Hitler's Germany

Hitler's Germany

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Adolf Hitler

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Adolf Hitler, byname Der Führer (German: “The Leader”), (born April 20, 1889, Braunau am Inn, Austria—died April 30, 1945, Berlin, Germany), leader of the Nazi Party (from 1920/21) and chancellor (Kanzler) and Führer of Germany (1933–45). He was chancellor from January 30, 1933, and, after President Paul von Hindenburg’s death, assumed the twin titles of Führer and chancellor (August 2, 1934).

Why was Adolf Hitler significant?

Hitler was of great historical importance—a term that does not imply a positive judgment—because his actions changed the course of the world. He was responsible for starting World War II, which resulted in the deaths of more than 50 million people. It also led to the extension of the Soviet Union’s power in eastern, central, and Balkan Europe, enabled a communist movement to eventually achieve control in China, and marked the decisive shift of power away from western Europe and toward the United States and the Soviet Union. In addition, Hitler was responsible for the Holocaust, the state-sponsored killing of six million Jews and millions of others.

How did Adolf Hitler rise to power?

Hitler’s rise to power traces to 1919, when he joined the German Workers’ Party that became the Nazi Party. With his oratorical skills and use of propaganda, he soon became its leader. Hitler gained popularity nationwide by exploiting unrest during the Great Depression, and in 1932 he placed second in the presidential race. Hitler’s various maneuvers resulted in the winner, Paul von Hindenburg, appointing him chancellor in January 1933. The following month the Reichstag fire occurred, and it provided an excuse for a decree overriding all guarantees of freedom. Then on March 23 the Enabling Act was passed, giving full powers to Hitler. When Hindenburg died on August 2, 1934, the chancellorship and the presidency were merged, and Hitler secured his position as Führer (“leader”).

Why did Adolf Hitler start World War II?

Hitler had an overriding ambition for territorial expansion, which was largely driven by his desire to reunify the German peoples and his pursuit of Lebensraum, “living space” that would enable Germans to become economically self-sufficient and militarily secure. Such goals were greeted with support by many within Germany who resented the harsh terms of the Treaty of Versailles, which had ended World War I. Through various means he was able to annex Austria and Czechoslovakia with little resistance in 1938–39. Then on September 1, 1939, Germany invaded Poland, which had been guaranteed French and British military support should such an event occur. Two days later both countries declared war on Germany, launching World War II.

Who were Adolf Hitler’s most important officers?

A key figure of Hitler’s inner circle was Joseph Goebbels, minister of propaganda and a fervent follower whom Hitler selected to succeed him as chancellor. However, Goebbels only held the post for one day before committing suicide. Also notable were Hermann Göring, who was a leader of the Nazi Party and one of the primary architects of the Nazi police state in Germany Heinrich Himmler, who was second in power to Hitler Joachim von Ribbentrop, foreign minister and chief negotiator of various treaties Martin Bormann, who was one of Hitler’s closest lieutenants and Walther Funk, an economist who served as president of the Reichsbank.

How did Adolf Hitler die?

As Soviet troops entered the heart of Berlin, Hitler committed suicide on April 30, 1945, in his underground bunker. Although there is some speculation about the manner of his death, it is widely believed that he shot himself. Eva Braun, whom he had recently married, also took her own life. According to his wishes, both bodies were burned and buried. Almost immediately, however, conspiracy theories began. The Soviets initially claimed that they were unable to confirm Hitler’s death and later spread rumors that he was alive. According to subsequent reports, however, the Soviets recovered his burnt remains, which were identified through dental records. Hitler’s body was secretly buried before being exhumed and cremated, with the ashes scattered in 1970.

Hitler’s father, Alois (born 1837), was illegitimate. For a time he bore his mother’s name, Schicklgruber, but by 1876 he had established his family claim to the surname Hitler. Adolf never used any other surname.


Adolf Hitler devoted two chapters of his 1925 book Mein Kampf, itself a propaganda tool, to the study and practice of propaganda. [1] He claimed to have learned the value of propaganda as a World War I infantryman exposed to very effective British and ineffectual German propaganda. [2] The argument that Germany lost the war largely because of British propaganda efforts, expounded at length in Mein Kampf, reflected then-common German nationalist claims. Although untrue – German propaganda during World War I was mostly more advanced than that of the British – it became the official truth of Nazi Germany thanks to its reception by Hitler. [3]

Mein Kampf contains the blueprint of later Nazi propaganda efforts. Assessing his audience, Hitler writes in chapter VI:

Propaganda must always address itself to the broad masses of the people. (. ) All propaganda must be presented in a popular form and must fix its intellectual level so as not to be above the heads of the least intellectual of those to whom it is directed. (. ) The art of propaganda consists precisely in being able to awaken the imagination of the public through an appeal to their feelings, in finding the appropriate psychological form that will arrest the attention and appeal to the hearts of the national masses. The broad masses of the people are not made up of diplomats or professors of public jurisprudence nor simply of persons who are able to form reasoned judgment in given cases, but a vacillating crowd of human children who are constantly wavering between one idea and another. (. ) The great majority of a nation is so feminine in its character and outlook that its thought and conduct are ruled by sentiment rather than by sober reasoning. This sentiment, however, is not complex, but simple and consistent. It is not highly differentiated, but has only the negative and positive notions of love and hatred, right and wrong, truth and falsehood. [4]

As to the methods to be employed, he explains:

Propaganda must not investigate the truth objectively and, in so far as it is favorable to the other side, present it according to the theoretical rules of justice yet it must present only that aspect of the truth which is favorable to its own side. (. ) The receptive powers of the masses are very restricted, and their understanding is feeble. On the other hand, they quickly forget. Such being the case, all effective propaganda must be confined to a few bare essentials and those must be expressed as far as possible in stereotyped formulas. These slogans should be persistently repeated until the very last individual has come to grasp the idea that has been put forward. (. ) Every change that is made in the subject of a propagandist message must always emphasize the same conclusion. The leading slogan must, of course, be illustrated in many ways and from several angles, but in the end one must always return to the assertion of the same formula. [4]

Early Nazi Party (1919–1933) Edit

Hitler put these ideas into practice with the reestablishment of the Völkischer Beobachter, a daily newspaper published by the Nazi Party (NSDAP) from February 1925 onwards, whose circulation reached 26,175 in 1929. It was joined in 1927 by Joseph Goebbels's Der Angriff, another unabashedly and crudely propagandistic paper.

During most of the Nazis' time in opposition, their means of propaganda remained limited. With little access to mass media, the party continued to rely heavily on Hitler and a few others speaking at public meetings until 1929. [5] One study finds that the Weimar government's use of pro-government radio propaganda slowed Nazi growth. [6] In April 1930, Hitler appointed Goebbels head of party propaganda. Goebbels, a former journalist and Nazi party officer in Berlin, soon proved his skills. Among his first successes was the organization of riotous demonstrations that succeeded in having the American anti-war film All Quiet on the Western Front banned in Germany. [7]

In power (1933–1939) Edit

A major political and ideological cornerstone of Nazi policy was the unification of all ethnic Germans living outside the Reich's borders (e.g. in Austria and Czechoslovakia) under one Greater Germany. [8] In Mein Kampf, Hitler denounced the pain and misery of ethnic Germans outside Germany, and declared the dream of a common fatherland for which all Germans must fight. [9] Throughout Mein Kampf, he pushed Germans worldwide to make the struggle for political power and independence their main focus, made official in the Heim ins Reich policy beginning in 1938. [10]

On 13 March 1933, the Third Reich established a Ministry of Propaganda, appointing Joseph Goebbels as its Minister. Its goals were to establish enemies in the public mind: the external enemies which had imposed the Treaty of Versailles on Germany, and internal enemies such as Jews, Romani, homosexuals, Bolsheviks, and cultural trends including "degenerate art".

For months prior to the beginning of World War II in 1939, German newspapers and leaders had carried out a national and international propaganda campaign accusing Polish authorities of organizing or tolerating violent ethnic cleansing of ethnic Germans living in Poland. [11] On 22 August, Adolf Hitler told his generals:

I will provide a propagandistic casus belli. Its credibility doesn't matter. The victor will not be asked whether he told the truth. [12] [13]

The main part of this propaganda campaign was the false flag Operation Himmler, which was designed to create the appearance of Polish aggression against Germany, in order to justify the invasion of Poland. [12] [13] [14]

Research finds that the Nazis' use of radio propaganda helped it consolidate power and enroll more party members. [6]

There are a variety of factors that increased the obedience of German soldiers in terms of following the Nazi orders that were given to them regarding Jews. Omer Bartov, a professor on subjects such as German Studies and European History, mentioned in his book, “Hitler’s Army: Soldiers, Nazis, and War in the Third Reich”, how German soldiers were told information that influenced their actions. Bartov mentioned that General Lemelson, a corps commander, explained to his German troops regarding their actions toward Jews, “We want to bring back peace, calm and order to this land…” [15] German leaders tried to make their soldiers believe that Jews were a threat to their society. Thus, German soldiers followed orders given to them and participated in the demonization and mass murders of Jews. [16] In other words, German soldiers saw Jews as a group that was trying to infect and take over their homeland. Omer Bartov’s description of the Third Reich explains the intense discipline and unity that the soldiers had which played a role in their willingness to obey orders that were given to them. [17] These feelings that German soldiers had toward Jews grew more and more as time went on as the German leaders kept pushing further for Jews to get out of their land as they wanted total annihilation of Jews.

Antisemitism Edit

Der Stürmer, a Nazi propaganda newspaper developed by Julius Streicher and Karl Leopold von Möller, told Germans that Jews kidnapped small children before Passover because "Jews need the blood of a Christian child, maybe, to mix in with their Matzah." Posters, films, cartoons, and fliers were seen throughout Germany which attacked the Jewish community. One of the most infamous such films was The Eternal Jew directed by Fritz Hippler.

A study finds that the Nazis' use of radio propaganda incited antisemitic acts. Nazi radio was most effective in places where antisemitism was historically high but had a negative effect in places with historically low antisemitism. [6]

Adolf Hitler and Nazi propagandists played on widespread and long-established German antisemitism. The Jews were blamed for things such as robbing the German people of their hard work while themselves avoiding physical labour. Hitler declared that the mission of the Nazi movement was to annihilate "Jewish Bolshevism", which was also called "Cultural Bolshevism". [18] Hitler asserted that the "three vices" of "Jewish Marxism" were democracy, pacifism, and internationalism, [19] and that the Jews were responsible for Bolshevism, communism, and Marxism. [20] Joseph Goebbels in 1937 The Great Anti-Bolshevist Exhibition declared that Bolshevism and Jewry were one and the same. [21]

At the 1935 Nazi party congress rally at Nuremberg, Goebbels declared that "Bolshevism is the declaration of war by Jewish-led international subhumans against culture itself." [22]

Euthanasia Edit

The Law for the Prevention of Hereditarily Diseased Offspring was introduced on 14 July 1933, and various propaganda was used to target the disabled. [23] A special euthanasia program, called Aktion T4 began in 1939, related propaganda arguments were based on the books, Die Freigabe der Vernichtung lebensunwerten Lebens ("Allowing the Destruction of Life Unworthy of Living"), written by Karl Binding and Alfred Hoche and the book Human Heredity Theory and Racial Hygiene, written by Eugen Fischer, Erwin Baur and Fritz Lenz. [24]

Nuremberg Laws Edit

In 1935, antisemitic laws in Nazi Germany were introduced known as the Nuremberg Laws, the laws excluded non-Aryans and political opponents of the Nazis from the civil-service and any sexual relations and marriage between people classified as "Aryan" and "non-Aryan" (Jews, Romani, Blacks) was prohibited as Rassenschande or "race defilement". [25] The Nuremberg Laws were based on notions of racial purity and sought to preserve the Aryan race, who were at the top of the Nazi racial hierarchy and were said to be the Übermenschen "Herrenvolk" (master race), [26] and to teach the German nation to view the Jews as subhumans. [27]

Working Class Edit

The Strength Through Joy (KdF) program was created to monitor what workers were doing in their non-working time. This was done to ensure that no German worker would be doing anything remotely involved with activities against the state. The KdF also monitored holidays and all leisure time by scheduling activities for workers so the workers would be happy and grateful for the activities and events/holidays that were given to them by the state. This produced support for the state from the working class which led to Nazi Germany's further rise in power. The KdF required members to participate in the activities offered to them, otherwise, any members who didn't participate were classified as anti-government. The classification of the said member would result in them being sent to a concentration camp as punishment. Robert Ley was head of the KdF and had a staff of roughly 7,000 working for the KdF and 30 million members prior to its dissolution in 1939 due to WWII. [28]

Political opponents Edit

Soon after the takeover of power in 1933, Nazi concentration camps were established for political opponents. The first people that were sent to the camps were political opponents, especially communists and socialists. [29] They were sent because of their ties with the Soviet Union and because Nazism greatly opposed Communism. [30] Nazi propaganda dismissed the Communists as "Red subhumans". [31]

Goebbels used the death of the Nazi Party's Sturmabteilung (SA) Berlin leader Horst Wessel who was killed in 1930 by two members of the Communist Party of Germany as a propaganda tool for the Nazis against "Communist subhumans". [32]

Treaty of Versailles Edit

When the Treaty of Versailles was signed in 1919, non-propagandists newspapers headlines across the nation spoke German's feelings, such as "Schändlich!" ("Shameful!") which appeared on the front page of the Frankfurter Zeitung in 1919. The Berliner Tageblatt, also in 1919, predicted: "Should we accept the conditions, a military furor for revenge will sound in Germany within a few years, a militant nationalism will engulf all." [33] Hitler, knowing his nation's disgust with the Treaty, used it as leverage to influence his audience. He would repeatedly refer back to the terms of the Treaty as a direct attack on Germany and its people. In one speech delivered on 30 January 1937 he directly stated that he was withdrawing the German signature from the document to protest the outrageous proportions of the terms. He claimed the Treaty made Germany out to be inferior and "less" of a country than others only because blame for the war was placed on it. The success of Nazi propagandists and Hitler won the Nazi party control of Germany and eventually led to World War II. [34]

At war (1939–1945) Edit

Until the conclusion of the Battle of Stalingrad on 2 February 1943, German propaganda emphasized the prowess of German arms and the humanity German soldiers had shown to the peoples of occupied territories. Pilots of the Allied bombing fleets were depicted as cowardly murderers and Americans in particular as gangsters in the style of Al Capone. At the same time, German propaganda sought to alienate Americans and British from each other, and both these Western nations from the Soviet Union. One of the primary sources for propaganda was the Wehrmachtbericht, a daily radio broadcast from the High Command of the Wehrmacht, the OKW. Nazi victories lent themselves easily to propaganda broadcasts and were at this point difficult to mishandle. [35] Satires on the defeated, accounts of attacks, and praise for the fallen all were useful for Nazis. [36] Still, failures were not easily handled even at this stage. For example, considerable embarrassment resulted when the Ark Royal proved to have survived an attack that German propaganda had hyped. [35]

Goebbels instructed Nazi propagandists to describe the invasion of the Soviet Union (Operation Barbarossa) as the “European crusade against Bolshevism” and the Nazis then formed different units of the Waffen-SS consisting of mainly volunteers and conscripts. [37] [38]

After Stalingrad, the main theme changed to Germany as the sole defender of what they called "Western European culture" against the "Bolshevist hordes". The introduction of the V-1 and V-2 "vengeance weapons" was emphasized to convince Britons of the hopelessness of defeating Germany.

