Table of Contents

What did the Nazi Party stand for in the 1920s?


What did Hitler believe – Hitler’s background

How did his background form Hitler’s opinions:

  • Anti-Semitism and hatred of foreigners developed while a virtual down and out between 1909-1914 while he attempted to make a living as an artist.
  • Nationalism, pride in Germany and its greatness developed while he fought in the German army during World War One. He found it hard to accept the armistice and Treaty of Versailles. He blamed the Weimar Republic and looked back to the ‘glorious days’ of the Kaiser.
  • Joins the German Workers’ Party of DAP in 1919.


What did the Nazi party believe – Nazi 25 Point Programme (announced 1920)

Demands Appealed to
Union of all Germans Nationalists, ex-soldiers and others who detested the treaties, and people looking for someone to blame for the troubles
Abolition of Treaties of Versailles and St Germain – blamed the ‘November Criminals’
Only people of the German race to be allowed German citizenship. Jews, therefore, excluded and to be denied the right to hold office
Replace the republican, parliamentary government with an autocratic system of government
Nationalisation of big industry Socialists, workers, pensioners, even the middle classes
Workers in big industries to share in the profits
Help for old aged people
State help to create a strong and healthy middle class


Nazi Party 1920-23 – How was it organised

  • 1921 Hitler made chairman and absolute leader
  • The SA (stormtroopers) commanded by Ernst Rohm, protected Nazi meetings and broke up rivals’ meetings
  • Based in Bavaria where right wing views were popular

Membership rose from about 50 in 1919 to over 50,000 in 1923. A result of
a)   Hitler’s success as an orator
b)   Party newspaper founded to spread its views
c)   the attraction of the Nazi programme


Why did the Nazis have little success before 1930?


Their lack of success can be seen in the failure of the Munich Putsch 1923 and the lack of success 1924-9


Munich Putsch

Reasons for the Putsch

  • In 1923 anti-Government feeling were high because of Stresemann’s decision to end the Ruhr resistance, high prices and food shortages.
  • Hitler believed the nazis were strong enough to lead a take over of the Weimar government. He planned to march on Berlin at the head of 15,000 men.
  • He had the support of the war hero, General Ludendorff.


What happened

8 November Nazi storm troopers began to take over official buildings in Munich, but the take over broke in chaos the following day after 16 Nazis were shot by police. Hitler and Ludendorff arrested. They were treated leniently by the judges, Ludendorff was acquitted, Hitler was sentenced for 5 years for treason but he only served 9 months.


Lack of success 1924-9

Despite new ideas formed by Hitler in prison, new organisation of the party when he came out of prison, a new strategy to enter elections, the Nazis had little success.

1924 the Party had 5% of the seats in the Reichstag, by 1928 they had less than 2%. They were the smallest party.


Why was there this lack of success?

His failure in Munich 1923 showed Hitler that while the army supported the Republic, he could not gain power through an armed coup.

Although his new organisation increased the size of the Nazi party, it failed to bring electoral success because while Stresemann brought economic prosperity and success in foreign policy Germans were uninterested in extreme politics.



Why was Hitler able to become Chancellor by 1933?


What did Hitler learn from the failure of the Munich Putsch that helped him prepare for his rise to power?

  • At his trial he gained publicity (his trial lasted 24 days) for his views which became known throughout Germany for the first time.
  • While in prison, he set out his ideas in Mein Kampf (My Struggle)
    – National Socialism: which stood for loyalty to Germany, racial purity, equality and state control of the economy
    – create a Greater Germany
    – Lebensraum or ‘living space’ in the east
    – Racism: keep the German ‘Aryan’ race pure so that it could become the ‘master race’ and get rid of the Jews
    – destroy Communism
    – have a strong dictator or ‘Fuhrer’ as Germany’s leader
    – use propaganda to win popular support
  • Failure taught him that he could not seize power by force but instead
    – turn the party into a parliamentary party
    – if necessary form coalitions with other parties
    – win over the Army and industrialists (to fund the party)
  • After Prison the party grew,
    1. In 1925 relaunched the party, confirmed as party leader and began to play down the party’s Socialist ideas.
    2. In 1925 he created the SS (Schutzstaffel), a personal bodyguard. In 1929 Heinrich Himmler became their commander.
  • 1926 Joseph Goebbels was appointed to build up the Party in Berlin
  1. Party branches were set up all over Germany.
  2. Nazi organisations were set up such as the Hitler Youth

