Podcasts

Saar Plebiscite

The Saar plebiscite and reunion with Germany, 1935

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.

Nazi Parade

Nazi Control of Germany 1933-1945 (podcast)

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.

          

The SS

The foundation of the SS: an overview

The SS was established on the orders of Adolf Hitler to act as his personal bodyguard. He had been released from prison the previous December, having been found guilty of treason following the failed Munich Putsch, and was keen to ensure his safety when attending party functions and events.

The SS was technically a division of the longer-established SA, but the group’s loyalty to Hitler meant that over time it grew to be the dominant organisation. This came about under the leadership of Heinrich Himmler, who was appointed Reichsfuhrer-SS in January 1929. He transformed the SS from a small bodyguard of less than 300 members into a private army containing over 50,000 men by the time Hitler became Chancellor of Germany in January 1933.

Membership of the SS was reserved for those men who would loyally and unquestioningly serve Hitler and the Nazi Party, and who met the SS’s strict racial policy. Through racial selection of both SS members and their spouses, the Nazis hoped to create an ‘elite’ community of people with an ‘Aryan-Nordic bloodline’.

The Night of the Long Knives in June 1934 removed any remaining authority the SA once had over the SS. A month later Hitler formally separated the two organisations, meaning that the SS became answerable to him alone. As the organisation grew even further under the Nazi dictatorship, separate SS subdivisions were established within a sprawling bureaucracy.

By the end of the Second World War the SS had responsibilities that stretched from policing and the collection of intelligence to running Nazi concentration and death camps.

Nazi Propaganda

Life in Nazi Germany 1933-1945 (podcast)

This GCSE and IGCSE level revision podcast looks at experiences of three broad groups in Nazi Germany – young people, women and families, and the persecution of minorities.

This episode opens with an overview of the ways in which the Nazis reorganised systems for young people in order to secure their support from an early age.  Reference is made to changes in education and the introduction of Nazi youth organisations such as the Hitler Youth and the League of German Maidens.  These, combined with propaganda that was often targeted at young people, secured the support of large numbers of children in Nazi Germany.  However, some young people remained opposed to the Nazis so the podcast also outlines the actions of the Swing Movement and the Edelweiss Pirates.

The second part of the podcast describes the role of women and families within Nazi society.  Opening with an overview of the extent of traditional ideas about the role of women in Germany at the time, it goes on to explain the effect of the Nazi removal of women from a range of jobs and the introduction of policies to encourage women to stay at home to become ‘homemakers’ and raise a family.

The final section of this episode broadly describes the experience of minority groups under the Nazis.  This focuses on the persecution of racial minorities, but also makes reference to so-called ‘undersirables’ who did not, according to the Nazi ideal of the ‘perfect German’, contribute to German society.

     

Diary of Anne Frank

Anne Frank received a diary on her 13th birthday 12.06.1942

On the 12th June 1942, Anne Frank received a diary as a thirteenth birthday present from her father. Barely three weeks later, Anne and her family went into hiding in Nazi-occupied Amsterdam.

Her diary, which chronicled her experiences over the next two years, was published posthumously after the war under the title The Diary of a Young Girl and became one of the twentieth century’s most celebrated books.

The Frank family originated in Frankfurt, Germany, but moved away after the Nazi party won local elections in 1933. Anne’s father, Otto, was a businessman who chose to move the family to Amsterdam after receiving an offer to start a company there. However, when the German army invaded the Netherlands in 1940 the family found themselves trapped in a country subjected to anti-Semitic laws.

When, in July 1942, Anne’s older sister Margot was ordered by the Nazi authorities to go to a labour camp, their father instead arranged for the family to go into hiding in a so-called ‘Secret Annexe’ above his office building. It was here that Anne wrote her diary, which she addressed as Kitty. Over three volumes she recorded the relationships between the Frank family, the Van Pels family, and her father’s friend Fritz Pfeffer with whom they shared their confined hiding place.

An anonymous tip-off led to the discovery and arrest of the eight inhabitants on the 4th August 1944. They were deported to the Auschwitz concentration camp a month later. Anne died of typhus in early 1945 after being transferred to Bergen-Belsen. She was fifteen years old.

If You Tolerate This poster

German involvement in the Spanish Civil War

This revision podcast was originally created for IGCSE History students completing a Paper 2 (sources) exam based on the Spanish Civil War.  However, it is appropriate for other students who wish to gain an overview of Germany’s involvement as it looks at three key issues.  Firstly a quick background to the Civil War itself, secondly a consideration of why Germany got involved, and finally a discussion of what Germany contributed to the Spanish Civil War.

The first part of the podcast presents an overview of General Franco’s nationalist uprising with reference to the republican government, the forces on each side in the conflict, and the Non-Intervention Committee.

The second section looks at reasons for why Germany got involved in the Spanish Civil War.  The causes assessed in the revision podcast are Hitler’s hatred of communism, the opportunity to test new equipment, the possibility of developing an alliance with Italy, and access to Spanish raw materials.

The final part of the episode considers the impact of German involvement.  Particular attention is given to the impact of the Condor Legion at Guernica.

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Bombing of Guernica

The bombing of Guernica

A short but focused overview of the bombing of Guernica on 26th April 1937.

WW2

The start of the Second World War

On the 3rd September 1939, the Second World War officially began when France and the United Kingdom – together with Australia and New Zealand – declared war on Germany.

Nazi forces had invaded Poland two days earlier, claiming to be acting in self-defence. Although both France and Britain had each signed Pacts with Poland regarding mutual assistance in case of invasion, no significant military action was taken for eight months against Germany. As a result, this period became known as the Phoney War.

However, to call the war ‘phoney’ ignores some key elements of this period. The French, for example, launched an attack across the German border known as the Saar Offensive but the troops were pulled back to their defensive Maginot Line on the 17th October after it became clear that a full-scale assault would not be successful.

Further action took place at sea, where both the British and French navies both began a blockade of Germany’s ports the day after the declaration of war. The previous evening the British passenger ship SS Athenia was hit by torpedoes fired from a Nazi U-boat off the coast of the Hebrides. 128 civilian passengers and crew were killed as a result of the attack, and it is seen by some as marking the start of the Battle of the Atlantic.

British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain resigned and was replaced by Winston Churchill, on Chamberlain’s own suggestion, on the 10th May 1940. This coincided to the day with Germany’s invasion of the Low Countries using the tactic of blitzkrieg and effectively marked the end of the Phoney War.