On 23 June 1944, the Nazis permitted the Red Cross to visit the concentration camp Theresienstadt to dispel rumors about the Final Solution, which was intended to kill all Jews. In reality, Theresienstadt was a transit camp for Jews en route to extermination camps. In a sophisticated propaganda effort, fake shops and cafés were erected to imply that the Jews lived in relative comfort. The guests enjoyed the performance of a children's opera, Brundibar, written by inmate Hans Krása. The hoax was so successful for the Nazis that they went on to make a propaganda film Theresienstadt. The shooting of the film began on 26 February 1944. Directed by Kurt Gerron, it was meant to show how well the Jews lived under the "benevolent" protection of the Third Reich. After the shooting, most of the cast, and even the filmmaker himself, were deported to the concentration camp of Auschwitz where they were murdered. Hans Fritzsche, who had been head of the Radio Chamber, was tried and acquitted by the Nuremberg war crimes tribunal.

Antisemitism during World War II Edit

Antisemitic wartime propaganda served a variety of purposes. It was hoped that people in Allied countries would be persuaded that Jews should be blamed for the war. The Nazis also wished to ensure that German people were aware of the extreme measures being carried out against the Jews on their behalf, in order to incriminate them and thus guarantee their continued loyalty through fear by Nazi-conjectured scenarios of supposed post-war "Jewish" reprisals. [39] [40] Especially from 1942 onwards,

the announcement that Jews were being exterminated served as a group unification factor to preclude desertion and force the Germans to continue fighting. Germans were fed the knowledge that too many atrocities had been committed, especially against the Jews, to allow for an understanding to be reached with the Allies.

Nazi media vilified arch-enemies of Nazi Germany as Jewish (Franklin Delano Roosevelt) [42] or in the cases of Josef Stalin and Sir Winston Churchill abject puppets of an international Jewish conspiracy intent on ruining Germany and Nazism. [43]

Problems in propaganda arose easily in this stage expectations of success were raised too high and too quickly, which required explanation if they were not fulfilled, and blunted the effects of success, and the hushing of blunders and failures caused mistrust. [35] The increasing hardship of the war for the German people also called forth more propaganda that the war had been forced on the German people by the refusal of foreign powers to accept their strength and independence. [35] Goebbels called for propaganda to toughen up the German people and not make victory look easy. [35]

Books Edit

The Nazis and sympathizers published many propaganda books. Most of the beliefs that would become associated with the Nazis, such as German nationalism, eugenics and antisemitism had been in circulation since the 19th century, and the Nazis seized on this body of existing work in their own publications.

The most notable is Adolf Hitler's Mein Kampf detailing his beliefs. [44] The book outlines major ideas that would later culminate in World War II. It is heavily influenced by Gustave Le Bon's 1895 The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind, which theorized propaganda as a way to control the seemingly irrational behavior of crowds. Particularly prominent is the violent antisemitism of Hitler and his associates, drawing, among other sources, on the fabricated "Protocols of the Elders of Zion" (1897), which implied that Jews secretly conspired to rule the world. This book was a key source of propaganda for the Nazis and helped fuel their common hatred against the Jews during World War II. [45] For example, Hitler claimed that the international language Esperanto was part of a Jewish plot and makes arguments toward the old German nationalist ideas of "Drang nach Osten" and the necessity to gain Lebensraum ("living space") eastwards (especially in Russia). Other books such as Rassenkunde des deutschen Volkes ("Racial Science of the German People") by Hans Günther [46] and Rasse und Seele ("Race and Soul") by Dr. Ludwig Ferdinand Clauß [de] [47] (published under different titles between 1926 and 1934) [48] : 394 attempt to identify and classify the differences between the German, Nordic, or Aryan type and other supposedly inferior peoples. These books were used as texts in German schools during the Nazi era.

The pre-existing and popular genre of Schollen-roman, or novel of the soil, also known as blood and soil novels, [49] was given a boost by the acceptability of its themes to the Nazis and developed a mysticism of unity. [50]

The immensely popular "Red Indian" stories by Karl May were permitted despite the heroic treatment of the hero Winnetou and "colored" races instead, the argument was made that the stories demonstrated the fall of the Red Indians was caused by a lack of racial consciousness, to encourage it in the Germans. [51] Other fictional works were also adapted Heidi was stripped of its Christian elements, and Robinson Crusoe's relationship to Friday was made a master-slave one. [52]

Children's books also made their appearance. In 1938, Julius Streicher published Der Giftpilz (The Poisonous Mushroom), a storybook that equated the Jewish people to poisonous mushrooms and aimed to educate children about the Jews. The book was an example of antisemitic propaganda and stated that "The following tales tell the truth about the Jewish poison mushroom. They show the many shapes the Jew assumes. They show the depravity and baseness of the Jewish race. They show the Jew for what he really is: The Devil in human form." [53]

Textbooks Edit

"Geopolitical atlases" emphasized Nazi schemes, demonstrating the "encirclement" of Germany, depicting how the prolific Slav nations would cause the German people to be overrun, and (in contrast) showing the relative population density of Germany was much higher than that of the Eastern regions (where they would seek Lebensraum). [54] Textbooks would often show that the birth rate amongst Slavs was prolific compared to Germans. [55] Geography text books stated how crowded Germany had become. [56] Other charts would show the cost of disabled children as opposed to healthy ones, or show how two-child families threatened the birthrate. [57] Math books discussed military applications and used military word problems, physics and chemistry concentrated on military applications, and grammar classes were devoted to propaganda sentences. [58] Other textbooks dealt with the history of the Nazi Party. [59] Elementary school reading text included large amounts of propaganda. [60] Children were taught through textbooks that they were the Aryan master race (Herrenvolk) while the Jews were untrustworthy, parasitic and Untermenschen (inferior subhumans). [61] Course content and textbooks unnecessarily included information that was propagandistic, an attempt to sway the children's views from an early age. [62]

Maps showing the racial composition of Europe were banned from the classroom after many efforts that did not define the territory widely enough for party officials. [63]

Fairy tales were put to use, with Cinderella being presented as a tale of how the prince's racial instincts lead him to reject the stepmother's alien blood (present in her daughters) for the racially pure maiden. [64] Nordic sagas were likewise presented as the illustration of Führerprinzip, which was developed with such heroes as Frederick the Great and Otto von Bismarck. [65]

Literature was to be chosen within the "German spirit" rather than a fixed list of forbidden and required, which made the teachers all the more cautious [66] although Jewish authors were impossible for classrooms. [67] While only William Shakespeare's Macbeth and The Merchant of Venice were actually recommended, none of the plays were actually forbidden, even Hamlet, denounced for "flabbiness of soul." [68]

Biology texts, however, were put to the most use in presenting eugenic principles and racial theories this included explanations of the Nuremberg Laws, which were claimed to allow the German and Jewish peoples to co-exist without the danger of mixing. [69] Science was to be presented as the most natural area for introducing the "Jewish Question" once teachers took care to point out that in nature, animals associated with those of their own species. [70]

Teachers' guidelines on racial instruction presented both the handicapped and Jews as dangers. [71] Despite their many photographs glamorizing the "Nordic" type, the texts also claimed that visual inspection was insufficient, and genealogical analysis was required to determine their types and report any hereditary problems. [72] However, the National Socialist Teachers League (NSLB) stressed that at primary schools, in particular, they had to work on only the Nordic racial core of the German Volk again and again and contrast it with the racial composition of foreign populations and the Jews. [61]

Books for occupied countries Edit

In occupied France, the German Institute encouraged the translation of German works although chiefly German nationalists, not ardent Nazis, produced a massive increase in the sale of translated works. [73] The only books in English to be sold were English classics, and books with Jewish authors or Jewish subject matter (such as biographies) were banned, except for some scientific works. [74] Control of the paper supply allowed Germans the easy ability to pressure publishers about books. [74]

Comics Edit

The Nazi-controlled government in German-occupied France produced the Vica comic book series during World War II as a propaganda tool against the Allied forces. The Vica series, authored by Vincent Krassousky, represented Nazi influence and perspective in French society, and included such titles as Vica Contre le service secret Anglais, and Vica défie l'Oncle Sam. [75]

The Beer Hall Putsch

Ernst Röhm became the leader of the SA after taking part in the Beer Hall Putsch (also known as the Munich Putsch) in 1923, a failed coup against the Weimar government in which Hitler lead 600 Brownshirts into a meeting between the Bavarian Prime Minister and 3,000 businessmen.

Röhm had fought in the First World War, reaching the rank of captain, and later joined the Bavarian division of the Freikorps, a virulent right wing nationalist group active during the early years of the Weimar Republic.

The Freikorps, which officially came to an end in 1920, were responsible for the murder of prominent leftists like Rosa Luxemburg. Former members made up a large part of the initial ranks of the SA.

Why There Are No Nazi Statues in Germany

Joshua Zeitz, a Politico Magazine contributing editor, has taught American history and politics at Cambridge University and Princeton University and is the author of Lincoln’s Boys: John Hay, John Nicolay, and the War for Lincoln's Image. He is currently writing a book on the making of Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society. Follow him @joshuamzeitz.

“Whatever else I may forget,” the ex-slave and abolitionist Frederick Douglass said in 1894, “I shall never forget the difference between those who fought for liberty and those who fought for slavery.” Douglass (who is doing an amazing job and is being recognized more and more) deplored an emerging national consensus that the Civil War had been fought over vague philosophical disagreements about federalism and states’ rights, but not over the core issue of slavery. In this retelling, neither side was right or wrong, and both Confederate and Union soldiers were to be celebrated for their battlefield valor.

Douglass was right to be concerned. Southerners may have lost the Civil War, but between the 1890s and 1920s they won the first great battle over its official memory. They fought that battle in popular literature, history books and college curricula, but also on hundreds of courthouse steps and city squares, where they erected monuments to Confederate veterans and martyrs. These statues reinforced the romance of reunion.

Now, a century and a half after the Civil War, Americans are finally confronting the propriety of celebrating the lives of men who committed treason in the name of preserving slavery. That these statues even exist is unusual. When armies are defeated on their own soil—particularly when those armies fight to promote racist or genocidal policies—they usually don’t get to keep their symbols and material culture. As some commentators have noted, Germany in 1945 is a useful comparison. “Flags were torn down while defeated cities still burned, even as citizens crawling from the rubble were just realizing that the governments they represented had ended,” wrote a reporter for McClatchy. Most physical relics of the Nazi regime were banished from public view. In this sense, the example of Germany’s post-war de-Nazification may offer a way forward for the United States.

Yet history tells a more complicated story. In its initial years, de-Nazification had only limited impact. It would take time, generational change and external events to make Germany what it is today—a vibrant democracy that is notably less permissive of racism, extremism and fascism than the United States. Tearing down the symbols of Nazi terror was a necessary first step—but it didn’t ensure overnight political or cultural transformation. It required a longer process of public reconciliation with history for Germans to acknowledge their shared responsibility for the legacy of Nazism.

The vast majority of Americans have long agreed that the destruction of slavery was a just outcome of the Civil War. But in continuing to honor Confederate leaders and deny their crimes, we signal that the United States has not yet fully come to terms with its collective responsibility for the dual sins of slavery and Jim Crow.

In the late 19th century, Southern veterans of the Civil War essentially concluded that it made little sense to persist in their argument that slavery had been a just, benign social and political system. That argument was simply no longer credible in the eyes of most Northerners—many of whom might have conceded the point before the war—or most civilized nations. “However brave” rebel soldiers might have been on the field, argued a report for the Grand Camp of Confederate Veterans of Virginia, tethering the Lost Cause to the memory of slavery would “hold [Confederate veterans] degraded rather than worthy of honor … our children, instead of revering their fathers will be secretly, if not openly, ashamed.”

Instead, Confederate organizations—particularly the United Confederate Veterans, the United Daughters of the Confederacy, and the Sons of Confederate Veterans, whose local chapters funded and organized the construction of many of the monuments that are now in contention—de-emphasized the ideological origins of the war and instead promoted a powerful but vague cult of Southern chivalry, battlefield valor and regional pride. They recast the war as a battle over the principle of states’ rights and Southern honor. Hundreds of cities across the U.S. commissioned monuments to their war dead—statues that were usually situated directly in town squares or by county courthouses, and which paid homage to men who fought and sometimes died to preserve chattel slavery—an institution that Vice President Alexander Stephens called the “cornerstone” of the Confederacy.

Not only did these organizations erase slavery from the narrative. They also brushed over the topics of rebellion and treason. During the war, many Confederate soldiers happily accepted the label “reb,” but the new wardens of local memory attempted to resituate the Confederacy within constitutional norms. “Was your father a Rebel and a Traitor?” asked a typical handbill. “Did he fight in the service of the Confederacy for the purpose of defeating the Union, or was he a Patriot, fighting for the liberties granted him under the Constitution, in defense of his native land, and for a cause he knew to be right?” The major organizations rejected the once-popular designation for the conflict—“the War of Rebellion”—and instead promoted an alternative designation: “the War Between the States.” Generations of schoolchildren would call it that.

These Southern revisionists found support from many Northerners who, by the 1890s, were eager to move beyond the memory of war and Reconstruction and whose fleeting racial liberalism hardened in the face of mass immigration and scientific racism, both of which took root in the late 19th century. At Blue and Gray battlefield reunions, former enemies donned the uniforms they had worn as young men to celebrate and remember their shared experience in combat. Even an erstwhile abolitionist like Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., who nearly died multiple times on the battlefield, came to argue later in life that “the faith is true and adorable which leads a soldier to throw away his life in obedience to a blindly accepted duty, in a cause which he little understands, in a plan of campaign of which he has little notion, under tactics of which he does not see the use.”

In fact, Holmes understood perfectly well why he fought like most of the country—North and South alike—he simply chose to forget.

In the years immediately following its surrender to Allied forces in World War II, Germany underwent a much different process from the American South in the wake of the Civil War.

Whereas the vast majority of Confederate civilian and military officials suffered no greater penalty than the confiscation of property and temporary loss of voting rights, in Germany, top military and government officials were tried and sentenced to prison or execution. In the Western zone, U.S. and British administrators established de-Nazification panels and filtered through 16 million questionnaires. They identified 3.5 million former Nazis, many of whom were fired from government posts.

Libraries were stripped of Nazi books and periodicals, fascist newspapers shuttered, and all physical vestiges of the old regime removed and destroyed. In 1949, the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany) criminalized the display of swastikas the symbol was also scraped and sometimes blown off of buildings. The federal state systematically destroyed statues and monuments, razed many Nazi architectural structures and buried executed military and civilian officials in mass, unmarked graves so that their resting grounds would not become Nazi shrines.

If the physical de-Nazification of Germany was absolute—and it was—it proved harder to effect a spiritual purge of the country’s recent fascist past. To rebuild the country, American occupiers found that it was all but impossible to “find reasonably competent Germans who had not been affiliated or associated in some way with the Nazi regime,” according to General Lucius Clay. In Cologne, fully 18 of the 21 employees of the city waterworks were former Nazis American authorities faced a stark choice—let the city’s supply of potable water go dry, or let the Nazis keep their jobs.

The answer was obvious. Towns and cities needed to be administered. The court system needed to function. Police departments required staff. Children needed to attend school. Though half of all Bavarian teachers were initially fired for their Nazi membership, by 1948 most of them were back in the classroom. Fully 94 percent of Bavarian judges and prosecutors were ex-Nazis, and one-third of foreign ministry employees in Bonn, the West German capital.

Though statues had been blown up and flags burned or shredded, many Germans in the 1950s resisted political reeducation. Allied officials sometimes required adults to view footage of liberated concentration camps before they could receive ration cards one memoirist recalled that most of the people he sat with in a theater in Frankfurt turned their heads and simply refused to watch the film. Five years after the war, surveys revealed that one-third of the country thought the Nuremberg war crime trials had been “unfair.” Majorities believed that Nazism had been a “good idea, badly applied,” and consistently, over a third of the population continued to prefer that the country be free of Jews. As late as 1955, 48 percent of respondents felt that Hitler would have been one of Germany’s greatest leaders, “but for the war.”

The physical destruction of iconography, in other words, was no instant antidote to extremist ideology.