In 1927 the party membership was 40,000. By 1928 it was over 108,000.


The Impact of the Depression

Collapse of Business

The Wall St Crash meant that American banks demanded repayment of the loans they had given to German businesses and stopped giving new loans. American demand for goods fell. This caused many German businesses to go bankrupt and close down or lay off workers.

Unemployment rose

Mid 1929: under 1 million

Early 1930: 3 million

Early 1932: 6 million

Lower Wages

Those in work suffered from lower wages and short-time work


Millions of people found themselves hungry and homeless

Support for Extremists

Many Germans

  1. Blamed the Government for the distress
  2. Became frightened that inflation would return
  3. Lost confidence in the Republic and democracy
  4. Turned to extremist parties


Reasons for increased support for the Nazis

  1. Economic crises
    The depression increased votes for the Nazis. By 1930 they were the third largest party.
  2. Nationalist support
    The Nationalists’ (DNVP) decision to support the Nazis in 1933 was important because it helped President Hindenburg to overcome his dislike for Hitler, and ensured a Nazi majority in the Reichstag.
  3. Industrialists
    Hitler convinced powerful industrialists that the Nazis were not Socialist, he would prevent the Communists from taking power, he would run the country in ways that were good for big business. They provided the Nazi party with funds for election campaigns.
  4. Nazi appeal
    Other groups were attracted the Nazi message.
    – middle classes hoped a strong Nazi government would prevent a repeat of the inflation of 1923.
    – ex-servicemen were attracted by the commitment to rearmament and to making Germany great once more.
    – Hitler provided the people with a scapegoat in blaming the Jews for the troubles
  5. Violence
    By 1932 the SA numbered 600,000.       The SA’s violent attacks on rival politicians and their meetings helped the Nazis by disrupting their meetings and attracting many young people who were unemployed and disillusioned.
  6. Propaganda
    Under the guidance of Goebbels, the Nazis spent huge sums to put across their message in highly effective campaigns using posters and pamphlets, 8 Nazi-owned newspapers, mobile units to organise entertainment and speeches in different localities, stirring mass rallies for Hitler to address in his stirring speeches.


How did Hitler become chancellor in 1933


July 1932, Nazis were the largest single party but not a majority party. Hitler demands the post of chancellor, but president Hindenburg refuses and continues to support the current chancellor, von Papen.

November 1932, von Papen is without support in the Reichstag and soon calls another election. Again the Nazis are the largest party if with a smaller share of the vote. Still Hindenburg resists appointing Hitler, but the new chancellor, von Schleicher also failed to gain the support of the Reichstag.

January 1932, Hindenburg and von Papen met secretly with industrialist, army leaders and politicians. On January 30 they offer Hitler the post as chancellor.
Why? With only a few Nazis in the cabinet and von Papen as vice chancellor, they were confident that they could limit Hitler’s influence. The idea was that policies would be made by the Cabinet which was filled with conservatives like von Papen. Hitler would be used to get support in the Reichstag for those policies and to control the Communists. They thought they could control and use Hitler.


Why was Hitler not opposed?

Enemies of the Nazis, the Socialists and Communists, together could have stopped Hitler in the Reichstag and on the streets but they were too divided.

There was not enough support amongst the German people to continue with a democratic solution and continue with the Weimar Republic.


How did Hitler consolidate his power in 1933-4?


