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In the political and cultural context, “ Gleichschaltung ” refers to a strategy that became particularly important during the National Socialist era . From the 1930s, the word referred to the process of unification of the entire social and political life in the conquest of power phase in the Nazi state . The aim was to abolish the pluralism in state and society , which was understood as fragmentation, by 1934 and to establish a dictatorship with only one center of power.

With the “Gleichschaltung”, the aim was to reorganize all areas of politics, society and culture in accordance with National Socialist ideas. This resulted in the integration of many existing organizations into the Nazi associations. For organizations and institutions, whose existence was not questioned, “conformity-based essentially meant three things: the elimination of democratic structures in favor of the ' Führer principle ', the implementation of anti-Semitic principles by removing Jews from leading positions or expelling them entirely from the organization, and a complete or Partial change of leadership in favor of supporters of the new regime . ”The political will was ultimately formed solely by the Führer, Adolf Hitler , whose will, according to the National Socialist view , embodied the true will of the people . The alignment was either carried out on instruction or in advance obedience (so - called self - alignment , e.g. German University Association , German Association of Judges, etc.). Other associations and organizations reacted to the pressure by dissolving themselves and terminating their activities without replacement.

Basically, this was associated with the restriction or loss of individual personality or the independence, maturity and freedom of a person through rules and laws as well as other measures to equate and unify the masses . In this sense, the term was later applied to other historical constellations.


The term " synchronization " originally comes from the field of electrical engineering . In 1908, in the civil engineering textbook , Hans Wegele used the term for an operating mode of the railway crossing point , in which certain components are moved in the same direction - in contrast to the so-called cross switching , in which the components move against each other. In specialist journals of that time, including Annalen der Physik from 1914 and ETZ (Electrotechnical Journal) , the term was mainly used in the electrotechnical context as a counterpart to the counter circuit.

First political use in the Weimar Republic

In the course of the Erzberger reform , the dispute over the further development of the Reich-Länder relationship developed into a permanent constitutional issue in the Weimar Republic . In this context, the term synchronization has already been used synonymously with the terms standardization , centralization , unitarization, etc. According to Hans Frank , Franz Gürtner ( Bavarian Central Party ), Reich Minister of Justice in the Papen Cabinet and in the Schleicher Cabinet , is said to have transferred the term from the technical vocabulary of electrical engineering when formulating the law to bring the states into line with the Reich in politics.

Legal and political use under National Socialism

The term was first used legally on March 31, 1933. On this day, the so-called first Gleichschaltungsgesetz ( provisional law for the synchronization of the federal states with the Reich ) came into force, with which the denationalization of the German federal states was initiated Legislative competence was enacted in the countries (i.e. the laws were allowed to deviate from the national constitutions ) before they should gradually lose their sovereignty . With this law, the term became primarily a synonym for the measures taken by the National Socialist leadership against the opposition , other parties , associations, etc. "Gleichschaltung" thus not only describes the administrative measures, but also stands for the associated terror .

The term “ Gleichschaltung” is found in National Socialist parlance primarily in the years 1933 and 1934. A revival can be demonstrated for the year 1938, when, after the annexation of Austria, the state there was penetrated by the National Socialists and Jews were driven out of business and public life.

Important steps towards harmonization

The starting point was the two conformity laws of March 31, 1933 and April 7, 1933 , which first deprived the states of their political independence and later decided to send Reich governors. With the law on the rebuilding of the Reich of January 30, 1934, the withdrawal of the sovereign rights of the states was completed. The regulation of citizenship now became a matter for the central state , so that, according to the ordinance of February 5, 1934, the entry in the civil registers was standardized on German citizenship . Until then, the federal states had given their respective citizenship , so that there were Bavaria, Brunswick, Baden, Prussia, Saxony, etc. in Germany, but despite the German nation-state that had existed since 1871, there were still no German citizens. The conclusion of the “Gleichschalt der Länder” can be dated to February 1934 with the dissolution of the Reichsrat and the First Law on the transition of the administration of justice to the Reich. This synchronization was legalized via § 2 of the Reichstag Fire Ordinance , according to which the Reich government could intervene in the competences of the states if they could not ensure order and security.

The law for the restoration of the civil service of April 7, 1933 ensured that the civil service was brought into line . On July 14, 1933, the law against the formation of new parties declared the NSDAP to be the only political party in Germany. With the law to secure the unity of party and state of December 1, 1933, the one-party state was established, the "National Socialist German Workers' Party, the bearer of the German state idea and inextricably linked with the state". In order to express its position of power, it became a public corporation with its own disciplinary powers . The statutory "Gleichschaltung of party and state" was the Nazi jurisprudence appreciated: In the question of political power and the magisterial authority the NSDAP had stepped next to the state so that it no monopoly have taken too much.