It wasn’t until the 1960s and 1970s that Germany reckoned fully with the moral weight of its Nazi legacy. A string of events thrust the topic into full consciousness, from belated public investigations into German war crimes on the eastern front, to Israel’s capture and trial of Adolf Eichmann and criminal trials in Frankfurt of Auschwitz concentration camp guards. During the first 15 years of the postwar era, German schools buried any mention of the Holocaust or other Nazi atrocities later, they slowly incorporated such subject matter in the curriculum.

The Six-Day War, Yom Kippur War and massacre of Israeli athletes during the 1972 Olympic games in Munich generated widespread empathy toward Israel. When West German television ran a gauzy American miniseries, Holocaust, in 1979, 20 million viewers watched all four evenings of the broadcast. The production was dreadful, but it galvanized German public opinion in a way that the much-higher-quality series Roots compelled many Americans to examine the legacy of slavery two years earlier.

The generation of Germans that came of age in the 1970s and 1980s confronted the country’s Nazi past and forcefully repudiated it. It took several decades of hard self-reflection, but a reunified Germany emerged from the Cold War as one of the great mainstays of democracy and human rights.

If just removing statues and icons doesn’t force a change in outlook, venerating and fetishizing them, and refusing to be honest about their meaning, almost ensures that the country won’t fully confront its past.

The Southern Poverty Law Center rightly points out that the vast majority of statues, streets and schools dedicated to the memory of the Confederacy date from the period between 1890 and 1930—four decades when the legal, cultural and political edifice of Jim Crow was under heavy construction. Another memorial spate followed after 1954, in response to the Supreme Court’s decision in Brown v. Board of Education and, coincidentally, the 100th anniversary of the war’s outbreak. The statues were blunt instruments in institutionalizing white supremacy and blotting out the dual sins of treason and slavery.

In recent days, prominent “never-Trump” Republican operatives have taken the unusual step of advising Democrats not to fall into a monument trap. The president wants to turn the conversation to Confederate kitsch, which many white Americans continue to view as benign and non-ideological. Focus instead on Trump’s oddly solicitous posture toward Nazis, Klansmen and heavily armed “militiamen” playing dress up in front of synagogues and places of public accommodation.

It’s probably smart political advice, but it still elides the central problem. As long as we continue to perpetuate the myth of Confederate innocence—the idea that good men on both sides fought over distant abstractions and then came together again in brotherhood—we continue to lie to ourselves.

In Germany, you won’t see neo-Nazis converging on a monument to Reinhard Heydrich or Adolf Hitler, because no such statues exist. The country long ago came to grips with the full weight of its history. But you’ll find Nazis and Klansmen in Virginia, circling a statue of Robert E. Lee, a traitor who raised arms against his own country in the defense of white supremacy.

How do we explain to the descendants of his victims—fallen Union soldiers and widows, and so many million slaves—that Robert E. Lee doesn’t deserve the same eternal infamy as Eichmann or Heydrich?


Nazi, the informal and originally derogatory term for a party member, abbreviates the party's name (Nationalsozialist [natsi̯oˈnaːlzotsi̯aˌlɪst] ), and was coined in analogy with Sozi (pronounced [ˈzoːtsiː] ), an abbreviation of Sozialdemokrat (member of the rival Social Democratic Party of Germany). [c] [21] Members of the party referred to themselves as Nationalsozialisten (National Socialists), but some did occasionally embrace the colloquial Nazi (so Leopold von Mildenstein in his article series Ein Nazi fährt nach Palästina published in Der Angriff in 1934). The term Parteigenosse (party member) was commonly used among Nazis, with its corresponding feminine form Parteigenossin. [22]

The term was in use before the rise of the party as a colloquial and derogatory word for a backward peasant, an awkward and clumsy person. It derived from Ignaz, a shortened version of Ignatius, [23] [24] which was a common name in the Nazis' home region of Bavaria. Opponents seized on this, and the long-existing Sozi, to attach a dismissive nickname to the National Socialists. [24] [25]

In 1933, when Adolf Hitler assumed power in the German government, the usage of "Nazi" diminished in Germany, although Austrian anti-Nazis continued to use the term, [21] and the use of "Nazi Germany" and "Nazi regime" was popularised by anti-Nazis and German exiles abroad. Thereafter, the term spread into other languages and eventually was brought back to Germany after World War II. [25] In English, the term is not considered slang, and has such derivatives as Nazism and denazification.

Origins and early years: 1918–1923

The party grew out of smaller political groups with a nationalist orientation that formed in the last years of World War I. In 1918, a league called the Freier Arbeiterausschuss für einen guten Frieden (Free Workers' Committee for a good Peace) [26] was created in Bremen, Germany. On 7 March 1918, Anton Drexler, an avid German nationalist, formed a branch of this league in Munich. [26] Drexler was a local locksmith who had been a member of the militarist Fatherland Party [27] during World War I and was bitterly opposed to the armistice of November 1918 and the revolutionary upheavals that followed. Drexler followed the views of militant nationalists of the day, such as opposing the Treaty of Versailles, having antisemitic, anti-monarchist and anti-Marxist views, as well as believing in the superiority of Germans whom they claimed to be part of the Aryan "master race" (Herrenvolk). However, he also accused international capitalism of being a Jewish-dominated movement and denounced capitalists for war profiteering in World War I. [28] Drexler saw the political violence and instability in Germany as the result of the Weimar Republic being out-of-touch with the masses, especially the lower classes. [28] Drexler emphasised the need for a synthesis of völkisch nationalism with a form of economic socialism, in order to create a popular nationalist-oriented workers' movement that could challenge the rise of Communism and internationalist politics. [29] These were all well-known themes popular with various Weimar paramilitary groups such as the Freikorps.

Drexler's movement received attention and support from some influential figures. Supporter Dietrich Eckart, a well-to-do journalist, brought military figure Felix Graf von Bothmer, a prominent supporter of the concept of "national socialism", to address the movement. [30] Later in 1918, Karl Harrer (a journalist and member of the Thule Society) convinced Drexler and several others to form the Politischer Arbeiterzirkel (Political Workers' Circle). [26] The members met periodically for discussions with themes of nationalism and racism directed against Jewish people. [26] In December 1918, Drexler decided that a new political party should be formed, based on the political principles that he endorsed, by combining his branch of the Workers' Committee for a good Peace with the Political Workers' Circle. [26] [31]

On 5 January 1919, Drexler created a new political party and proposed it should be named the "German Socialist Workers' Party", but Harrer objected to the term "socialist" so the term was removed and the party was named the German Workers' Party (Deutsche Arbeiterpartei, DAP). [31] To ease concerns among potential middle-class supporters, Drexler made clear that unlike Marxists the party supported the middle-class and that its socialist policy was meant to give social welfare to German citizens deemed part of the Aryan race. [28] They became one of many völkisch movements that existed in Germany. Like other völkisch groups, the DAP advocated the belief that through profit-sharing instead of socialisation Germany should become a unified "people's community" (Volksgemeinschaft) rather than a society divided along class and party lines. [32] This ideology was explicitly antisemitic. As early as 1920, the party was raising money by selling a tobacco called Anti-Semit. [33]

From the outset, the DAP was opposed to non-nationalist political movements, especially on the left, including the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) and the Communist Party of Germany (KPD). Members of the DAP saw themselves as fighting against "Bolshevism" and anyone considered a part of or aiding so-called "international Jewry". The DAP was also deeply opposed to the Versailles Treaty. [34] The DAP did not attempt to make itself public and meetings were kept in relative secrecy, with public speakers discussing what they thought of Germany's present state of affairs, or writing to like-minded societies in Northern Germany. [32]

The DAP was a comparatively small group with fewer than 60 members. [32] Nevertheless, it attracted the attention of the German authorities, who were suspicious of any organisation that appeared to have subversive tendencies. In July 1919, while stationed in Munich, army Gefreiter Adolf Hitler was appointed a Verbindungsmann (intelligence agent) of an Aufklärungskommando (reconnaissance unit) of the Reichswehr (army) by Captain Mayr, the head of the Education and Propaganda Department (Dept Ib/P) in Bavaria. Hitler was assigned to influence other soldiers and to infiltrate the DAP. [35] While attending a party meeting on 12 September 1919 at Munich's Sterneckerbräu, Hitler became involved in a heated argument with a visitor, Professor Baumann, who questioned the soundness of Gottfried Feder's arguments against capitalism Baumann proposed that Bavaria should break away from Prussia and found a new South German nation with Austria. In vehemently attacking the man's arguments, Hitler made an impression on the other party members with his oratorical skills according to Hitler, the "professor" left the hall acknowledging unequivocal defeat. [36] Drexler encouraged him to join the DAP. [36] On the orders of his army superiors, Hitler applied to join the party [37] and within a week was accepted as party member 555 (the party began counting membership at 500 to give the impression they were a much larger party). [38] [39] Among the party's earlier members were Ernst Röhm of the Army's District Command VII Dietrich Eckart, who has been called the spiritual father of National Socialism [40] then-University of Munich student Rudolf Hess [41] Freikorps soldier Hans Frank and Alfred Rosenberg, often credited as the philosopher of the movement. All were later prominent in the Nazi regime. [42]

Hitler later claimed to be the seventh party member (he was in fact the seventh executive member of the party's central committee [43] and he would later wear the Golden Party Badge number one). Anton Drexler drafted a letter to Hitler in 1940—which was never sent—that contradicts Hitler's later claim:

No one knows better than you yourself, my Führer, that you were never the seventh member of the party, but at best the seventh member of the committee. And a few years ago I had to complain to a party office that your first proper membership card of the DAP, bearing the signatures of Schüssler and myself, was falsified, with the number 555 being erased and number 7 entered. [44]

Hitler's first DAP speech was held in the Hofbräukeller on 16 October 1919. He was the second speaker of the evening, and spoke to 111 people. [45] Hitler later declared that this was when he realised he could really "make a good speech". [32] At first, Hitler spoke only to relatively small groups, but his considerable oratory and propaganda skills were appreciated by the party leadership. With the support of Anton Drexler, Hitler became chief of propaganda for the party in early 1920. [46] Hitler began to make the party more public, and organised its biggest meeting yet of 2,000 people on 24 February 1920 in the Staatliches Hofbräuhaus in München. Such was the significance of this particular move in publicity that Karl Harrer resigned from the party in disagreement. [47] It was in this speech that Hitler enunciated the twenty-five points of the German Workers' Party manifesto that had been drawn up by Drexler, Feder and himself. [48] Through these points he gave the organisation a much bolder stratagem [46] with a clear foreign policy (abrogation of the Treaty of Versailles, a Greater Germany, Eastern expansion and exclusion of Jews from citizenship) and among his specific points were: confiscation of war profits, abolition of unearned incomes, the State to share profits of land and land for national needs to be taken away without compensation. [49] In general, the manifesto was antisemitic, anti-capitalist, anti-democratic, anti-Marxist and anti-liberal. [50] To increase its appeal to larger segments of the population, on the same day as Hitler's Hofbräuhaus speech on 24 February 1920, the DAP changed its name to the Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei ("National Socialist German Workers' Party", or Nazi Party). [51] [52] [d] The word "Socialist" was added by the party's executive committee, over Hitler's objections, in order to help appeal to left-wing workers. [55]

In 1920, the Nazi Party officially announced that only persons of "pure Aryan descent [rein arischer Abkunft]" could become party members and if the person had a spouse, the spouse also had to be a "racially pure" Aryan. Party members could not be related either directly or indirectly to a so-called "non-Aryan". [56] Even before it had become legally forbidden by the Nuremberg Laws in 1935, the Nazis banned sexual relations and marriages between party members and Jews. [57] Party members found guilty of Rassenschande ("racial defilement") were persecuted heavily. Some members were even sentenced to death. [58]

Hitler quickly became the party's most active orator, appearing in public as a speaker 31 times within the first year after his self-discovery. [59] Crowds began to flock to hear his speeches. [60] Hitler always spoke about the same subjects: the Treaty of Versailles and the Jewish question. [50] This deliberate technique and effective publicising of the party contributed significantly to his early success, [50] about which a contemporary poster wrote: "Since Herr Hitler is a brilliant speaker, we can hold out the prospect of an extremely exciting evening". [61] [ page needed ] Over the following months, the party continued to attract new members, [43] while remaining too small to have any real significance in German politics. [62] By the end of the year, party membership was recorded at 2,000, [60] many of whom Hitler and Röhm had brought into the party personally, or for whom Hitler's oratory had been their reason for joining. [63]

Hitler's talent as an orator and his ability to draw new members, combined with his characteristic ruthlessness, soon made him the dominant figure. However, while Hitler and Eckart were on a fundraising trip to Berlin in June 1921, a mutiny broke out within the party in Munich. Members of its executive committee wanted to merge with the rival German Socialist Party (DSP). [64] Upon returning to Munich on 11 July, Hitler angrily tendered his resignation. The committee members realised that his resignation would mean the end of the party. [65] Hitler announced he would rejoin on condition that he would replace Drexler as party chairman, and that the party headquarters would remain in Munich. [66] The committee agreed, and he rejoined the party on 26 July as member 3,680. Hitler continued to face some opposition within the NSDAP, as his opponents had Hermann Esser expelled from the party and they printed 3,000 copies of a pamphlet attacking Hitler as a traitor to the party. [66] In the following days, Hitler spoke to several packed houses and defended himself and Esser to thunderous applause. [67]

His strategy proved successful at a special party congress on 29 July 1921, he replaced Drexler as party chairman by a vote of 533 to 1. [67] The committee was dissolved, and Hitler was granted nearly absolute powers as the party's sole leader. [67] He would hold the post for the remainder of his life. Hitler soon acquired the title Führer ("leader") and after a series of sharp internal conflicts it was accepted that the party would be governed by the Führerprinzip ("leader principle"). Under this principle, the party was a highly centralised entity that functioned strictly from the top down, with Hitler at the apex as the party's absolute leader. Hitler saw the party as a revolutionary organisation, whose aim was the overthrow of the Weimar Republic, which he saw as controlled by the socialists, Jews and the "November criminals" who had betrayed the German soldiers in 1918. The SA ("storm troopers", also known as "Brownshirts") were founded as a party militia in 1921 and began violent attacks on other parties.

For Hitler, the twin goals of the party were always German nationalist expansionism and antisemitism. These two goals were fused in his mind by his belief that Germany's external enemies—Britain, France and the Soviet Union—were controlled by the Jews and that Germany's future wars of national expansion would necessarily entail a war of annihilation against them. [68] [ page needed ] For Hitler and his principal lieutenants, national and racial issues were always dominant. This was symbolised by the adoption as the party emblem of the swastika. In German nationalist circles, the swastika was considered a symbol of an "Aryan race" and it symbolised the replacement of the Christian Cross with allegiance to a National Socialist State.

The Nazi Party grew significantly during 1921 and 1922, partly through Hitler's oratorical skills, partly through the SA's appeal to unemployed young men, and partly because there was a backlash against socialist and liberal politics in Bavaria as Germany's economic problems deepened and the weakness of the Weimar regime became apparent. The party recruited former World War I soldiers, to whom Hitler as a decorated frontline veteran could particularly appeal, as well as small businessmen and disaffected former members of rival parties. Nazi rallies were often held in beer halls, where downtrodden men could get free beer. The Hitler Youth was formed for the children of party members. The party also formed groups in other parts of Germany. Julius Streicher in Nuremberg was an early recruit and became editor of the racist magazine Der Stürmer. In December 1920, the Nazi Party had acquired a newspaper, the Völkischer Beobachter, of which its leading ideologist Alfred Rosenberg became editor. Others to join the party around this time were Heinrich Himmler and World War I flying ace Hermann Göring.