In January 1933 Hitler was in a very precarious position. He was able to establish his dictatorship through a clever combination of methods – some legal and others dubious. He also managed to defeat or reach agreements with those who could have stopped him.


February 1933 The Reichstag Fire

Hitler called for an election in March 1933. He used the same tactics as in other elections but he also had the resources of the state to help him. Then on 27 February, the Reichstag, the parliament building, burnt down. Hitler blamed the Communists, and demanded special emergency powers to prevent a Communist uprising. These poweres were used to arrest Communists, breaking up meetings and frightening voters.

March 1933 Election Result

In the election the Nazis won their largest ever share of the votes, (288 seats) and with the support of the Nationalist party, Hitler had an overall majority.

Enabling Act

Using the SA and SS to intimidate the Reichstag, he passed the Enabling Act which allowed him to make laws without consulting the Reichstag for the next four years.

1933 Eliminating national opponents

·         The States.   State parliaments reorganised to give Nazis a majority; Nazi governors appointed to make state laws.

·         Trade Unions.   SA arrest all union officials and confiscate funds. Workers made to join new Nazi controlled ‘German Labour Front’.

·         Political Parties.   Socialists (SDP) and Communists were banned, their leaders arrested, SA occupy their offices and confiscate their funds. Smaller parties forced to disband. July 1933, new law forbids all other political parties.



Eliminating Nazi opponents

Night of the Long Knives

On Hitler’s orders, SS men arrest and murder Ernst Rohm and other SA leaders and opponents because:

·         Rohm wanted to merge the SA with the army and take control of the army

·         He wanted to put Socialist policies into practice.

Hitler no longer needed the SA.

·         He was embarrassed by its continuing violence, feared Rohm as a rival

·         needed the support of Army officers who opposed Rohm

·         opposed Socialist policies.

July/ August 1934 Fuhrer

On the death of Hindenburg, Hitler

·         Takes over combined role of President and Chancellor with the title of ‘Fuhrer and Reich Chancellor’.

·         Automatically becomes head of the Army

·         August 2 1934 every member of the armed forces made to swear ‘unconditional obedience’ to Hitler.














































The Nazi regime: how effectively did the Nazis control Germany, 1933-45?


Focus Points:

  1. How much opposition was there to the Nazi regime?
  2. How effectively did the Nazis deal with their political opponents?
  3. How did the Nazis use culture and the mass media to control the people?
  4. Why did the Nazis persecute many groups in German society?
  5. Was Nazi Germany a totalitarian state?


Specified Content

Nazi rule in Germany; removal of opposition; methods of control and repression; use of culture and the mass media; anti-Semitism, persecution of minorities. Opposition to Nazi rule.


* * * * * *


  1. How much opposition was there to the Nazi regime?


Who Opposed the Nazis?

  • Young People
    a) About one million failed to join the Hitler Youth Movement.
    b)   Some joined forbidden rival groups, such as the Edelweiss Pirates
    c)   The number of anti-Nazi groups, such as the White Rose student group in Munich increased during the war years
  • University teachers, writers, and artists
    Most of those who opposed the Nazis were forced to emigrate and had to express their opposition from abroad.
  • Conservatives
    a) Some landowners, diplomats, and lawyers had disliked Nazi methods from the start.
    b)   Others, including some army officers, had at first supported Hitler’s ambition to restore Germany’s place in the world, but then came to oppose him because of his failures in the war and dislike of Nazi methods.
    c)   The most important group of these opponents was known as the Kreisau Circle. Its members planned how to restore a democratic government once Hitler had been overthrown. In 1944 the failure of their ‘July plot’ led to many arrests and executions.
  • Left wingers
    Many Communists and Socialists were imprisoned. During the war some groups acted as spies and saboteurs.
  • Priests and religious groups
    a) Many individual priests spoke out against the regime, such as the Protestant Pastor Niemoller and the Roman Catholic Cardinal Innitzer.
    b)   Jehovah’s Witnesses refused to co-operate.
    c)   In 1941 the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Munster von Galen, led opposition to the euthanasia programme.


