Tag Archives: Germany
For more detail on the rise of Hitler, please see these expanded podcasts:
The podcast begins in 1919 with an introduction to Hitler’s early attitudes and him taking control of the National Socialist German Workers Party (who became known as the Nazis). An overview is then given of the actions of the SA/Stormtroopers before describing how the hyperinflation of 1922-23 led Hitler to use his violent supporters to launch the Munich (or Beer Hall) Putsch, which resulting in Hitler’s imprisonment during which he wrote Mein Kampf. This coincided with the ‘Stresemann Period’ of German history, which is described in greater detail in the Weimar Germany revision podcast.
The episode then goes on to explain how, following his release from prison, Hitler changed his tactics to use legal means to gain political power. The period of the Great Depression led to increasing support for the now well-organised Nazi party which culminted with the appointment of Hitler to the position of Chancellor. An explanation of how Hitler consolidated his power is then given – the Reichstag Fire which led to the Enabling Act; the Night of the Long Knives through which Hitler removed opponents including Ernst Rohm; and finally Hitler taking the title of Fuhrer following the death of President Hindenburg.
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An extract from a 1980s documentary called “Hitler’s Germany” – part of the BBC’s 20th Century History series of documentary programs. Transferred from an VHS tape, so quality is variable – but it’s watchable and well presented.
Shortly after Adolf Hitler was appointed to the position of Chancellor by President Hindenberg, he made this speech to thousands of members of the Nazi Party.
On the 27th February 1933, the Reichstag building in Berlin was set on fire in an arson attack. Generally accepted to have been conducted by Dutch communist Marinus van der Lubbe, the fire provided the new Chancellor Adolf Hitler with an opportunity to consolidate Nazi control of the German government.
Hitler had been appointed Chancellor on the 30th January, but had demanded new elections for the Reichstag. These were scheduled to take place on the 5th March, and Hitler hoped to increase the Nazi’s share of the seats in order to pass the Enabling Act and take control of political decisions for himself.
Shortly after 9pm on the evening of the 27th February, Goebbels was informed that the Reichstag was on fire. Although the blaze was extinguished before midnight, the inside of the building was destroyed. Communists were declared responsible, and van der Lubbe was arrested.
The day after the fire, Hitler persuaded President Hindenburg to pass the emergency Decree of the Reich President for the Protection of People and State, which suspended many civil liberties and allowed the Nazis to arrest their opponents. Thousands of communists were rounded up by the SA, along with Social Democrats and liberals, and placed in so-called ‘protective custody’.
Van Der Lubbe was tried, convicted, and executed. Although there is debate over the exact circumstances of the fire, Sir Ian Kershaw says there is consensus among the vast majority of historians that he did set the fire. Whatever the circumstances, the situation was certainly exploited by the Nazis and was the first step in the creation of a single-party state.
The 30th June 1934 saw the Nazis carry out a purge of their own party, when Hitler ordered the SS to murder leading figures of the SA or Brownshirts along with critics of the Nazi regime such as former chancellor von Schleicher. The purges actually went on throughout the weekend of the 30th June – 2nd July, even though the popular name suggests they only lasted for one night.
By the middle of 1934 Hitler was consolidating his rule over Germany but the relative autonomy of the SA within the Nazi Party was a concern. As Germany became a one-party state, the SA’s usual political targets for street violence were removed meaning that in a number of cases these representatives of the ruling party would instead intimidate civilians.
Such actions undermined the sense of order that Hitler was trying to project, and threatened to destabilise the party itself. The SA’s leader, Ernst Röhm, was a particular concern as he sought a so-called “second-revolution” to redistribute wealth within Germany in order to fulfil the socialist part of the Nationalist Socialist party’s name. Furthermore, the Reichswehr – Germany’s official army – were unhappy at Röhm’s desire to place the Reichswehr under the command of the SA.
On the morning of the 30th June, the homes of Röhm and other people who threatened Hitler’s power were broken into. While some were executed on the spot, others such as Röhm himself were held in prison for a few hours first. Hitler justified the purge in a public speech, claiming that he acted as “the supreme judge of the German people.”