On 31 October 1922, a party with similar policies and objectives came into power in Italy, the National Fascist Party, under the leadership of the charismatic Benito Mussolini. The Fascists, like the Nazis, promoted a national rebirth of their country, as they opposed communism and liberalism appealed to the working-class opposed the Treaty of Versailles and advocated the territorial expansion of their country. The Italian Fascists used a straight-armed Roman salute and wore black-shirted uniforms. Hitler was inspired by Mussolini and the Fascists, borrowing their use of the straight-armed salute as a Nazi salute. When the Fascists came to power in 1922 in Italy through their coup attempt called the "March on Rome", Hitler began planning his own coup.

In January 1923, France occupied the Ruhr industrial region as a result of Germany's failure to meet its reparations payments. This led to economic chaos, the resignation of Wilhelm Cuno's government and an attempt by the German Communist Party (KPD) to stage a revolution. The reaction to these events was an upsurge of nationalist sentiment. Nazi Party membership grew sharply to about 20,000. [69] By November, Hitler had decided that the time was right for an attempt to seize power in Munich, in the hope that the Reichswehr (the post-war German military) would mutiny against the Berlin government and join his revolt. In this, he was influenced by former General Erich Ludendorff, who had become a supporter—though not a member—of the Nazis.

On the night of 8 November, the Nazis used a patriotic rally in a Munich beer hall to launch an attempted putsch ("coup d'état"). This so-called Beer Hall Putsch attempt failed almost at once when the local Reichswehr commanders refused to support it. On the morning of 9 November, the Nazis staged a march of about 2,000 supporters through Munich in an attempt to rally support. Troops opened fire and 16 Nazis were killed. Hitler, Ludendorff and a number of others were arrested and were tried for treason in March 1924. Hitler and his associates were given very lenient prison sentences. While Hitler was in prison, he wrote his semi-autobiographical political manifesto Mein Kampf ("My Struggle").

The Nazi Party was banned on 9 November 1923 however, with the support of the nationalist Völkisch-Social Bloc (Völkisch-Sozialer Block), it continued to operate under the name "German Party" (Deutsche Partei or DP) from 1924 to 1925. [70] The Nazis failed to remain unified in the DP, as in the north, the right-wing Volkish nationalist supporters of the Nazis moved to the new German Völkisch Freedom Party, leaving the north's left-wing Nazi members, such as Joseph Goebbels retaining support for the party. [70]

Rise to power: 1925–1933

Adolf Hitler was released from prison on 20 December 1924. On 16 February 1925, Hitler convinced the Bavarian authorities to lift the ban on the NSDAP and the party was formally refounded on 26 February 1925, with Hitler as its undisputed leader. The new Nazi Party was no longer a paramilitary organisation and disavowed any intention of taking power by force. In any case, the economic and political situation had stabilised and the extremist upsurge of 1923 had faded, so there was no prospect of further revolutionary adventures. The Nazi Party of 1925 was divided into the "Leadership Corps" (Korps der politischen Leiter) appointed by Hitler and the general membership (Parteimitglieder). The party and the SA were kept separate and the legal aspect of the party's work was emphasised. In a sign of this, the party began to admit women. The SA and the SS members (the latter founded in 1925 as Hitler's bodyguard, and known originally as the Schutzkommando) had to all be regular party members. [71] [72]

In the 1920s, the Nazi Party expanded beyond its Bavarian base. Catholic Bavaria maintained its right-wing nostalgia for a Catholic monarch [ citation needed ] and Westphalia, along with working-class "Red Berlin", were always the Nazis' weakest areas electorally, even during the Third Reich itself. The areas of strongest Nazi support were in rural Protestant areas such as Schleswig-Holstein, Mecklenburg, Pomerania and East Prussia. Depressed working-class areas such as Thuringia also produced a strong Nazi vote, while the workers of the Ruhr and Hamburg largely remained loyal to the Social Democrats, the Communist Party of Germany or the Catholic Centre Party. Nuremberg remained a Nazi Party stronghold, and the first Nuremberg Rally was held there in 1927. These rallies soon became massive displays of Nazi paramilitary power and attracted many recruits. The Nazis' strongest appeal was to the lower middle-classes—farmers, public servants, teachers and small businessmen—who had suffered most from the inflation of the 1920s, so who feared Bolshevism more than anything else. The small business class was receptive to Hitler's antisemitism, since it blamed Jewish big business for its economic problems. University students, disappointed at being too young to have served in the War of 1914–1918 and attracted by the Nazis' radical rhetoric, also became a strong Nazi constituency. By 1929, the party had 130,000 members. [73]

The party's nominal Deputy Leader was Rudolf Hess, but he had no real power in the party. By the early 1930s, the senior leaders of the party after Hitler were Heinrich Himmler, Joseph Goebbels and Hermann Göring. Beneath the Leadership Corps were the party's regional leaders, the Gauleiters, each of whom commanded the party in his Gau ("region"). Goebbels began his ascent through the party hierarchy as Gauleiter of Berlin-Brandenburg in 1926. Streicher was Gauleiter of Franconia, where he published his antisemitic newspaper Der Stürmer. Beneath the Gauleiter were lower-level officials, the Kreisleiter ("county leaders"), Zellenleiter ("cell leaders") and Blockleiter ("block leaders"). This was a strictly hierarchical structure in which orders flowed from the top and unquestioning loyalty was given to superiors. Only the SA retained some autonomy. Being composed largely of unemployed workers, many SA men took the Nazis' socialist rhetoric seriously. At this time, the Hitler salute (borrowed from the Italian fascists) and the greeting "Heil Hitler!" were adopted throughout the party.

The Nazis contested elections to the national parliament (the Reichstag) and to the state legislature (the Landtage) from 1924, although at first with little success. The "National Socialist Freedom Movement" polled 3% of the vote in the December 1924 Reichstag elections and this fell to 2.6% in 1928. State elections produced similar results. Despite these poor results and despite Germany's relative political stability and prosperity during the later 1920s, the Nazi Party continued to grow. This was partly because Hitler, who had no administrative ability, left the party organisation to the head of the secretariat, Philipp Bouhler, the party treasurer Franz Xaver Schwarz and business manager Max Amann. The party had a capable propaganda head in Gregor Strasser, who was promoted to national organizational leader in January 1928. These men gave the party efficient recruitment and organizational structures. The party also owed its growth to the gradual fading away of competitor nationalist groups, such as the German National People's Party (DNVP). As Hitler became the recognised head of the German nationalists, other groups declined or were absorbed.

Despite these strengths, the Nazi Party might never have come to power had it not been for the Great Depression and its effects on Germany. By 1930, the German economy was beset with mass unemployment and widespread business failures. The Social Democrats and Communists were bitterly divided and unable to formulate an effective solution: this gave the Nazis their opportunity and Hitler's message, blaming the crisis on the Jewish financiers and the Bolsheviks, resonated with wide sections of the electorate. At the September 1930 Reichstag elections, the Nazis won 18% of the votes and became the second-largest party in the Reichstag after the Social Democrats. Hitler proved to be a highly effective campaigner, pioneering the use of radio and aircraft for this purpose. His dismissal of Strasser and his appointment of Goebbels as the party's propaganda chief were major factors. While Strasser had used his position to promote his own leftish version of national socialism, Goebbels was totally loyal to Hitler and worked only to improve Hitler's image.

The 1930 elections changed the German political landscape by weakening the traditional nationalist parties, the DNVP and the DVP, leaving the Nazis as the chief alternative to the discredited Social Democrats and the Zentrum, whose leader, Heinrich Brüning, headed a weak minority government. The inability of the democratic parties to form a united front, the self-imposed isolation of the Communists and the continued decline of the economy, all played into Hitler's hands. He now came to be seen as de facto leader of the opposition and donations poured into the Nazi Party's coffers. Some major business figures, such as Fritz Thyssen, were Nazi supporters and gave generously [74] and some Wall Street figures were allegedly involved, [75] [ page needed ] but many other businessmen were suspicious of the extreme nationalist tendencies of the Nazis and preferred to support the traditional conservative parties instead. [76]

During 1931 and into 1932, Germany's political crisis deepened. Hitler ran for president against the incumbent Paul von Hindenburg in March 1932, polling 30% in the first round and 37% in the second against Hindenburg's 49% and 53%. By now the SA had 400,000 members and its running street battles with the SPD and Communist paramilitaries (who also fought each other) reduced some German cities to combat zones. Paradoxically, although the Nazis were among the main instigators of this disorder, part of Hitler's appeal to a frightened and demoralised middle class was his promise to restore law and order. Overt antisemitism was played down in official Nazi rhetoric, but was never far from the surface. Germans voted for Hitler primarily because of his promises to revive the economy (by unspecified means), to restore German greatness and overturn the Treaty of Versailles and to save Germany from communism. On 24 April 1932, the Free State of Prussia elections to the Landtag resulted in 36% of the votes and 162 seats for the NSDAP.

On 20 July 1932, the Prussian government was ousted by a coup, the Preussenschlag a few days later at the July 1932 Reichstag election the Nazis made another leap forward, polling 37% and becoming the largest party in parliament by a wide margin. Furthermore, the Nazis and the Communists between them won 52% of the vote and a majority of seats. Since both parties opposed the established political system and neither would join or support any ministry, this made the formation of a majority government impossible. The result was weak ministries governing by decree. Under Comintern directives, the Communists maintained their policy of treating the Social Democrats as the main enemy, calling them "social fascists", thereby splintering opposition to the Nazis. [e] Later, both the Social Democrats and the Communists accused each other of having facilitated Hitler's rise to power by their unwillingness to compromise.

Chancellor Franz von Papen called another Reichstag election in November, hoping to find a way out of this impasse. The electoral result was the same, with the Nazis and the Communists winning 50% of the vote between them and more than half the seats, rendering this Reichstag no more workable than its predecessor. However, support for the Nazis had fallen to 33.1%, suggesting that the Nazi surge had passed its peak—possibly because the worst of the Depression had passed, possibly because some middle-class voters had supported Hitler in July as a protest, but had now drawn back from the prospect of actually putting him into power. The Nazis interpreted the result as a warning that they must seize power before their moment passed. Had the other parties united, this could have been prevented, but their shortsightedness made a united front impossible. Papen, his successor Kurt von Schleicher and the nationalist press magnate Alfred Hugenberg spent December and January in political intrigues that eventually persuaded President Hindenburg that it was safe to appoint Hitler as Reich Chancellor, at the head of a cabinet including only a minority of Nazi ministers—which he did on 30 January 1933.

Ascension and consolidation

In Mein Kampf, Hitler directly attacked both left-wing and right-wing politics in Germany. [f] However, a majority of scholars identify Nazism in practice as being a far-right form of politics. [78] [ page needed ] When asked in an interview in 1934 whether the Nazis were "bourgeois right-wing" as alleged by their opponents, Hitler responded that Nazism was not exclusively for any class and indicated that it favoured neither the left nor the right, but preserved "pure" elements from both "camps" by stating: "From the camp of bourgeois tradition, it takes national resolve, and from the materialism of the Marxist dogma, living, creative Socialism". [79]

The votes that the Nazis received in the 1932 elections established the Nazi Party as the largest parliamentary faction of the Weimar Republic government. Hitler was appointed as Chancellor of Germany on 30 January 1933.

The Reichstag fire on 27 February 1933 gave Hitler a pretext for suppressing his political opponents. The following day he persuaded the Reich's President Paul von Hindenburg to issue the Reichstag Fire Decree, which suspended most civil liberties. The NSDAP won the parliamentary election on 5 March 1933 with 44% of votes, but failed to win an absolute majority. After the election, hundreds of thousands of new members joined the party for opportunistic reasons, most of them civil servants and white-collar workers. They were nicknamed the "casualties of March" (German: Märzgefallenen) or "March violets" (German: Märzveilchen). [80] To protect the party from too many non-ideological turncoats who were viewed by the so-called "old fighters" (alte Kämpfer) with some mistrust, [80] the party issued a freeze on admissions that remained in force from May 1933 to 1937. [81]

On 23 March, the parliament passed the Enabling Act of 1933, which gave the cabinet the right to enact laws without the consent of parliament. In effect, this gave Hitler dictatorial powers. Now possessing virtually absolute power, the Nazis established totalitarian control as they abolished labour unions and other political parties and imprisoned their political opponents, first at wilde Lager, improvised camps, then in concentration camps. Nazi Germany had been established, yet the Reichswehr remained impartial. Nazi power over Germany remained virtual, not absolute.

After taking power: intertwining of party and state

During June and July 1933, all competing parties were either outlawed or dissolved themselves and subsequently the Law against the founding of new parties of 14 July 1933 legally established the Nazi Party's monopoly. On 1 December 1933, the Law to secure the unity of party and state entered into force, which was the base for a progressive intertwining of party structures and state apparatus. [83] By this law, the SA—actually a party division—was given quasi-governmental authority and their leader was co-opted as an ex officio cabinet member. By virtue of a 30 January 1934 Law concerning the reorganisation of the Reich, the Länder (states) lost their statehood and were demoted to administrative divisions of the Reich's government (Gleichschaltung). Effectively, they lost most of their power to the Gaue that were originally just regional divisions of the party, but took over most competencies of the state administration in their respective sectors. [84]

During the Röhm Purge of 30 June to 2 July 1934 (also known as the "Night of the Long Knives"), Hitler disempowered the SA's leadership—most of whom belonged to the Strasserist (national revolutionary) faction within the NSDAP—and ordered them killed. He accused them of having conspired to stage a coup d'état, but it is believed that this was only a pretence to justify the suppression of any intraparty opposition. The purge was executed by the SS, assisted by the Gestapo and Reichswehr units. Aside from Strasserist Nazis, they also murdered anti-Nazi conservative figures like former chancellor Kurt von Schleicher. [85] After this, the SA continued to exist but lost much of its importance, while the role of the SS grew significantly. Formerly only a sub-organisation of the SA, it was made into a separate organisation of the NSDAP in July 1934. [86]

After the death of President Hindenburg on 2 August 1934, Hitler merged the offices of party leader, head of state and chief of government in one, taking the title of Führer und Reichskanzler. The Chancellery of the Führer, officially an organisation of the Nazi Party, took over the functions of the Office of the President (a government agency), blurring the distinction between structures of party and state even further. The SS increasingly exerted police functions, a development which was formally documented by the merger of the offices of Reichsführer-SS and Chief of the German Police on 17 June 1936, as the position was held by Heinrich Himmler who derived his authority directly from Hitler. [87] The Sicherheitsdienst (SD, formally the "Security Service of the Reichsführer-SS") that had been created in 1931 as an intraparty intelligence became the de facto intelligence agency of Nazi Germany. It was put under the Reich Security Main Office (RSHA) in 1939, which then coordinated SD, Gestapo and criminal police, therefore functioning as a hybrid organisation of state and party structures. [88]

Defeat and abolition

Officially, the Third Reich lasted only 12 years. The Instrument of Surrender was signed by representatives of the German High Command at Berlin, on 8 May 1945. The war in Europe had come to an end. The defeat of Germany in World War II marked the end of the Nazi Germany era. [89] The party was formally abolished on 10 October 1945 by the Allied Control Council and denazification began, along with trials of major war criminals before the International Military Tribunal (IMT) in Nuremberg. [90] Part of the Potsdam Agreement called for the destruction of the Nationalist Socialist Party alongside the requirement for the reconstruction of the German political life. [91] In addition, the Control Council Law no. 2 Providing for the Termination and Liquidation of the Nazi Organization specified the abolition of 52 other Nazi affiliated and supervised organisations and prohibited their activities. [92] The denazification was carried out in Germany and continued until the onset of the Cold War. [93] [ page needed ] [94]

Between 1939 and 1945, the Nazi Party led regime, assisted by collaborationist governments and recruits from occupied countries, was responsible for the deaths of at least eleven million people, [95] [96] including 5.5 to 6 million Jews (representing two-thirds of the Jewish population of Europe), [15] [97] [98] and between 200,000 and 1,500,000 Romani people. [99] [100] The estimated total number includes the killing of nearly two million non-Jewish Poles, [100] over three million Soviet prisoners of war, [101] communists, and other political opponents, homosexuals, the physically and mentally disabled. [102] [103]

The National Socialist Programme was a formulation of the policies of the party. It contained 25 points and is therefore also known as the "25-point plan" or "25-point programme". It was the official party programme, with minor changes, from its proclamation as such by Hitler in 1920, when the party was still the German Workers' Party, until its dissolution.