  1. How effectively did the Nazis deal with their political opponents?


Methods of Control


The Nazi party

This was organised to keep an eye on every German citizen:

  • The country was divided into 42 districts, each headed by a Gauleiter
  • Within each district there were smaller divisions, down to the level of a block of flats or group of houses. This was headed by a block leader (Blockleiter). There were 400,000 Blockleiters, each had to keep an eye on and listen to gossip about the people in their block and report anything suspicious to the police.


The SS

  • The SS were an elite group of committed Nazis numbering over 200,000 in 1935. Most belonged to the General SS
  • Specialist SS units
    a) looked after Germany’s internal security
    b)   guarded concentration camps
    c)   hunted down Nazi enemies
  • In 1936 Hitler placed both the Gestapo and all Germany’s regular police forces under the control of the SS chief, Heinrich Himmler


The Gestapo

The Secret State police. Used to suppress hostility to Nazi rule at home and in the occupied territories.


Concentration Camps

  • Run by the SS to detain ‘enemies’ of the Nazis
  • First permanent camp created at Dachau, 1933. Six camps operating by 1939.
  • Main categories of prisoner:
    a) Jews
    b)   ‘Politicals’: for e.g. Communists or anyone who criticised Hitler
    c)   Priests
    d)   ‘Work-shy’: people who had turned down two job offers.
    e)   ‘Anti-socials’: for e.g. tramps, homosexuals, prostitutes.
    f)   Confirmed criminals


  1. How did the Nazis use culture and the mass media to control the people?



Ministry of Public Propaganda and Enlightenment led by Joseph Goebbels:

  • The Press
    a) Non-Nazi newspapers and magazines closed down or taken over.
    b)   Goebbels told editors what they could print
  • Radio
    a) All radio stations placed under Nazi control.
    b)   Cheap mass-produced radios sold. Sets installed in cafes and factories. Loudspeakers placed in the streets
    c)   Broadcasts included many speeches by Hitler. Also pro-Nazi plays and stories.
  • Books, theatre, art and music
    a) Many writers, artists and composers persuaded or forced to creat works in praise of Hitler and Third Reich.
    b)   Books written by Jews, communists and anti-Nazi university professors and journalists banned. Many destroyed in public book-burnings, 1933.
    c)   Jazz music banned because it was originated by black people.
    d)   Much modern art declared ‘degenerate’. Art galleries forced to get rid of it. Only Nazi approved painters could show their works.
  • Film
    a) Cinema popular. Over 100 German films made each year.
    b)   All films plots shown to Goebbels before production
    c)   Political films made. Love stories and thrillers given pro-Nazi slants.
  • Rallies and campaigns
    a) Annual mass rally at Nuremburg. There were bands, marches, flying displays and Hitler’s brilliant speeches.
    b)   1936 Olympic games in Berlin, used as propaganda opportunity. Spectacular parades held on other special occasions.
    c)   Local rallies, marches and fundraising campaigns led by SA and Hitler Youth.
    d)   Clever use of poster campaigns.


  1. Why did the Nazis persecute many groups in German society?


Why? – because of Nazi beliefs on:


  • Only those people who were members of the German race had the right to be citizens of Germany.
  • Jews, in particular should be denied the rights of citizenship, for example to vote and hold public office.



  • The blonde-haired, blue-eyed Nordic Germans (or Aryans) were a Volk, or race.
  • They were the master race. All the other, inferior races were arranged in a hierarchy beneath them.
  • Near the bottom of this hierachy came black peoples, and beneath them ‘non-people’ such as gypsies and Jews.
  • It was their duty to keep the German race ‘pure’ by
    a) having children only with fellow Aryans
    b)   restricting what other races could do, especially Jews.
  • It was their destiny to conquer the lands of inferior races, such as the Slavs to the east, and use them to provide resources and living space for the master race.