In addition, the office of Reich President was merged with that of Reich Chancellor in the person of Adolf Hitler .

Another important measure of conformity was the elimination of the plural society with the dissolution of the trade unions in the German Labor Front and the compulsory unification of the agricultural associations in the Reichsnährstand . With the appointment of Joseph Goebbels as Reich Minister for Public Enlightenment and Propaganda on March 13, 1933, with the establishment of the Reich Chamber of Culture, the synchronization of cultural life began.

The legal basis for these measures was the Enabling Act of March 24, 1933, which gave Hitler legislative and contractual powers, which he then used to further eliminate pluralism and democracy . The clubs and organizations affected often reacted to the conformity with a compliant position in order to avoid a ban and dissolution. Examples of this are the General German Trade Union Federation and the organizations of workers' culture . The Greater German Bund , an amalgamation of Boy Scouts and other youth leagues from March 1933, was dissolved along with its member leagues on June 17, 1933, the first day of function of the youth leader of the German Reich Baldur von Schirach .


With the synchronization, non-political areas, e.g. B. the motorists organized in the ADAC in the national socialist motorist corps (NSKK), which is in line with the national socialist motor vehicle corps , are recorded and ideologically influenced. Other examples are the “ Stahlhelm, Bund der Frontsoldaten ”, which was brought into line in 1934, as well as the student associations , which were either dissolved or incorporated into the National Socialist German Student Union (NSDStB) as so-called comradeships .

The leader principle was implemented in clubs in mid-1933, which was formally expressed in the fact that the chairman of the club was "re-elected in accordance with the coordination". He then appointed his representatives himself, which “was subject to the approval of the higher authorities”. After that he no longer called himself "Chairman", but " Führer ".

Another important aspect is bringing the mass media into line , especially newspapers and magazines , and abolishing freedom of the press . While the newspapers were accused of having voluntarily and completely subordinated themselves to the goals of National Socialism immediately after they came to power, the role of the press was also formally re-regulated with the Editor's Act of October 1933.

Furthermore, the Reichsschrifttumskammer granted the "right to further practice" to writers, whereby " non-Aryans " were consistently excluded from 1934 onwards. Literature was placed under certain topic specifications, such as B. Blood and soil ideology , war and soldier heroism as well as national community . Books that did not meet these requirements were removed from the libraries; on May 10, 1933, tens of thousands of books were publicly burned in an " action against the un-German spirit " by the German student body .

Other examples of the penetration of society are

Harmonization here meant not only the exclusion of socialists and Jewish sports organizations from the newly formed sports movement, but also a reorganization of the new sports organizations: Up until now, the subdivisions had grown historically (the West German game association reached in the east as far as the Harz Mountains, in the south as far as Fulda) , so they were given the same layout as the regional authorities and in 1938 with the status of the organization supervised by the NSDAP the layout of the NSDAP district .

Problems with the use of the term

Like almost all terms in the language of National Socialism , the use of the terms of conformity is extremely problematic. Imanuel Geiss describes it as a "trivializing paraphrase for the factual submission of all organs and relevant groups to Nazi rule."

Use of the term after 1945

After 1945 the term “ Gleichschaltung” was taken up and used pejoratively to express that various phenomena were brought into line with pressure. In particular , the term is used in various ways in the scientific literature on the time of the East-West conflict . For example, the process of transforming democratic parties into block parties , placing mass organizations , administrations, judiciary and media under the control of the regimes in the Soviet Zone / GDR and in other states of the Eastern Bloc (especially in the old Federal Republic ), is being brought into line with them Organizations and institutions. In the Federal Republic of Germany, too, elements of the earlier harmonization were retained: The German Sports Association retained the right to only allow one association per sport, to design the association area (as only happened in 1933/34) to be completely identical to the area of ​​the respective regional authority (as the district governments in Lower Saxony ceased to exist, the district sports associations were also dissolved).

Eva Herman came to criticism after speaking on a ZDF program in 2007 about what she saw as the victim of what she saw as a “press in line”. Günter Grass complained in 2012 after the publication of the poem What must be said, which is critical of Israel , the reactions in the media as “a certain co-ordination of opinion”. In 2014, Thilo Sarrazin started the debate with his media-critical non-fiction book Der neue Tugendterror as to how freedom of expression and “voluntary conformity” could be restricted today .

The control that Vladimir Putin increasingly exercised over the media in Russia from 2000 onwards was described by Klaus von Beyme and Ulrich M. Schmid , among others, as "Gleichschaltung".

Political events in Turkey under Recep Tayyip Erdoğan were also commented on from 2016 onwards with “Gleichschaltung” .