Command structure

Top leadership

At the top of the Nazi Party was the party chairman ("Der Führer"), who held absolute power and full command over the party. All other party offices were subordinate to his position and had to depend on his instructions. In 1934, Hitler founded a separate body for the chairman, Chancellery of the Führer, with its own sub-units.

Below the Führer's chancellery was first the "Staff of the Deputy Führer", headed by Rudolf Hess from 21 April 1933 to 10 May 1941 and then the "Party Chancellery" (Parteikanzlei), headed by Martin Bormann.


Directly subjected to the Führer were the Reichsleiter ("Reich Leader(s)"—the singular and plural forms are identical in German), whose number was gradually increased to eighteen. They held power and influence comparable to the Reich Ministers' in Hitler's Cabinet. The eighteen Reichsleiter formed the "Reich Leadership of the Nazi Party" (Reichsleitung der NSDAP), which was established at the so-called Brown House in Munich. Unlike a Gauleiter, a Reichsleiter did not have individual geographic areas under their command, but were responsible for specific spheres of interest.

Nazi Party offices

The Nazi Party had a number of party offices dealing with various political and other matters. These included:

  • Rassenpolitisches Amt der NSDAP (RPA): "NSDAP Office of Racial Policy"
  • Außenpolitische Amt der NSDAP (APA): "NSDAP Office of Foreign Affairs"
  • Kolonialpolitisches Amt der NSDAP (KPA): "NSDAP Office of Colonial Policy"
  • Wehrpolitisches Amt der NSDAP (WPA): "NSDAP Office of Military Policy"
  • Amt Rosenberg (ARo): "Rosenberg Office"

Paramilitary groups

In addition to the Nazi Party proper, several paramilitary groups existed which "supported" Nazi aims. All members of these paramilitary organisations were required to become regular Nazi Party members first and could then enlist in the group of their choice. An exception was the Waffen-SS, considered the military arm of the SS and Nazi Party, which during the Second World War allowed members to enlist without joining the Nazi Party. Foreign volunteers of the Waffen-SS were also not required to be members of the Nazi Party, although many joined local nationalist groups from their own countries with the same aims. Police officers, including members of the Gestapo, frequently held SS rank for administrative reasons (known as "rank parity") and were likewise not required to be members of the Nazi Party.

A vast system of Nazi Party paramilitary ranks developed for each of the various paramilitary groups. This was part of the process of Gleichschaltung with the paramilitary and auxiliary groups swallowing existing associations and federations after the Party was flooded by millions of membership applications. [104]

The major Nazi Party paramilitary groups were as follows:

  • Schutzstaffel (SS): "Protection Squadron" (both Allgemeine SS and Waffen-SS)
  • Sturmabteilung (SA): "Storm Division"
  • Nationalsozialistisches Fliegerkorps (NSFK): "National Socialist Flyers Corps"
  • Nationalsozialistisches Kraftfahrerkorps (NSKK): "National Socialist Motor Corps"

The Hitler Youth was a paramilitary group divided into an adult leadership corps and a general membership open to boys aged fourteen to eighteen. The League of German Girls was the equivalent group for girls.

Affiliated organisations

Certain nominally independent organisations had their own legal representation and own property, but were supported by the Nazi Party. Many of these associated organisations were labour unions of various professions. Some were older organisations that were nazified according to the Gleichschaltung policy after the 1933 takeover.

  • Reich League of German Officials (union of civil servants, predecessor to German Civil Service Federation) (DAF)
  • National Socialist League for the Maintenance of the Law (NSRB, 1936–1945, earlier National Socialist German Lawyers' League) (NSKOV) (NSLB) (NSV) (RAD) (RKB) (TENO) (RLB) (RKB) (BDO)

The employees of large businesses with international operations such as Deutsche Bank, Dresdner Bank, and Commerzbank were mostly party members. [105] All German businesses abroad were also required to have their own Nazi Party Ausland-Organization liaison men, which enabled the party leadership to obtain updated and excellent intelligence on the actions of the global corporate elites. [106] [ page needed ]

For the purpose of centralisation in the Gleichschaltung process a rigidly hierarchal structure was established in the Nazi Party, which it later carried through in the whole of Germany in order to consolidate total power under the person of Hitler (Führerstaat). It was regionally sub-divided into a number of Gaue (singular: Gau) headed by a Gauleiter, who received their orders directly from Hitler. The name (originally a term for sub-regions of the Holy Roman Empire headed by a Gaugraf) for these new provincial structures was deliberately chosen because of its mediaeval connotations. The term is approximately equivalent to the English shire.

While the Nazis maintained the nominal existence of state and regional governments in Germany itself, this policy was not extended to territories acquired after 1937. Even in German-speaking areas such as Austria, state and regional governments were formally disbanded as opposed to just being dis-empowered.

After the Anschluss a new type of administrative unit was introduced called a Reichsgau. In these territories the Gauleiters also held the position of Reichsstatthalter, thereby formally combining the spheres of both party and state offices. The establishment of this type of district was subsequently carried out for any further territorial annexations of Germany both before and during World War II. Even the former territories of Prussia were never formally re-integrated into what was then Germany's largest state after being re-taken in the 1939 Polish campaign.

The Gaue and Reichsgaue (state or province) were further sub-divided into Kreise (counties) headed by a Kreisleiter, which were in turn sub-divided into Zellen (cells) and Blocken (blocks), headed by a Zellenleiter and Blockleiter respectively.

A reorganisation of the Gaue was enacted on 1 October 1928. The given numbers were the official ordering numbers. The statistics are from 1941, for which the Gau organisation of that moment in time forms the basis. Their size and populations are not exact for instance, according to the official party statistics the Gau Kurmark/Mark Brandenburg was the largest in the German Reich. [107] [ page needed ] By 1941, there were 42 territorial Gaue for Germany, [g] 7 of them for Austria, the Sudetenland (in Czechoslovakia), Danzig and the Territory of the Saar Basin, along with the unincorporated regions under German control known as the Protectorate of Bohemia-Moravia and the General Government, established after the joint invasion of Poland by Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union in 1939 at the onset of World War II. [108] Getting the leadership of the individual Gaue to co-operate with one another proved difficult at times since there was constant administrative and financial jockeying for control going on between them. [109]

The table below uses the organizational structure that existed before its dissolution in 1945. More information on the older Gaue is in the second table.

Nazi Party Gaue

Nr. Gau Headquarters Area (km 2 ) Inhabitants (1941) Gauleiter (exl. deputies)
01 Baden-Elsaß Karlsruhe, after 1940 Strasbourg 23,350 2,502,023 Robert Heinrich Wagner from 1925 (later also Reichsstatthalter)
02 Bayreuth, renaming of Gau Bayerische Ostmark (Bavarian Eastern March) Bayreuth 29,600 2,370,658 Fritz Wächtler (2 June 1942 – 19 April 1945)
Ludwig Ruckdeschel from 19 April 1945.
03 Groß-Berlin Berlin 884 4,338,756 Ernst Schlange (1925–1926)
Joseph Goebbels (1 November 1926 – 30 April 1945)
04 Danzig-Westpreußen Danzig 26,057 2,287,394 Hans Albert Hohnfeldt (1926–1928)
Walter Maass (1928–1930)
Albert Forster from 15 October 1930
05 Düsseldorf Düsseldorf 2,672 2,261,909 Friedrich Karl Florian from 1 January 1930
06 Essen Essen 2,825 1,921,326 Josef Terboven (Oberpräsident) from 1928
07 Franken Nuremberg 7,618 1,077,216 Julius Streicher (1929 to 1940)
Hans Zimmermann (16 February 1940 – 1942)
Karl Holz from 19 March 1942
08 Halle-Merseburg Halle an der Saale 10,202 1,578,292 Walter Ernst (1 August 1926 – 1927)
Paul Hinkler (1927–1930)
Rudolf Jordan (1930 – 20 April 1937)
Joachim Albrecht Eggeling from 20 April 1937
09 Hamburg Hamburg 747 1,711,877 Joseph Klant (1925–1926)
Albert Krebs (1927–1928)
Hinrich Lohse (1928 – 15 April 1929)
Karl Kaufmann from 15 April 1929
10 Hessen-Nassau Frankfurt 15,030 3,117,266 Jakob Sprenger from 1933
11 Kärnten Klagenfurt 11,554 449,713 Hans vom Kothen (February 1933 to July 1934)
Peter Feistritzer (October 1936 – 20 February 1938)
Hubert Klausner (1938–1939)
Franz Kutschera (1940–1941)
Friedrich Rainer (1942–1944)
12 Köln-Aachen Köln 8,162 2,432,095 Joseph Grohé from 1931
13 Kurhessen Kassel 9,200 971,887 Walter Schultz (1926–1927)
Karl Weinrich (1928–1943)
Karl Gerland from 1943
14 Magdeburg-Anhalt Dessau 13,910 1,820,416 Wilhelm Friedrich Loeper from 1927 to 23 October 1935 with a short replacement by Paul Hofmann in 1933
Joachim Albrecht Leo Eggeling (1935–1937)
Rudolf Jordan from 1937
15 Mainfranken, renaming of Gau Unterfranken Würzburg 8,432 840,663 Otto Hellmuth from 3 September 1928
16 Mark Brandenburg Berlin 38,278 3,007,933 Wilhelm Kube (6 March 1933 – 7 August 1936)
Emil Stürtz
17 Mecklenburg Schwerin 15,722 900,427 Friedrich Hildebrandt from 1925 onwards with a short replacement by Herbert Albrecht (July 1930 – 1931)
18 Moselland, renaming of Gau Koblenz-Trier in 1942 Koblenz 11,876 1,367,354 Gustav Simon from 1 June 1931
19 München-Oberbayern, Munich 16,411 1,938,447 Adolf Wagner (1933–1944)
Paul Giesler from April 1944
20 Niederdonau Nominal capital: Krems, District Headquarters: Vienna 23,502 1,697,676 Roman Jäger (12 March 1938 – 24 May 1938)
Hugo Jury (24 May 1938 – 8 May 1945)
21 Niederschlesien Breslau 26,985 3,286,539 Karl Hanke from 1940
22 Oberdonau Linz 14,216 1,034,871 Andreas Bolek (June 1927 – 1 August 1934)
August Eigruber from March 1935
23 Oberschlesien Kattowitz 20,636 4,341,084 Fritz Bracht from 27 January 1941
24 Ost-Hannover (also known as Hannover-Ost) Harburg, then Buchholz, after 1 April 1937 Lüneburg 18,006 1,060,509 from 1 October 1928 Otto Telschow
25 Ostpreußen Königsberg 52,731 3,336,777 Bruno Gustav Scherwitz (1925–1927)
Erich Koch from 1928
26 Pommern Stettin 38,409 2,393,844 Theodor Vahlen (1925–1927)
Walter von Corswant (1928–1931)
Wilhelm Karpenstein (1931–1934)
Franz Schwede-Coburg from 1935
27 Sachsen Dresden 14,995 5,231,739 Albert Wierheim around 1925/1926
Martin Mutschmann from 1925
28 Salzburg Salzburg 7,153 257,226 Leopold Malina from 1926 to ??
Karl Scharizer (1932–1934)
Friedrich Rainer (1939–1941)
Gustav Adolf Scheel from 1941
29 Schleswig-Holstein Kiel 15,687 1,589,267 Hinrich Lohse from 1925
30 Schwaben Augsburg 10,231 946,212 Karl Wahl from 1928
31 Steiermark Graz 17,384 1,116,407 Walther Oberhaidacher (25 November 1928 – 1934)
Sepp Helfrich (1934–1938)
Siegfried Uiberreither from 22 May 1938
32 Sudetenland, until 1939 known as Gau Sudetengau Reichenberg 22,608 2,943,187 Konrad Henlein from 1939
33 Südhannover-Braunschweig Hannover 14,553 2,136,961 Bernhard Rust (1 October 1928 – November 1940)
Hartmann Lauterbacher from November 1940
34 Thüringen Weimar 15,763 2,446,182 Artur Dinter (1925–1927)
Fritz Sauckel from 1927
35 Tirol-Vorarlberg Innsbruck 13,126 486,400 Franz Hofer from 1932
36 Wartheland, (until 29 January 1940 known as Gau Warthegau) Posen 43,905 4,693,722 Arthur Karl Greiser from 21 October 1939
37 Weser-Ems Oldenburg 15,044 1,839,302 Carl Röver (1929–1942)
Paul Wegener from 1942
38 Westfalen-Nord Münster 14,559 2,822,603 Alfred Meyer from 1932
39 Westfalen-Süd Bochum 7,656 2,678,026 Josef Wagner (1932–1941)
Paul Giesler (1941 – 1943/1944)
Albert Hoffmann from 1943/1944
40 Westmark, renaming of Gau Saar-Pfalz (also known as Saarpfalz) Neustadt an der Weinstraße, after 1940 Saarbrücken 14,713 1,892,240 Josef Bürckel (1935 – 28 September 1944)
Willi Stöhr from 28 September 1944
41 Wien Vienna 1,216 1,929,976 Alfred Eduard Frauenfeld (1932–1938)
Odilo Globocnik (May 1938 – January 1939)
Josef Bürckel (1939–1940)
Baldur von Schirach from 1940
42 Württemberg-Hohenzollern Stuttgart 20,657 2,974,373 Eugen Mander (1925–1928)
Wilhelm Murr from 1928
43 Auslandsorganisation (also known as NSDAP/AO) Berlin Hans Nieland (1930–1933)
Ernst Wilhelm Bohle from 8 May 1933
  • Flanders, existed from 15 December 1944 (Gauleiter in German exile: Jef van de Wiele)
  • Wallonia, existed from 8 December 1944 (Gauleiter in German exile: Léon Degrelle)

Gaue dissolved before 1945

Simple re-namings of existing Gaue without territorial changes is marked with the initials RN in the column "later became". The numbering is not based on any official former ranking, but merely listed alphabetically.