Persecution of Minority Groups

‘Undesirables’ The Nazis persecuted minority groups in Germany who refused to conform or who they believed threatened the ‘purity’ of the German race. As well as the Jews, these so-called ‘undesirables’ included:

  • Many were sent to concentration camps.
  • Living in countries conquered by Germany during the war were hunted down and shot or gassed.
  • The mentally ill. Many were sent to concentration camps.


The euthanasia programme

In 1939 Hitler started a programme to kill people with mental and physical disabilities who the Nazis judged to lead worthless lives at the expense of the State:

  • Over 5,000 children in clinics were killed by starvation or lethal injections.
  • Over 71,000 adults were killed by injections or gassing.
  • In 1941 Hitler stopped the programme in the face of protests started by Catholic priests.


Persecution of the Jews

  • Hitler blamed the Jews for:
    a) Germany’s defeat in 1918
    b)   the inflation of 1923
    c)   the economic collapse of 1929-1932
  • In schools
    a) Children were taught in lessons to hate the Jews
    b)   textbooks put across anti-Semitic (anti-Jewish) ideas
  • Nazi-controlled newspapers and magazines bombarded adults with anti-Semitic articles and cartoons.


Attacks on rights and freedoms

1933 Hitler orders boycott of Jewish shops and businesses.

Law to exclude Jews from Government jobs.

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

1934 Local councils ban Jews from public spaces such as parks, playing fields and swimming pools.
1935 The Nuremburg Laws passed 15 September

·         The Reich Law on Citizenship: only those of German blood can be German citizens.

·         Law for the Protection of German Blood and Honour: forbids marriage or sexual relations between Jews and German citizens.

1936-37 Professional activities of Jews banned or restricted – includes vets, dentists, accountants, surveyors, teachers, and nurses.
1938 Qualifications of Jewish doctors cancelled.

Crystal Night (9 November). Following the murder by a Jew of a German diplomat in Paris, SA starts three-day campaign to destroy Jewish shops, homes, and synagogues throughout Germany. About 90 killed and 20,000 arrested and put into concentration camps.

Jewish children excluded from German schools and universities.

1939 Jews no longer allowed to run shops and businesses.

Jews forbidden to own radios and to buy cakes and chocolate.


The Final Solution

Poland. By 1940 nearly 2 million Polish Jews lived under the German occupation of western Poland:

  • They were forced to live in ghettos (walled-off areas in cities)
  • Those fit to work were used as slave labour.
  • Thousands died of starvation every month

Special Action Groups

  • Special SS groups were formed in 1941 to follow the German armies into the USSR.
  • They were ordered to execute all resistance fighters, Communist Party officials, and Jews.
  • Over 800,000 people, mostly Jews were killed by mass shootings or gassing in vans using carbon monoxide.

The Wannsee Conference, January 1942

  • Nazi leaders met to discuss how to kill all European Jews, the ‘final solution’.
  • They decided to evacuate them by rail to five secret ‘extermination camps’ to be built in remote areas of Poland and equipped with gas chambers.

The Holocaust

  • About 4.5 million Jews were killed in the death camps, either by hard labour, starvation or gassing.
  • Altogether the Nazis killed about 6 million European Jews.


  1. Was Nazi Germany a totalitarian state?


There was supposed to be no room for opposition of any kind in Nazi Germany. The aim was to create a totalitarian state. In a totalitarian state there can be no rival parties, no political debate. Ordinary citizens must divert their whole energy into serving the state and to doing what its leader wants.

Did Hitler manage to achieve this total control?


Why was there little opposition?

The Nazis faced relatively little opposition during their 12 years in power. The main answer was terror. The main opponents of the regime were killed, exiled or put in prison. But the answer was not that simple.


Many Germans admired and trusted Hitler:

  • Economic recover was deeply appreciated
  • Many felt the Nazis were bringing some discipline back to Germany, restoring traditional values, clamping down on Communists
  • Between 1933 and 1938, Hitler’s success in foreign affairs made Germans feel that their country was a great power again.


