there were 7 million sets (70% of homes had one), and 16m million by 1943.
  • 1934, Nazis created a unified radio broadcast and removed all hostile elements
  • Key speeches by Hitler broadcast. 1933 50 broadcasts and by 1935 it was estimated his speeches reach 56 million people out of 70 million

Film

  • Film was a means of relaxation and only 1/6 of German films were overtly propagandist. 1000 Nazi movies were made. Leni Riefenstahl was the most famous director, originally hired to record rallies and encourage people to get involved but she became famous for her films ‘Triumph of the Will’ (1935) and Olympia (1938)
  • 4 major film companies were allowed to remain private but were controlled by the Reich ministry and the Nazis slowly bought shares and paid the budget for movies
  • Goebbels was personally responsible for approving every film.

Posters and Photographs;

  • Long Live Germany, 1930s. ‘Build Youth Hostels and Homes’ ‘Hitler’ ‘The Eternal Jew’ (film poster)
  • Rallies and films of rallies hardened supporters and won over waverers. Speer choreographed rallies with lights, architecture and food similar to modern pop concerts, such as the Nuremburg rallies.
  • Festivals were held to celebrate special days such as; Jan 30, Day of Seizing Power, November 9th, Remembrance of the Munich Putsch.
  • Autobahns, which had an economic and military role but they were also a symbol of German modernisation and unity. When the programme stopped in 1942, 3,870 km of autobahn had been completed.
  • Literature was controlled and degenerate culture was removed as symbolised by the May 1933 burning of books ceremony where 20,000 books were burned.
  • The Reich Chamber of music controlled the production of music and degenerate music was banned.
  • Rallies and meetings: carefully planned, huge communal celebrations, music, banners, timing of pauses
  • 1936 Nuremburg Rally – Hitler entered on a Zeppelin, 150 flood lights blazed up into the air, 25,000 flags representing 25,000 local groups, regional and factory groups, 150,000 people in Nazi salute, applauding for 15 minutes.
  • Sculptures: 1934 law decreed all new public buildings should be covered in statues depicting Nazi methods. Favourite sculptures for Hitler: Breker and Thorak. ‘Night’ made in 1930 and The Protectress made in 1938.
  • 1937 - The Exhibition of Great German Art, in a newly built museum. 16,000 submissions, 6,000 chosen, all to depict true German art, 600,000 people attended the exhibition. At the same time an exhibition of degenerate art was presented of 5,000 pieces: 2 million attended. Once it was finished the art was sold, destroyed or kept by Goering! E.g. Dancing with Fear by Paul Klee.
  • Music: All experimental music from Weimar was banned. Music of Wagner, Strauss and Bruckner were promoted
  • Books: May 1933 burning of books, 20,000 burned to symbolise cleansing Germany. The bestselling book in Nazi Germany was Mein Kampf, 6 million copies. Some writers fled: Mann, Zweig, and Remarque. Writers had to support Nazi ideals or be neutral.

Other information

NSDAP membership: 850,000 1933, 5,300,000 1939, 8,000,000 1944

DAF membership: 5,300,000 1933, 22,000,000 1939, 25,000,000 1944

Plebiscites: 1933 95%, 1934 90%, 1936 96%, 1938 99%

Concentration camp inmates: 1933 26,000, 1939 25,000, 1944 700,000

Estimated number of sterilised people: 350,000

Estimated number of people killed by Nazis in Germany:

  • Jews, 200,000 of 500,000
  • Communists, 30,000 of 300,000
  • Gypsies, 25,000 of 30,000
  • Mentally / Physically ill, 200,000
  • Homosexuals, over 5,000

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