Nr. Gau consisted of later became . together with Gauleiter
01 Anhalt Magdeburg-Anhalt (1927) Elbe-Havel Gustav Hermann Schmischke
02 Baden Baden-Elsaß (22 March 1941) RN see above
03 Bayerische Ostmark Oberfranken & Niederbayern-Oberpfalz (II) (19 January 1933) Bayreuth (2 June 1942) RN Hans Schemm from 19 January 1933 to 5 March 1935, then from 5 March 1935 Fritz Wächtler
04 Berlin Berlin-Brandenburg (1 October 1928) Groß-Berlin RN Dr. Joseph Goebbels
05 Berlin-Brandenburg Berlin & Brandenburg (1 October 1928) Ernst Schlange from 1925 to 1926, then from 1 November 1926 Joseph Goebbels
06 Brandenburg Berlin-Brandenburg (1 October 1928) Kurmark (6 March 1933) Ostmark from 1 October 1928 to 1932 Emil Holtz and from 18 October 1932 to 16 March 1933 Dr. Ernst Schlange
07 Braunschweig Süd-Hannover-Braunschweig (1 October 1928) Hannover-Süd from 1925 to 30 September 1928 Ludolf Haase (perhaps also only for Hannover-Süd)
08 Danzig Danzig-Westpreußen (1939) RN see above
09 Elbe-Havel Magdeburg-Anhalt (1927) Anhalt from 25 November 1925 to 1926 [?] Alois Bachschmidt
10 Groß-München ("Traditionsgau") München-Oberbayern (1933) Oberbayern [?]
11 Hannover-Süd Süd-Hannover-Braunschweig (1 October 1928) Braunschweig from 1925 to 30 September 1928 Ludolf Haase (perhaps also only Braunschweig)
12 Hessen-Darmstadt Hessen-Nassau (1933) Hessen-Nassau-Süd from 1 March 1927 to 9 January 1931 Friedrich Ringshausen, then only in 1931 Peter Gemeinder, then from 1932 to 1933 Karl Lenz
13 Hessen-Nassau-Nord Kurhessen (1934) [?]
14 Hessen-Nassau-Süd Hessen-Nassau (1933) Hessen-Darmstadt from 1925 to 1926 Anton Haselmayer, then from 1926 to 1927 Dr. Walter Schultz, then from 1927 to 1933 Jakob Sprenger
15 Koblenz-Trier Rheinland-Süd (1931) Moselland (1942) merger [?]
16 Kurmark Ostmark & Brandenburg ([?]) Mark Brandenburg (1938) RN see above
17 Lüneburg-Stade Ost-Hannover (1928) RN from 22 March 1925 to 30 September 1928 Bernhard Rust
18 Mittelfranken Franken (1929) Nuremberg-Forth-Erlangen Julius Streicher ("Frankenführer")
19 Niederbayern Niederbayern-Oberpfalz (I) (1 October 1928) Niederbayern-Oberpfalz (II) (1 April 1932) Oberpfalz from 1 October 1928 to 1929 Gregor Strasser, then from 1929 to 1 April 1932 Otto Erbersdobler
20 Niederbayern-Oberpfalz (I) Oberpfalz & Niederbayern (1 October 1928) from 1925 to 30 September 1928 Gregor Strasser
21 Niederbayern-Oberpfalz (II) Oberpfalz & Niederbayern (1 April 1932) Bayerische Ostmark (19 January 1933) Oberfranken from 1 April 1932 to 19 January 1933 Franz Mayerhofer
22 Niederösterreich Niederdonau ([?]) RN [??] from 1927 to 1937 Josef Leopold [possibly Lücke from 1937 to 1939, since he is the first Gauleiter for Niederdonau who is actually known]
23 Nuremberg-Forth-Erlangen Franken (1929) Mittelfranken from 3 September 1928 Wilhelm Grimm
24 Oberbayern München-Oberbayern (1933) Groß-München [?]
25 Oberfranken Bayerische Ostmark (19 January 1933) Niederbayern-Oberpfalz (II) from 1928 Hans Schemm
26 Oberösterreich Oberdonau ([?]) RN [precise moment of leader designation unknown, see also "Oberdonau"]
27 Oberpfalz Niederbayern-Oberpfalz (I) (1 October 1928) Niederbayern-Oberpfalz (II) (1 April 1932) Niederbayern from 1 October 1928 to 1 April 1932 Franz Mayerhofer
28 Ostmark Kurmark (6 March 1933) Brandenburg from 2 January 1928 to 1933 Wilhelm Kube
29 Rheinland Saar-Pfalz (1935) Saar(land) from 1926 Josef Bürckel (from 1 March 1933 also administrator of Saarland)
30 Rheinland-Nord Ruhr (1926) Westfalen from 1925 to 1926 Karl Kaufmann
31 Rheinland-Süd [?Koblenz-Trier also autonomous before 1931?] Köln-Aachen & Koblenz-Trier (1931) 1925 Heinrich Haake (also known as "Heinz Haake"), then from 1925 to 1931 Robert Ley
32 Ruhr Rheinland-Nord & Westfalen (1926) Westfalen-Nord & Westfalen-Süd (1932) Düsseldorf (1930) partially creation of Düsseldorf nicht gesichert from 1926 to 1929 Karl Kaufmann, then from 1929 to 1931 [?not 1932?] Josef Wagner
33 Saarland, also merely Saar Saar-Pfalz (1935) Rheinland from August 1929 to 28 February 1933 Karl Brück, from 1 March 1933 Josef Bürckel (also administrator of Rheinland)
34 Saar-Pfalz, also Saarpfalz Rheinland & Saar(land) (1935) Westmark (1937) RN see above
35 Schlesien Niederschlesien & Oberschlesien (1940) from 15 March 1925 to 25 December 1935 (possibly until only 12 December 1934) Helmuth Brückner, then to 1940 Josef Wagner
36 Sudetengau Sudetenland (1939) RN [?]
37 Unterfranken Mainfranken (1935) RN see above
38 Warthegau Wartheland (29 January 1940) RN see above
39 Westfalen Ruhr (1926) Rheinland-Nord from 1925 to 1926 Franz Pfeffer von Salomon

Associated organisations abroad

Gaue in Switzerland

The irregular Swiss branch of the Nazi Party also established a number of Party Gaue in that country, most of them named after their regional capitals. These included Gau Basel-Solothurn, Gau Schaffhausen, Gau Luzern, Gau Bern and Gau Zürich. [110] [111] [112] The Gau Ostschweiz (East Switzerland) combined the territories of three cantons: St. Gallen, Thurgau and Appenzell. [113]

Hitler's Germany - History

Scholars Timothy Ryback, Wendy Lower, Jonathan Petropoulos, Michael Berenbaum, and Peter Hayes discuss Adolf Hitler’s final steps in securing total power in Germany.



Transcript (PDF)

Transcript (Text)

Hitler was appointed chancellor of Germany in January 1933. But his maneuvering for authoritarian control of the country was not yet complete, nor was his success inevitable.

Hitler's government was fairly fragile at that point. He had been appointed chancellor by the President of Germany, who had appointed and dismissed three chancellors in the previous 12 months. And there was nothing stopping him from doing the same with Adolf Hitler. No one anticipated— really could have anticipated what was to come.

So this is the end of January 1933. And by the end of June 1933, it's a one-party system. And I think that's so important to look at. How do you get from this democracy to a one-party dictatorship in six months? It's a combination of the weaknesses of the existing system and opportunities. By opportunities, I mean the Reichstag fire.

February 27, 1933, the German Reichstag explodes in flame from an arson attack. There's crashing glass, there's twisted steel, there's surging flames. This was an attack on the very symbol of German democracy and was traumatizing.

The Nazis found three Bulgarians, put them on trial, and claimed that this was the communists' attempt to destroy Germany and destroy the Reichstag. And it gave Hitler the opportunity to draft emergency legislation that Hindenburg signed. It suspended civil liberties, including habeas corpus, knowing why you're arrested. It deputized the SA, the Stormtroopers, and made them effectively a police who could arrest people, arrest enemies.

So they immediately target both the communists, the socialists, male and female state delegates, and often their spouses.

In Bavaria alone, they round up 10,000 people. Now suddenly, the prisons are over capacity, and the jails are filled. They're using schools. They're using sports halls.

It led directly to the first concentration camp in Dachau outside of Munich. And so this was a crucial step in the Nazis' consolidation of power. The Nazis built on this. Most crucially, I think, was the Enabling Act of March 23, 1933. And this is when the Reichstag amended the Weimar Constitution— they required a 2/3 votes to do so— and gave Hitler emergency powers for four years.

That's a period of time of great violence. People want law and order, calmness and legitimacy. They don't want violence every day. And we've seen, in the United States even, that whenever there are eruptions of violence, people are prepared to say, we will take law and order and even the sacrifice of some of our basic freedoms— in order to what? Eliminate the violence.

So it all seems like order is being restored from a standpoint of an ordinary German. When you take a peek— and as historians, we can look back and look at all these decrees— no, this is the dismantling of democracy. This is the establishment of a one-party dictatorship. And this is the beginning of a terror.

After exploiting the chaos of the Reichstag fire and using the law to eliminate democratic checks on his power, Hitler used his new found authority to go after those he claimed were damaging the social fabric of German society, which included homosexuals, Jehovah's Witnesses, the mentally handicapped, Germans of African descent, and Jews.

April 1, you have the boycott of Jewish businesses. April 7, you have the expulsion of Jews from the civil service. May 10, literally the 100th day in office, you have the book burning. And the book burning, what, sets out the idea that Jews have no place in German cultural life— not only Jews, but people who support the idea of democracy itself.

By July 14, 1933, Hitler takes a step of banning all other political parties. And suddenly, the Nazis, it's a one-party state. And one thing is okay, so now, the seizure of power is completed. But no, not the case.

There's a year interval after that when the principal challenges to Hitler are from inside his own party rather than from outside. He's managed to crush most of the opposition. But within the party, there are people who want to proceed even more radically than he does, particularly people in the Stormtroopers, the SA, who are interested in acquiring influence over the German military. And so between 1933 and 1934, his principal challenge is, how do I manage these people? He manages them in June of 1934, basically by killing them.

We don't know exactly how many individuals were killed. Most historians now say 200 or more. And it was a really bloody affair. It was not just a purge of SA leaders who threatened Hitler. Hitler used it as an opportunity to settle scores. And what's so important is that Hitler was completely upfront about this. He went to the public, and he said, I'm responsible for Germany. I take responsibility. I have executed these people who I'm charging with treason. I mean, these are extrajudicial murders. These are murders with no trial. It was a way to intimidate the German population, to say we will use violence if you oppose us.

And that is the coup that puts him finally in power. President Von Hindenburg died about a month and a half later. And that meant that there was no one who could effectively challenge Hitler for any power in the state— certainly, no one who could have influenced the army to be opposed to Hitler. And the army was the only force that was still strong enough to have done that.

Germany 1933: From democracy to dictatorship

In 1933, Hitler came to power and turned Germany into a dictatorship. How did the Nazi party come to power and how did Hitler manage to eliminate his opponents?

The weakness of the Weimar republic after WWI

Germany became a republic in 1919. After losing the First World War, Kaiser Wilhelm II abdicated. Many Germans were dissatisfied with the new situation. They longed for a return to the Empire. Many people also believed that the ruling social democrats were to blame for losing the war. Nevertheless, things started to look up from the mid-1920s onwards.

And then in 1930, the global economic crisis hit. Germany could no longer pay the war debts stipulated in the Versailles Peace Treaty. Millions of Germans lost their jobs. The country was in a political crisis as well. Cabinets were falling, and new elections were held all the time. It seemed impossible to form a majority government.

The rise of the NSDAP

This was the backdrop to the rise of the German National Socialist Workers' Party (NSDAP). When it was founded in 1920, it was only a small party. But Hitler used his oratory talent to attract more and more members. The party was characterised by extreme nationalism and antisemitism.

In November 1923, Hitler even led a coup attempt. It was a complete failure. Hitler ended up behind bars and the court banned the NSDAP. At the end of 1924, Hitler was released after serving a relatively short sentence. However, his political career was not over. In prison he had written Mein Kampf, setting out his plans for Germany.

From then on, the Nazis were to stick to the law and try to gain power by means of elections. They benefited from the economic crisis that began by the end of the 1920s. The Nazis used the crisis to condemn the government and the Versailles peace treaty. Their strategy was effective. In the 1928 elections, the NSDAP gained 0.8 million votes in 1930, the number had increased to 6.4 million.

The appeal of the Nazis

The fact that many Germans were attracted by the NSDAP was not only because of their party programme. The party radiated strength and vitality. Moreover, the Nazi leaders were young, quite unlike the greying politicians of the established parties. In addition, Hitler's image as a strong leader appealed to people. He was all set to unite the population and put an end to political discord.

The Nazis focused on voters from all walks of life, rather than on just one group, such as the workers or Catholics. They also attracted many people who had never voted before. Still, in November 1932 the party seemed to be past its peak. The economy was recovering, and the NSDAP received 11% fewer votes than in the July elections earlier that same year.

Hitler appointed Chancellor

The conservative parties did not manage to win enough votes. They pressured president Paul von Hindenburg to appoint Hitler chancellor. They hoped to form a majority cabinet with the NSDAP. The fact that they expected to use Hitler for their own agenda would turn out to be a fatal underestimation.

30 January 1933 was the day: Von Hindenburg gave in and appointed Hitler chancellor. ‘It is like a dream. The Wilhelmstraße is ours', Joseph Goebbels, the future Minister of Propaganda, wrote in his diary. So, although Hitler was not elected by the German people, he still came to power in a legal way.

National Socialist government: the Nazis share the power

The National Socialists celebrated their victory with a torchlight procession through Berlin. From the balcony of the chancellery, Hitler looked on approvingly. In spite of the glory, he was still far from being all-powerful at that point. The new cabinet counted only two NSDAP members, but Hitler succeeded in getting them appointed to important positions.

Hermann Göring’s role in particular was very important. He was a minister without portfolio who got to control the police force of Prussia, the larger part of Germany. For the Nazis, this was reason to celebrate their 'national revolution', but many Germans were indifferent to the news. They had seen many governments come and go and did not expect the new government to last any time at all.

Fire in the Reichstag: a first step towards the dictatorship

Before long, Hitler claimed more power. The fire in the Reichstag, the parliament building, was a key moment in this development. On 27 February 1933, guards noticed the flames blazing through the roof. They overpowered the suspected arsonist, a Dutch communist named Marinus van der Lubbe. He was executed after a show trial in 1934. Evidence of any accomplices was never found.

The Nazi leadership was quick to arrive at the scene. An eyewitness said that upon seeing the fire, Göring called out: ‘This is the beginning of the Communist revolt, they will start their attack now! Not a moment must be lost!' Before he could go on, Hitler shouted: 'There will be no mercy now. Anyone who stands in our way will be cut down.’

The next morning, President Von Hindenburg promulgated the Reichstag Fire Decree. It formed the basis for the dictatorship. The civil rights of the German people were curtailed. Freedom of expression was no longer a matter of course and the police could arbitrarily search houses and arrest people. The political opponents of the Nazis were essentially outlawed.

Oppression of all opponents

In this atmosphere of intimidation, new elections were held on 5 March 1933. The streets were full of Nazi posters and flags. Nevertheless, the great victory hoped for by the Nazis did not materialise. With 43.9% of the votes, the NSDAP did not have a majority. The left-wing parties KPD and SPD together still got 30% of the votes.

Meanwhile, the arrests and intimidation were on the increase. The government banned the Communist Party. By 15 March, 10,000 communists had been arrested. In order to house all these political prisoners, the first concentration camps were opened. The circumstances in the camps were atrocious. People were ill-treated, tortured, and sometimes killed.

Jews and well-known Germans in particular had a rough time of it. SS guards at the Dachau camp, near Munich, for instance, took four Jewish prisoners outside the gates, where they shot them dead. The guards then claimed that the victims had tried to escape.

Hitler gains more power

On 23 March 1933, the Reichstag met in Berlin. The main item on the agenda was a new law, the 'Enabling Act'. It allowed Hitler to enact new laws without interference from the president or Reichstag for a period of four years. The building where the meeting took place was surrounded by members of the SA and the SS, paramilitary organisations of the NSDAP that had by now been promoted to auxiliary police forces.

In his speech, Hitler gave those present the choice between 'war and peace'. It was a veiled threat to intimidate any dissenters. The process was by no means democratic. With 444 votes in favour and 94 against, the Reichstag adopted the Enabling Act. It was to form the basis of the Nazi dictatorship until 1945.

Gleichschaltung of society

Now that Hitler had become so powerful, it was time for the Nazis to bring society in line with the Nazi ideal. The process was known as Gleichschaltung. Many politically-suspect and Jewish civil servants were dismissed. Trade unions were forcibly replaced by the Deutsche Arbeitsfront. This allowed the Nazis to prevent workers from organising any opposition.

All existing political parties were banned. From mid-July 1933 onwards, Germany was a single-party state. Cultural and scientific ‘cleansings’ were carried out as well.

According to the Nazis, everything ‘un-German' had to disappear. Books written by Jewish, left-wing, or pacifist writers were burned.

Oppression of the Jews

While the Nazis took over, their destructive energy was mainly directed against their political opponents. The German Jews formed the exception. As a group, they did not oppose the ambitions of the Nazis. Nevertheless, they were the constant victims of violence, harassment, and oppression. As early as 1 April 1933, the government took official action against the Jews. It announced a major boycott of Jewish products. It was the first step in a series of anti-Jewish measures that would end in the Holocaust.