Keeping your head down

  • In private Germans might complain about the regime and its actions, but not in public.
  • There was the SS and its network of informers to fear.
  • German workers feared losing their jobs if they expressed opposition.
  • Businesses that did not contribute to Nazi Party funds risked losing Nazi business and going bankrupt.
  • So in self defence, people conformed.



  • The Nazi propaganda machine maintained the image of Hitler.
  • Control of information meant that it was very difficult for Germans to know truth about bad things that were happening.


But did the Nazis manage to completely brainwash the people?

There were groups who embraced Nazi ideas enthusiastically and loyally. But there were many such as those young people who avoided attending the Nazi youth movement, those who went late to the cinema to avoid the propaganda before the main feature who were not wholeheartedly convinced of Nazi ideas. Nevertheless for the majority of Germans, the benefits of Nazi rule made them willing – on the surface at least – to accept some central control of their lives.




































The Nazi Regime: What was it like to live in Nazi Germany?


Focus Points:

  1. How did young people react to the Nazi regime?
  2. How successful were Nazi policies towards women and the family?
  3. Did most people in Germany benefit from Nazi rule?
  4. How did the coming of war change life in Germany?


Specified Content

Economic policy including rearmament. Different experiences of Nazi rule; women and young people; anti-Semitism, persecution of minorities. Impact of the Second World War on Germany; conversion to war economy; the Final Solution.


* * * * * *


  1. How did young people react to the Nazi regime?


Firstly how did the Nazis try to change the lives of young people?

It was Hitler’s aim to control every aspect of life in Germany, including the daily life of ordinary people. The point of school and the youth movements was to make children strong supporters of the Nazi regime.

  • Schools
    Teachers had to swear an oath of loyalty to Hitler and join the Nazi Teacher League. Textbooks were re-written to fit the Nazi view of history and racial purity. PE classes were increased; religious education was abandoned
  • School leavers
    Expected to work. Technical and vocational training available for the majority who left school at 16. About 15% went into higher education. Under Nazi rule the number of girls in higher education fell. Overall educational standards dropped.
  • The Hitler Youth Movement
    1936, membership of the Hitler Youth Movement was made compulsory. Other youth organisations were banned. Membership rose from over 2 million in 1933 to over 7 million by 1939. Aimed to teach Nazi ideas. Emphasis on the importance of the group rather than of the individual.


DJV (Deutsches Jungvolk)

German Young People

Boys, aged 10-14



Typical activities

Learning Nazi ideas and songs, Athletics, Hiking and camping, Map reading

JM (Jungmädelbund)

League of Young Girls

Girls, aged 10-14

HJ (Hitler Jugend)

Hitler Youth

Boys, 14-18

Typical activities

Learning Nazi ideas, Athletics, Cross country marching, Camping, Map reading, Learning military skills

BDM (Bund Deutscher Mädel)

League of German Girls

Girls, aged 14-18

Typical activities

Learning Nazi ideas, Athletics, Cross country marching, Camping, Learning domestic skills, Preparation for motherhood


How did young people react?

  • Many young people were attracted to the Nazi youth movements by the leisure opportunities they offered. There were really no alternatives. All other youth organisations had been either absorbed or made illegal. Even so only half of all German boys were members in 1933 and only 15% of girls.
  • Membership of a Nazi youth movement was made compulsory in 1939. However the movements were going through a crisis. Many of the movements were now run by older teenagers who rigidly enforced Nazi rules, some even forbade other teenagers to meet informally with their friends. The movements became less popular and an anti-Hitler Youth movement appeared.