On the 2nd August 1934, the 86 year old German Reichspräsident Paul von Hindenburg died of lung cancer and Adolf Hitler became both the Führer and Reich Chancellor of the German People.
The move effectively merged the offices of both the President and Chancellor into one role, and therefore completed what the Nazis referred to as Gleichschaltung (or “Co-ordination”) by establishing Hitler as both Germany’s head of state and head of government.
Interfering with the post of President was illegal under the terms of the 1933 Enabling Act, and although Hitler merging the two positions removed any political checks and balances of his personal domination of Germany, a plebiscite held 17 days later on the 19th August saw an enormous 90% of people approving of the change.
Hitler’s assumption of the role of Führer also allowed the Nazi Party to more actively pursue its promotion of the ideology of Führerprinzip. This stated that Hitler possessed absolute control over the German government. Supported by a propaganda machine that relentlessly pushed the slogan Ein Volk, ein Reich, ein Führer – which translates as “One People, One Empire, One Leader” – the Führerprinzip also confirmed the Nazi Party’s complete control over every element of German society. This ranged from local government to factories and even to the management and control schools, although in terms of government it sometimes meant that officials were reluctant to make decisions without Hitler’s personal input or approval. It was also used by Nazi war criminals at the Nuremberg Trials to argue that they were not guilty since they were only following orders.
An extract from a 1980s documentary called “Hitler’s Germany” – part of the 20th Century History series of documentary programs. Transferred from an VHS tape, so quality is variable but it’s watchable and well presented.
This documentary episode presents the recollections and opinions of a number of people who supported Hitler and the Nazis. It’s particularly interesting to see the reasons they give for why they supported them.
On the 13th January 1935, the Territory of the Saar Basin voted to reunite with Germany. Having been administered by the League of Nations for 15 years following the signing of the Treaty of Versailles, the overwhelming plebiscite result of over 90% in favour of reunification surprised many observers.
In 1918 the Saar Basin was a heavily industrialised area, boasting a large number of coal mines. Following the Treaty of Versailles the area was occupied and governed by France and Britain under the auspices of the League of Nations. France was also given exclusive control of the coal mines. However the Treaty called for a plebiscite to decide the long-term future of the Saar region after a period of fifteen years.
By the time of the plebiscite Adolf Hitler had come to power in Germany, which had led a number of Nazi opponents to move to the area since it was the only part of Germany free from their rule. They were keen for the area to remain under the League’s administration, but maintaining the status quo was unpopular with ordinary Germans.
Meanwhile the Nazis began an intensive pro-Germany campaign led by propaganda chief Joseph Goebbels. As early as 1933, complaints that the Nazi campaign amounted to a “reign of terror” had been noted by American political scientists Sarah Wambaugh, one of the members of the commission overseeing the plebiscite. Although the Nazis did tone down their tactics by the end of 1934, the League of Nations provided a peacekeeping force to monitor the plebiscite.
Voter turnout plebiscite was 98%, with 90.8% voting to re-join the German Reich.
This podcast examines the three broad ways through which the Nazis secured control of Germany. These are categorised as ‘the stick’ (repression and force), ‘the carrot’ (positive social and economic effects), and propaganda.
The first method of control outlined in the podcast is repression, which began following the Reichstag Fire in 1933. The four key areas of repression are explained: Nazi control of the police and courts, the SS and the use of concentration camps, and the Gestapo.
Secondly, the episode explains how Nazi achievements were used to maintain support for the party. Particularly achievements that ensured support included such things as assistance to farming communities (e.g. the Reich Entailed Farm Law) and more jobs and improved working conditions for industrial workers. Middle-class support was secured through the removal of the threat of Communism. Big-business was also very supportive due to being able to secure large government contracts, and the fact that trade unions had been banned by the Nazis in 1933. Remilitarisation and large-scale public works projects also secured wide public support for the Nazis.
Thirdly, the podcast assesses the impact of propaganda on the German population. An explanation is given of the role of the Reich Chamber of Culture, before describing specific propaganda achievements such as the effect of the radio, the use of films, and the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin.
The podcast ends with some tips on how to answer a question about Nazi control in Germany by explaining how the three factors worked together to support each other.