Hitler the autocrat

After taking power, Hitler and the Nazis turned Germany into a dictatorship. Time and again, they used legal means to give their actions a semblance of legality. Step by step, Hitler managed to erode democracy until it was just a hollow facade. Things did not end there, though. During the twelve years that the Third Reich existed, Hitler continued to strengthen his hold on the country.

Founder of the Gestapo in 1933, Minister of the Economic Four-Year Plan, Reichsmarschall (senior to all other Wehrmacht commanders), named Hitler’s successor in 1941, deputy to Hitler in all of his offices.

A former ace fighter pilot in World War I, he received the Blue Max and was commander of the fighter wing that included Richthofen, also known as the Red Baron.

Hitler's Germany - History

Hand selected, recommended books on Hitler's Germany chosen by The History Place and made available for instant purchase from Amazon.com!

The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich by William L. Shirer - This is still the best history of Hitler's Germany, written by an American journalist who witnessed many important events. CBS radio correspondent Shirer spent several years in close proximity to Hitler, witnessing the Nazi attempt to conquer Europe. After the war, Shirer spent over five years sifting through Nazi documents to write this definitive history. "One of the most important works of history of our time."-- The New York Times.

Also available Berlin Diary by William L. Shirer - The daily life of CBS radio correspondent Shirer in Hitler's Germany - includes witnessing the surrender of France. This is Shirer's private account as he watched Hitler take Germany down the road toward war in the last half of the 1930s. Shirer's reactions to the Nazi mentality he encountered provide unique insight. Highly recommended.

Encyclopedia of the Third Reich - Provides a wealth of information in a single volume that can quickly answer most commonly asked questions. "Open this extraordinary work anywhere - and you won't be able to stop reading. " - The New York Times. Highly recommended for students.

In the Name of the Volk: Political Justice in Hitler's Germany by H. W. Koch - The history and mentality behind the infamous Nazi People's Court, with special emphasis on the career of Roland Freisler, president of the court from 1942-1945. Under Freisler, the court defined treason, punishable by death, as all political actions or intentions it found distasteful - including the feeding of political prisoners and any criticism of Hitler. Also covers the trials resulting from the failed assassination attempt on Hitler, July 20, 1944.

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Adolf Hitler by John Toland - Based on previously unpublished documents, diaries, notes, photographs and interviews with Hitler's colleagues and associates. This is considered by many to be the definitive biography of the Nazi leader.

Hitler: 1889-1936 Hubris by Ian Kershaw - This first installment of a two-part biography by the noted British historian covers the period from Hitler's birth in 1889 through Germany's reoccupation of the Rhineland in 1936. Kershaw utilized historical documents which had not been available to previous biographers, including Russian archives, to create this important new biography of Hitler.

Hitler: 1936-1945 Nemesis by Ian Kershaw - The second part covers Hitler's political and military ascension to the brink of world domination and eventual downfall, along with a campaign of persecution on a continental scale that led to the death camps.

Hitler's Table Talk by Adolf Hitler, Norman Cameron (Translator), R. H. Stevens (Translator), with an introduction by Hugh Trevor-Roper - From 1941-44 Hitler's private conversations were all recorded by a team of specially picked shorthand writers. In this book, Hitler talks freely about his enemies, his friends, his ambitions, his failures, and his secret dreams, voicing his thoughts to intimate Nazi associates.

The Hitler Book : The Secret Dossier Prepared for Stalin - A remarkable narrative originally complied by the Soviets in 1949, based on the four-year-long interrogations of Otto Guensche and Heinz Linge, Hitler's personal aides, during their postwar captivity in Russia.

The Night of Long Knives by Max Gallo - A step by step, hour by hour reconstruction of the events of June 29 to July 2, 1934, as Hitler conducted an orgy of arrests and assassinations against his former close comrades including storm trooper leader, Ernst Roehm.

Hitler and Stalin: Parallel Lives by Alan Bullock - The amazing similarities of the two most destructive personalities of this century, uncovering their origins, early careers, and methods of seizing and using power. Written by famed British historian Bullock.

The Last Days of Hitler by Hugh Trevor-Roper - The complete story of the last ten days of Hitler's life in his underground bunker in Berlin, as told by Trevor-Roper who was appointed by the British Intelligence to investigate the conflicting evidence surrounding Hitler's final days.

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Lest We Forget: A History of the Holocaust CD-ROM - 500 photographs, 30 minutes of video clips, 40 minutes of audio, interactive maps, extensive original text, narration, and more, all combine to provide powerful testimony and an incomparable study of Nazi persecution of the Jews. Highly recommended.

Dictionary of the Holocaust : Biographic, Geographic, and Terminology Reference by Eric Joseph Epstein, Philip Rosen - Covers all aspects of the Holocaust--people, places, and events. Designed as a quick reference for high-school and college students, providing brief factual or statistical information. 2,000 entries are arranged alphabetically. Biographies record birth and death dates, the person's connection to the Holocaust, and their fate.

Auschwitz : A New History by Laurence Rees - (Companion book to the BBC Documentary) A concise narrative history of Auschwitz utilizing insights from over 100 recent interviews with Nazi perpetrators and Auschwitz survivors, examining the camp's origins and gradual evolution into Nazi Germany's most notorious death camp.

The Buchenwald Report translated by David A. Hackett - A comprehensive collection of first-hand accounts compiled by U.S. Army intelligence from prisoners at Buchenwald, the first major concentration camp liberated by the Western Allies. This unique report is the only case in which liberated prisoners were interviewed while still inside the camp, thus providing a very clear picture of life and death in a Nazi concentration camp. Thought to be lost for years, a single copy of the Buchenwald Report was recently discovered and is presented in this book in its entirety for the first time.

Anne Frank: The Biography by Melissa Muller - The first biography of the vivacious, intelligent Jewish girl with a crooked smile and huge dark eyes who has become the "human face of the Holocaust." Utilizes exclusive interviews with family and friends, previously unavailable correspondence, and documents long kept secret, providing a deeper, richer understanding of Anne and the Nazi era.
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Anne Frank: Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank - The extraordinary diary of a young German-Jewish girl forced into hiding for 25 months with her family in a small attic during World War II. Unable to go outside for any reason, she must cope with the boredom, fear, annoyances, and loneliness of captivity, but through it all manages to remain hopeful.

I Never Saw Another Butterfly : Children's Drawings and Poems from Terezin Concentration Camp, 1942-1944 - 15,000 young children passed through the Terezin Concentration Camp. Fewer than 100 survived. In these poems and pictures drawn by the young inmates, we see the daily misery of these uprooted children, as well as their hopes and fears, their courage and optimism. 60 color illustrations.

The Nazi Doctors : Medical Killing and the Psychology of Genocide by Robert Jay Lifton - Renowned psychiatrist Lifton examines the role of German doctors in Nazi euthanasia and genocide. This powerful study, the result of ten years of painstaking research and extensive interviews, sheds light not only on the origins of the Holocaust, but explains how physicians, sworn by oath and conviction to ease suffering, were transformed from healers to systematic killers.

Night by Elie Wiesel - The 1986 Nobel Peace Prize winner gives a terrifying account of the Nazi death camp horror he experienced as a young boy. This is a small book at 109 pages but is also one of the most powerful documents ever written concerning the Nazis. Recommended for middle school and high school aged students learning about the Holocaust.

Rena's Promise : A Story of Sisters in Auschwitz by Rene Kornreich Gelissen, Heather Dune Macadam - Among the first 999 Jewish girls on the first transport brought into Auschwitz on March 26, 1942, was twenty-one year old Rena Kornreich who would endure the Nazi death camp for the next three and a half years. This remarkable story of Rena's survival reveals at its core not a lone heroic struggle, but the power of an unusual relationship between Rena and her younger sister, Danka, who gave her the will to go on under unimaginable circumstances.
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Children of a Vanished World - Features 70 extraordinary B&W photos of children taken by Roman Vishniac in traditional Jewish Eastern European villages between 1935-1938 on the eve of the Holocaust. The high quality images are accompanied by songs and rhymes the children spoke and sang that made them smile, presented in the original Yiddish with English translations.

Divided Lives : The Untold Stories of Jewish-Christian Women in Nazi Germany by Cynthia A. Crane - Uncovers the hidden life stories of ten ("half-breed") women, children of Jewish-Christian marriages, whose families were persecuted during Hitler's Third Reich. These women suffered the onslaught of anti-Jewish laws that divided spouses, families, and friends. From the early Nazi years through post-war Germany, this compelling, personal chronicle reveals the secret horrors these women endured as they struggled to survive in a nation that had betrayed them.
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The SS : Hitler's Instrument of Terror The Full Story from Street Fighters to the Waffen-SS by Gordon Williamson - From its origins in 1925 as Hitler's private protection squad to its eventual role in the Holocaust and military conquests, every aspect of the SS is examined in this authoritative account of Nazi Germany's most notorious organization. 220 color and b&w photos including 25 color art works.

SS Uniforms, Insignia & Accoutrements : A Study in Photographs compiled by A. Hayes - The ultimate guide for military buffs and historians, this book has hundreds of high quality color photos of authentic items from the General SS and Waffen SS and also contains never before published photos from private albums.

Himmler: Reichsfuehrer-SS by Peter Padfield - A full scale biography exposing the strangely ordinary man who became Hitler's most powerful subordinate and one of history's most ruthless executioners. Includes details from diaries, letters, and speeches captured from Nazi archives.

Death Dealer : The Memoirs of the SS Kommandant at Auschwitz by Rudolf Hoess, Steven Paskuly - Perhaps the most important single book concerning the Holocaust. Rudolf Hoess admits to being history's worst mass murderer, personally supervising the extermination of over two million persons, mostly Jews, at Auschwitz. This is the first complete translation of his memoirs into English, providing a revealing look into the mentality of this genocidal man and inside information about the SS and Nazi hierarchy.

SS Hell on the Eastern Front : The Waffen-SS War in Russia 1941-1945 by Christopher Ailsby - From the opening assaults of Operation Barbarossa through the fall of Berlin, every aspect of the Waffen SS in battle is covered including recruitment, organization and atrocities. Includes over 100 photos.

Gestapo: An Illustrated History by Rupert Butler - Exposes the tactics and utter ruthlessness of Hitler's secret police revealing how Himmler and Heydrich built this once small organization into a force that terrorized an entire continent.

The Killing of Reinhard Heydrich : The SS 'Butcher of Prague' by Callum MacDonald - On May 27, 1942, as Heydrich's car slowed to round a sharp turn in the roadway near Prague it came under attack from Czech agents who had been trained in England to kill him. This is a detailed look at the extraordinary events surrounding the assassination of the man who was second in command of the SS organization.

Massacre at Malmedy by Charles Whiting - A complete examination of the SS massacre of U.S. troops during the Battle of the Bulge, the bloodiest single atrocity against American soldiers during the European War. Also examines the subsequent bungled trial and political events that resulted in the release of the SS men involved, including the SS Commander, Jochen Peiper.

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Albert Speer: His Battle With Truth by Gitta Sereny - Speer's story is an unforgettable study of how good exists with evil. This brilliant biography illuminates the forces and psychological processes that turned an intelligent, perhaps even decent man, into an instrument of evil. Based on hundreds of hours of interviews with Speer and his close associates.

Heroes of WW II by Edward F. Murphy - The fascinating, true stories of 190 men who earned America's highest award, the Medal of Honor. The superhuman feats and selfless courage of ordinary men, vividly told.

Europa, Europa by Solomon Perel - The amazing true story of a Jewish youth who survived the Holocaust by disguising himself as an ethnic German and even became a member of the Hitler Youth. This is the book that inspired the acclaimed film of the same name.

Who's Who in Nazi Germany by Robert S. Wistrich - A very useful book with short biographies of nearly 350 persons that influenced every aspect of life in Nazi Germany, from Hitler to obscure Nazi bureaucrats. This is a book you will find yourself using again and again.

Goebbels by Ralf Georg Reuth - A comprehensive profile of Hitler's master of propaganda, Joseph Goebbels. Read how this small, highly intelligent man with an inferiority complex, created and controlled Hitler's image and became one of the biggest Nazi advocates for the extermination of the Jews.

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Books by Germans

A Hitler Youth in Poland : The Nazis' Program for Evacuating Children During World War II by Jost Hermand - As a ten year old boy, Hermand was sent away from his family to the first of several Hitler Youth paramilitary camps in order to escape Allied bombing and to be dehumanized for future service in Hitler's Reich. This intimate memoir exposes the dreary routine, brutalization and sadism inflicted on the boys - and inflicted by the boys on each other.

Panzer Commander : The Memoirs of Colonel Hans Von Luck by Hans Von Luck - The life of Rommel's 7th and then 21st Panzer division commander with vivid descriptions of battles and campaigns including El Alamein, Kasserine Pass, Poland, Belgium, Normandy on D-Day and the Russian Front.

Skorzeny's Special Missions : The Memoirs of the Most Dangerous Man in Europe by Otto Skorzeny - A fascinating, straight forward account of the daring exploits and reckless courage of Germany's infamous secret operative who, among other things, led the mission to rescue Mussolini from captivity in 1943.

Rommel: In His Own Words - Edited by John Pimlott - A true 'must have' book for anyone interested in the career of German military genius Erwin Rommel. Using Rommel's letters, orders and narratives of daily action, a complete picture is presented of how he dealt with the realities of war. Also included, Rommel in World War One. 120 photos - many taken by Rommel himself.

Soldat by Ted Brusaw, Siegfried Knappe - This chronicle of young, ambitious German Army Officer Siegfried Knappe offers a look inside the Nazi war machine and the culture that was the German General Staff. From the Russian Front to Hitler's bunker during the final Battle of Berlin, this first-hand memoir offers great insight into the life of a soldier in Hitler's Army.

Inside Hitler's Headquarters 1939-45 by Walther Warlimont - A personal history by one of the highest ranking generals to survive the war, exposing the daily workings of the German High Command, its stormy relationship with Hitler and events surrounding the assassination attempt on Hitler in 1944.

Leni Riefenstahl: A Memoir by Leni Riefenstahl - The autobiography of the woman behind the extraordinary Nazi propaganda film Triumph of the Will who went on to live a long, adventurous life after the collapse of the Third Reich.

I Flew for the Fuehrer by Heinz Knoke - The diary of a Luftwaffe fighter wing commander who logged over 2000 flights and tallied 52 kills. Also includes his attempt to build a new life after the war.

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Military Topics

Wehrmacht : The Illustrated History of the German Army in WWII by John Pimlot - 250 illustrations including 200 previously unpublished photos provide a detailed history showing the training, tactics and equipment used by the German Army against Poland, France, the Soviet Union and others.

German Uniforms of the Third Reich 1933-1945 - Features 240 informative color drawings showing the huge array of uniforms worn by everyone from bus conductors to Hitler. Includes fighting and security forces, Nazi Party members, governing and supervisory officials, Hitler Youth and the SS.

Barbarossa : The Russian-German Conflict, 1941-45 by Alan Clark - On June 22, 1941, one of the most brutal campaigns in military history began as the Nazis invaded the Soviet Union. Famed British historian Clark tells a vivid history of the campaign including the failed German attack on Moscow, the Siege of Leningrad, the greatest tank battle in history, and the great Russian offensive in 1944 that led the Red Army on to victory in Berlin.

Nuremberg Diary by G.M. Gilbert - Provides an extraordinary look into the events surrounding the trial of Nazi Germany's surviving leaders at Nuremberg in 1945-46. Gilbert was the prison psychologist who had unlimited access to Goering, Hess, Speer, Frank, Jodl, Keitel, Streicher and the others, all of whom revealed their innermost thoughts to him, including their day to day reactions to the trial, off the record opinions of Hitler, and views on the revelations concerning Nazi atrocities.