Teenage rebels

  • Although the Hitler Youth was compulsory from 1939, about 1 million young people did not join. Some defied authority by forming their own groups. These groups did not have strong political views, but they resented Nazi control of their lives:
    a) The Edelweiss Pirates. These were working class teenagers, mainly aged between 14 and 17. They included both boys and girls, with freer attitudes towards sex, which was officially frowned upon by the Hitler Youth.
    b)   The ‘Swing’ movement. This was made up mainly of middle-class teenagers. They listened to English and American music, accepted Jews at their clubs, talked about and enjoyed sex.
  • Although the Nazis wanted a disciplined population juvenile crime, smoking and drinking increased.


  1. How successful were Nazi policies towards women and the family?


The position of German women in the 1920s

  • Women over 20 had the right to vote.
  • Many worked in the professions, especially the civil service, law, medicine, and teaching.
  • Those employed in the civil service were paid the same as men.


Nazi attitudes to women

  • They believed in a traditional view of women, something that many women agreed with – ‘No true German woman wears trousers’.
  • Women were inferior to men.
  • Their job was to
    a) raise children (preferably males) – the Nazis were alarmed at the falling birth rate
    b)   and run the household.


How did the Nazis treat women?

Some women did improve their lives under the Nazis

  • There were some prominent women in Nazi Germany. Leni Riefenstahl was a high-profile film producer.
  • Many working-class girls and women travelled and met new people through the Nazi women’s organisations.

However, opportunities for women were limited:

1933 Law for the Encouragement of Marriage

  • Aimed to increase Germany’s falling birth-rate by providing loans to help young couples to marry provided the wife left her job.
  • Couples were allowed to keep ¼ of the loan for each child born up to four.

The Motherhood Cross

·         Medals awarded on Hitler’s mother’s birthday (12 August) to women with large families: bronze for five children; silver for six or seven; gold for eight or more.


  • Women doctors, civil servants, lawyers, and teachers were forced to leave their jobs.
  • School girls were trained for work at home and discouraged from going on to higher education.
  • Even during the crisis years of 1942-5 when German industry was struggling to cope there was reluctance to put women to work.


  • A new national organisation, the German Women’s Enterprise, organised courses, classes and radio talks on household topics and the skills of motherhood.


  • Women were encouraged to keep healthy and wear their hair in a bun or plaits.
  • They were discouraged from wearing make-up or trousers, dyeing or styling their hair, slimming (which was thought bad for childbearing).


  • Women classed a ‘unfit’ to bear children because of a physical or mental disability, physical weakness, or having given birth to a weak child were compulsorily sterilised.


  1. Did most people in Germany benefit from Nazi rule?

Many people benefited from Nazi rule. This can be seen in the drop in unemployment, leisure activities for workers, measures to help farmers. However the record here is mixed as these advances were at a price. There were many losers from economic policy such as women, and persecuted minorities. The only clear winners were big business.


Economic Policy deals with Unemployment

  • After the 1933 election Hitler’s first priority was to provide work for German’s over 6 million unemployed.
  • By 1939 those out of work numbered only 100,000

This was achieved through:

Public works

  • Unemployed men were used to build Government-funded roads, motorways (autobahns), houses, hospitals, schools and military barracks.

National Labour Service

  • A scheme to provide young men with manual labour jobs.
  • From 1935 compulsory for 6 months for all men aged 18-25
  • Workers lived in camps, work uniform, received very low pay, and did military drill as well as work.

New jobs

  • The ‘Self Sufficiency’ programme (autarky) provided new jobs in new industries.

Jews and women

  • Many Jews and married women were driven out of their jobs, which then became available for other people (neither group was then registered as unemployed.

Conscription and rearmament

  • From 1935 all men aged 18-25 were compelled to do military service for two years.
  • Hitler’s rearmament programme created more jobs in the armament industry, factories making uniforms, coal mines, steel and textile mills.

Ensuring popularity amongst industrial workers

Low unemployment helped to ensure popularity among industrial workers. He used other initiatives to maintain their loyalty:

Strength Through Joy

A party organisation run by Doctor Robert Ley, Director of the German Labour Front, to keep workers happy and hardworking by providing activities for their leisure hours. Programmes included:

  • Cheap walking and skiing holidays. Also cruises (for loyal Party members only)
  • Outings to the opera and theatre
  • Adult evening classes
  • Savings schemes to help people buy a cheap Volkswagen (People’s Car)

Beauty of Labour movement

This introduced features not seen in factories before such as washing facilities and low-cost canteens.


But what was the price of these advances?

There was a loss of freedoms, such as the main workers party the SDP, and working conditions worsened:

Working Conditions

  • Trade unions were banned (1933) and replaced by the German Labour Front:
    a) workers needed Government permission to move jobs
    b)   the Government arranged all new jobs
    c)   the right to bargain for higher wages was abolished
    d)   strikes were made illegal
  • Limits on working hours were scrapped. Many Germans worked long hours.
  • Many jobs were poorly paid, but better than the dole.
  • Many jobs (e.g. public work schemes) involved hard manual labour and poor living conditions.



There were also Mixed fortunes for farmers and the middle classes

These two groups had been important for the rise of the Nazis.


  • Measures were introduced to help them such as the Reich Food Estate which guaranteed a market for goods at guaranteed prices. The Reich Entailed Farm Law gave peasants state protection for their farms, banks could not seize their land if they could not pay loans or mortgages. These farmers were seen as the backbone of the new German empire.
  • However, some peasants were not thrilled by Nazi policies. The Reich Food Estate held back efficient farmers by having to work through the same processes as the less efficient. Banks were unwilling to loan money that they could not get back due to the Reich Entailed Farm Law.

Middle Classes

  • Some middle classes were grateful to the Nazis for eliminating the Communist threat to their businesses and properties and bringing law and order. If you had a business involved in the armaments industry then you could prosper.
  • However if you produced consumer goods or ran a small shop you might well struggle. Despite Hitler’s promises, the large department stores which were taking business away from local shops were not closed.


Who were the real winners?

Big Business really benefited from Nazi rule

  • They no longer had to worry about troublesome trade unions and strikes.
  • Companies such as the chemical giant IG Farben gained huge government contracts.
  • Other companies such as Mercedes and Volkswagen prospered from Nazi policies.


  1. How did the coming of war change life in Germany?

The war had an impact on:

  • Persecution of minorites
    The war allowed more extreme methods to be used on minorities such as those with mental and physical disabilities who were seen as undesirable, where a programme of euthanasia was introduced in 1939. Also the persecution of Jews from Germany and land occupied by Germany during the war were dealt with in the ‘Final Solution’ from 1942. (details of these in point 4 of the notes on the Nazi regime and their control).
  • The economy
    a) After the easy victories of blitzkrieg Germany faced tough opposition from the USSR and a long drawn out war against the other Allies.
    b)   Hitler ordered huge increases in arms production. The German economy became even more committed to war production.
    c)   As Minister of Armaments and Munitions, Albert Speer took control of the armaments industry using a Central Planning board.
    d)   As more men were called up the number of industrial workers fell. To solve the labour problems, the government used prisoners of war, and people from conquered countries who were rounded up and treated as slaves. Thousands died in appalling conditions. A very few women were used; Hitler opposed the conscription of women, so hardly any were recruited.
  • Civilian life
    a) At first some shortages of raw materials and food were met by conquered countries, e.g. oil from Romania, wheat from Poland. But as the war continued food and goods were in ever shorter supply. The German people were allowed very low rations, and had to save any refuse or materials which could be used for the war effort.
    b)   Life became more controlled. All effort focused on the armament industries. Postal services were suspended, all places of entertainment were closed except cinemas for propaganda films. The SS increasingly enforced these measures.
    c)   Bombing. From 1942 the British launched mass bombing raids on civilian targets such as Dresden. Over 500,000 Germans were killed. Widespread destruction: 7.5 million made homeless. Many became refugees e.g. from Hamburg 1943.