The French Resistance by Raymond Aubrac - A small Pocket Archives book packed with nearly 200 pages of quality rare photos telling the story of the Resistance 1940-1944. Assembled by Raymond Aubrac, a surviving Resistance member who served as deputy leader of the secret army.

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Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany

Adolf Hitler led Germany throughout World War Two. Adolf Hitler killed himself on April 30th, 1945 – just days before Germany’s unconditional surrender. Berlin was about to fall to the Russians and defeat for Nazi Germany was obvious. Hitler had no intention of letting the Russians capture him and putting him on trial – hence his suicide. How did Adolf Hitler rise to such power in Germany – a power that was to see Germany devastated by May 1945 when World War Two ended in the west?

Adolf Hitler was born on April 20th 1889 in a small Austrian town called Braunau, near to the German border.

His father – Alois – was fifty-one when Hitler was born. He was short-tempered, strict and brutal. It is known that he frequently hit the young Hitler. Alois had an elder son from a previous marriage but he had ended up in jail for theft. Alois was determined that Hitler was not going to go down the same road – hence his brutal approach to bringing up Hitler. The background of Alois was a potential source of embarrassment for the future leader of Nazi Germany.

Hitler’s father was the illegitimate child of a cook named (Maria Anna) Schicklegruber. This cook, the grandmother of Adolf Hitler, was working for a Jewish family named Frankenberger, when she became pregnant. Frankenberger paid Schicklegruber, a paternity allowance from the time of the child’s birth up to his fourteenth year.From a secret report by the Nazi Hans Frank. Written in 1930

Alois was a civil servant. This was a respectable job in Brannau. He was shocked and totally disapproving when the young Hitler told him of his desire to be an artist. Alois wanted Hitler to join the civil service.

Hitler’s mother – Klara – was the opposite of Alois – very caring and loving and she frequently took Hitler’s side when his father’s poor temper got the better of him. She doted on her son and for the rest of his life, Hitler carried a photo of his mother with him where ever he went.

Hitler was not popular at school and he made few friends. He was lazy and he rarely excelled at school work. In later years as leader of Germany, he claimed that History had been a strong subject for him – his teacher would have disagreed !! His final school report only classed his History work as “satisfactory”. Hitler’s final school report (September 1905) was as follows:

French Unsatisfactory Geography Satisfactory
German Adequate Gymnastics Excellent
History Satisfactory Physics Adequate
Mathematics Unsatisfactory Art Excellent
Chemistry Adequate Geometry Adequate

Hitler was able but he simply did not get down to hard work and at the age of eleven, he lost his position in the top class of his school – much to the horror of his father.

Alois died when Hitler was thirteen and so there was no strong influence to keep him at school when he was older. After doing very badly in his exams, Hitler left school at the age of fifteen. His mother, as always, supported her son’s actions even though Hitler left school without any qualifications.

When he started his political career, he certainly did not want people to know that he was lazy and a poor achiever at school. He fell out with one of his earliest supporters – Eduard Humer – in 1923 over the fact that Humer told people what Hitler had been like at school.

Hitler was certainly gifted in some subjects, but he lacked self-control. He was argumentative and bad-tempered, and unable to submit to school discipline….moreover, he was lazy. He reacted with hostility to advice or criticism. (Humer)

Humer had been Hitler’s French teacher and was in an excellent position to “spill the beans” – but this met with Hitler’s stern disapproval. Such behaviour would have been seriously punished after 1933 – the year when Hitler came to power. After 1933, those who had known Hitler in his early years either kept quiet about what they knew or told those who chose to listen that he was an ideal student etc.

Hitler had never given up his dream of being an artist and after leaving school he left for Vienna to pursue his dream. However, his life was shattered when, aged 18, his mother died of cancer. Witnesses say that he spent hours just staring at her dead body and drawing sketches of it as she lay on her death bed.

In Vienna, the Vienna Academy of Art, rejected his application as “he had no School Leaving Certificate”. His drawings which he presented as evidence of his ability, were rejected as they had too few people in them. The examining board did not just want a landscape artist.

Without work and without any means to support himself, Hitler, short of money lived in a doss house with tramps. He spent his time painting post cards which he hoped to sell and clearing pathways of snow. It was at this stage in his life – about 1908 – that he developed a hatred of the Jews.

He was convinced that it was a Jewish professor that had rejected his art work he became convinced that a Jewish doctor had been responsible for his mother’s death he cleared the snow-bound paths of beautiful town houses in Vienna where rich people lived and he became convinced that only Jews lived in these homes. By 1910, his mind had become warped and his hatred of the Jews – known as anti-Semitism – had become set.

Hitler called his five years in Vienna “five years of hardship and misery”. In his book called “Mein Kampf”, Hitler made it clear that his time in Vienna was entirely the fault of the Jews – “I began to hate them”.

In February 1914, in an attempt to escape his misery, Hitler tried to join the Austrian Army. He failed his medical. Years of poor food and sleeping rough had taken their toll on someone who as a PE student at school had been “excellent ” at gymnastics. His medical report stated that he was too weak to actually carry weapons.

In August 1914, World War One was declared. Hitler crossed over the border to Germany where he had a very brief and not too searching medical which declared that he was fit to be in the German Army. Film has been found of the young Hitler in Munich’s main square in August 1914, clearly excited at the declaration of war being announced……..along with many others.

In 1924, Hitler wrote “I sank to my knees and thanked heaven…….that it had given me the good fortune to live at such a time.” There is no doubt that Hitler was a brave soldier. He was a regimental runner. This was a dangerous job as it exposed Hitler to a lot of enemy fire. His task was to carry messages to officers behind the front line, and then return to the front line with orders.

His fellow soldiers did not like Hitler as he frequently spoke out about the glories of trench warfare. He was never heard to condemn war like the rest of his colleagues. He was not a good mixer and rarely went out with his comrades when they had leave from the front. Hitler rose to the rank of corporal – not particularly good over a four year span and many believe that it was his lack of social skills and his inability to get people to follow his ideas, that cost him promotion. Why promote someone who was clearly unpopular?

Though he may have been unpopular with his comrades, his bravery was recognised by his officers. Hitler was awarded Germany’s highest award for bravery – the Iron Cross. He called the day he was given the medal, “the greatest day of my life.” In all Hitler won six medals for bravery.

In the mid-1930’s, Hitler met with the future British Prime Minister, Sir Anthony Eden. It became clear from discussions that they had fought opposite one another at the Battle of Ypres. Eden was impressed with the knowledge of the battle lines which Hitler had – far more than a corporal would have been expected to know, according to Eden.

The war ended disastrously for Hitler. In 1918, he was still convinced that Germany was winning the war – along with many other Germans. In October 1918, just one month before the end of the war, Hitler was blinded by a gas attack at Ypres. While he was recovering in hospital, Germany surrendered. Hitler was devastated. By his own admission, he cried for hours on end and felt nothing but anger and humiliation.

By the time he left hospital with his eyesight restored he had convinced himself that the Jews had been responsible for Germany’s defeat. He believed that Germany would never have surrendered normally and that the nation had been “stabbed in the back” by the Jews.

“In these nights (after Germany’s surrender had been announced) hatred grew in me, hatred for those responsible for this deed. What was all the pain in my eyes compared to this misery ?”

Adolf Hitler remained in the German Army after World War One ended in November 1918. Seething with anger at Germany’s defeat, Hitler was employed as a V-Man. Hitler’s job was to visit as many political organisations as possible to check out whether they were right wing, centre politics or left wing. In particular, in the aftermath of the Russian Revolution, both the government and army wanted to know who the socialists or communists were. The terms of the Treaty of Versailles only added to Hitler’s anger during this period in his life.

Hitler also worked within the Education Department of the army and his task here was to lecture returning soldiers on the dangers of communism, socialism and pacifism. Senior officers were impressed with Hitler’s skills as a speaker. It was at this time that the corporal, who was a loner, discovered his greatest talent – public oratory. The gas attack Hitler had suffered had affected his vocal chords and he spoke in a manner that few had heard before. Many who later heard Hitler speak at public rallies claimed that his voice had hypnotic qualities to it. In November 1922, Truman Smith, an American spy based in Germany, wrote:

The most important political force in Bavaria at the present time is the National Socialist German Workers Party….Adolf Hitler…is the dominating force in the movement….his ability to influence a large audience is uncanny.

Karl Ludecke, who published a book called “I knew Hitler”, wrote the following about the first time that he heard Hitler speak:

Hitler was a slight, pale man with brown hair parted to one side. He had steel-blue eyes…he had the look of a fanatic….he held the audience, and me with them, under a hypnotic spell by the sheer force of his conviction.

What Hitler spoke about to the returning soldiers also hit home: the betrayal of the soldiers by politicians the stab-in-the-back (of the soldiers) by the Jews the failure of democratic politics and the disaster communism would be for Germany. His thoughts were widely held – but Hitler’s audience in 1918 to 1919 was very small and his impact was very little.

In September 1919, Hitler visited, as a V-Man, a meeting of the German Workers’ Party. The party name indicated that it had socialist leanings with its “workers'” tag. It was, in fact, an extreme, anti-Semitic, anti-communist, right wing nationalist party led by Anton Drexler. At Hitler’s visit, it only had 40 members. Hitler informed the army that it posed no threat to Germany. After this visit, Hitler joined the party as it seemed to represent all that he believed in. He quickly became the party’s propaganda officer.

In early 1920, the party changed its name to the National Socialist German Workers’ Party (NSDAP) which quickly got corrupted to ‘Nazi’ by both enemies and supporters alike. Hitler wrote out the party’s beliefs in the so-called 25 Point Party Programme. This party programme was a curious mixture – right wing nationalism anti-capitalism anti-socialism anti-wealth etc.

This rag-bag mixture would have been laughable in normal circumstances but Germany was not in normal circumstances. The NSDAP played on the Germans hatred of the Treaty of Versailles (which it said it would ignore) the belief that Germany had been stabbed in the back. Even in its early days, the NSDAP tuned in to many peoples’ emotions. However, in 1920, the party was just one of many right wing parties that seemed to exist in Germany at this time.

In a 1920 leaflet, the NSDAP blamed 300 bankers and financiers throughout the world for dictating policy to the world and holding it to ransom.

“Shake off your Jewish leaders…………Don’t expect anything from the Bolsheviks (the Russian Communists)…………(The Russian government) is nine-tenths Jewish. Bolshevism is a Jewish swindle.”

This touched a raw nerve in some Germans. Former soldiers who had been in the Free Corps joined the Nazi Party and their ‘skills’ were used to break up meetings of other political parties. The use of violence became a way of life for the Nazis.

Regardless of this, the party made little headway in politics. It did benefit from one great advantage in Weimar Germany – the electoral system used proportional representation in deciding results. Any party that got more votes than the cut-off would get some seats in the Reichstag. This favoured the Nazis. They could not afford expensive election campaigns as Karl Ludecke related in his book “I knew Hitler”.

“The organisation lived from day-to-day financially, with no treasury to draw on for lecture halls rents, printing costs, or the thousand-and-one expenses which threatened to swamp us. The only funds we could count on were small, merely a drop in the bucket.”

Up to 1923, the Nazi Party was small and noisy. Its importance was mainly in the Munich area of Bavaria. Money, or lack of it, was always a problem. The 1923 hyperinflation crisis proved to be an opportunity too good to miss for the now party leader – Hitler.

Hyperinflation ruined the middle class. The poor had little and they lost most of the little they had. The rich lost a lot but as rich people they could keep their heads above water. The middle class did not have the cash reserves of the rich but they led comfortable lives. These lives were now ruined by hyperinflation and they blamed the government.

Hitler planned to seize the most important city in the south – Munich – and to use the city as a base to launch an attack on the rest of Germany, hoping that the angered middle class would rise up in support of him throughout the nation.

On November 8th, 1923, Hitler and 2000 Nazis marched through the streets of Munich to take over a meeting at the Munich Beer Hall. This meeting was being chaired by the three most important people in Bavarian politics – Hans Seisser, Otto von Lossow and Gustav von Kahr. Depending on whose account you read, Hitler strode to the front of the meeting and declared that when convenient von Kahr would be declared regent of Bavaria, the Berlin government would be tried as traitors, Seisser would be made head of Germany’s police…….but as the time was not convenient. He, Hitler, would take charge of the country. He stated that on the following day, the Nazis would march on the War Ministry and set up government there.

On the 9th November, the Nazis started on their march only to be met by armed police. What happened next varies. When the police fired on the leading marchers, the official Nazi biography of Hitler published in 1934 stated that he saved the life of the man next to him who had been shot.

Another unofficial version – by Rudolf Olden – claims that on the first shot Hitler ran away to a waiting car to be driven to the Bavarian mountains and safety. He would not have known that 13 Nazis had been shot dead by the police.

Regardless of what happened and what Hitler did, the march was a disaster for the Nazis and could have easily spelt the end of the Nazi Party. Ironically, the Beer Hall Putsch was to launch Hitler into national fame. He was arrested for treason and put on trial. This trial was to make Hitler very famous and may well have saved the Nazi Party from collapse.

From 1924 to 1929, Adolf Hitler, following his experiences at Landsberg Prison, decided that all that he did at a political level would be legal and above board. If he wanted to sell the Nazi dream to the people of Weimar Germany, then he had to be seen as being a legitimate party leader and not one associated with violence and wrong-doing. Hitler’s approach was to highlight the failings of the other political parties in Weimar Germany.

As a policy, it was to fail. Between 1924 and 1929, the Nazis were politically very weak. Their representation in the Reichstag was very low compared to other parties.

Election Year Communist Party Social Demos Democ. Party Centre Party Conservatives Nationalists Nazis
1919 0 187 75 91 19 44 0
1920 4 186 39 64 65 71 0
May ‘24 62 100 28 65 45 95 32
Dec ‘24 45 131 32 69 51 103 14
1928 54 153 25 62 45 73 12

In the three elections held between 1924 and 1928, the Nazis gained fewer seats than the Communist Party and they were the weakest of the main right wing parties. The election campaigns pushed the party to the brink of bankruptcy. If the party had been declared bankrupt, it would have folded.

Weimar Germany from 1924 to 1929 was undergoing a renaissance. The government of Stressemann had got the country back on course after the nightmare of hyperinflation. The Dawes Plan had loaned Germany the necessary money to kick start her economy once again. The industrial heartland of the Ruhr settled down to productivity after the trauma of the French/Belgium invasion. Moderate politicians had won the day and there seemed no place in the new-born Germany for a political party of any extremes – be it from the left or right.

Stressemann had restored Germany’s position in Europe. With the support of her previous enemy, France, Germany had entered the League of Nations in 1926. Normality seemed to be in place. Hence the Nazi Party’s poor showing at the elections.

Hitler kept to his promise of working within the law. If he did not, it would have looked like an act of political desperation. However, as with any small party, the Nazi party’s funds were limited. Political obscurity beckoned for the Nazis.

They were saved by an event out of their hands – Wall Street Crash of October 1929. This event was crucial to the Nazis. The Americans called back the money they had loaded Germany in 1924 and 1929 (the Young Plan). Germany had no money to invest in her economy. The growth from 1924 to 1929 had been somewhat of an illusion as a great deal of the money invested had been from overseas loans – primarily America. Money borrowed had to be paid back. In October 1929, Germany was left effectively bankrupt – again.

The impact of the Wall Street Crash took time to impact Germany. Unemployment was not a major issue for 1929. But by September 1930 it was.

September 1928 650,000 unemployed
September 1929 1,320,000 unemployed
September 1930 3,000,000 unemployed
September 1931 4,350,000 unemployed
September 1932 5,102,000 unemployed
January 1933 6,100,000 unemployed

Those unemployed turned to the one party and party leader untainted by the chaos of Weimar Germany – Adolf Hitler. Hitler’s “1000 Year Reich” lasted from 1933 to 1945 and, after the impact of World War Two, had reduced Germany to rubble.