  • Karl Dietrich Bracher , Wolfgang Sauer, Gerhard Schulz (ed.): The National Socialist seizure of power. Studies on the establishment of the totalitarian system of rule in Germany in 1933/34 . Westdeutscher Verlag, Cologne [u. a.] 1960 (=  writings of the Institute for Political Science 14, ISSN  0522-9677 ); 3 volumes. Ullstein, Berlin a. a. 1974.
  • Dirk Erb (Ed.): Synchronized. The Nazi terror against trade unions and professional associations from 1930 to 1933 . A documentation. Steidl, Göttingen 2001, ISBN 3-88243-776-6 .
  • Kurt Pätzold : Synchronization . In: Wolfgang Benz , Hermann Graml and Hermann Weiß (eds.): Encyclopedia of National Socialism . Klett-Cotta, Stuttgart 1997, p. 490 f.
  • Cornelia Schmitz-Berning: Synchronization . In: Same: Vocabulary of National Socialism. Walter de Gruyter, Berlin / New York 2007, ISBN 978-3-11-092864-8 , p. 277 ff.

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Michael Grüttner: Arsonists and honest men. Germany 1933–1939. Stuttgart 2015, p. 40.
  2. The synchronization is shown schematically in this table .
  3. ^ A b Cornelia Schmitz-Berning: Gleichschaltung , in: Cornelia Schmitz-Berning: Vocabulary of National Socialism. Walter de Gruyter, Berlin / New York 2007, p. 277 (accessed via De Gruyter Online).
  4. ^ Hans Wegele: Railway construction . In: Karl Esselborn (ed.): Textbook of civil engineering . 3. Edition. First volume: earthworks, roads, railways and tunnels, retaining walls, lining walls, quay walls and dams . Verlag Wilhelm Engelmann, Leipzig 1908, p. 312-314 ( - online falsely as "textbook of the high out construction").
  5. Annalen der Physik , Johann Ambrosius Barth Verlag, 1914, pp. 517-521.
  6. Annalen der Physik , Volume 353, Rengersche Buchhandlung, Leipzig 1915, p. 199.
  7. ^ Wolfgang Benz : Southern Germany in the Weimar Republic: A Contribution to German Domestic Policy 1918–1923. Duncker & Humblot, 1970, pp. 185 ff. And Claus-Dieter Krohn, Corinna R. Unger: Arnold Brecht 1884–1977. Franz Steiner Verlag, 2006, p. 64.
  8. See Michael Wagner-Kern, State and Name Change. The change of name under public law in Germany in the 19th and 20th centuries , Mohr Siebeck, Tübingen 2002, p. 263 ; Bardo Fassbender, The Open Federal State , Mohr, Tübingen 2007, pp. 283 f. ; Gerhard Schulz , Germany since the First World War 1918–1945 (=  German History , Vol. 10), 2nd edition, Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 1982, p. 132 .
  9. Cornelia Schmitz-Berning: Gleichschaltung , in: Cornelia Schmitz-Berning: Vocabulary of National Socialism. Walter de Gruyter, Berlin / New York 2007, p. 278 (accessed via De Gruyter Online).
  10. ^ Ordinance on German citizenship of February 5, 1934 , entered into force on February 7, 1934.
  11. RGBl. 1934 I p. 91 .
  12. Brockhaus Geschichte, p. 300, Sp. 1, Mannheim / Leipzig 2003.
  13. Wolfgang Benz: History of the Third Reich . CH Beck, Munich 2000, p. 28.
  14. 1933–39: National Socialist German Workers' Party (NSDAP) 1933–1945 , website of the LeMO . Retrieved May 8, 2013.
  15. The Cabinet Hitler issued on 1 August 1934, a law on the merger of the two offices; this law came into force with the death of Hindenburg ( RGBl. 1934 I, p. 747 ).
  16. Law to remedy the plight of the people and the Reich of March 24, 1933, in: 100 (0) key documents on German history in the 20th century , Bayerische Staatsbibliothek .
  17. Klaus Hildebrand , Das Third Reich , in: Oldenbourg Grundriss der Geschichte Vol. 16, Munich 2003, p. 9.
  18. Documented for example in: "Gleichschaltung" in the log book of the comradeship of former soldiers Lunestedt ( online ) or "Gleichschaltung" in the log book of the gymnastics club Westerbeverstedt ( online ).
  19. ^ Neue Zürcher Zeitung : Comments on the German editors' law , October 10, 1933.
  20. Arnd Krüger : "Today Germany belongs to us and tomorrow ...?" The struggle for the sense of conformity in sport in the first half of 1933. In: Wolfgang Buss , Arnd Krüger (Ed.): Sports history: maintaining tradition and changing values. Festschrift for the 75th birthday of Prof. Dr. Wilhelm Henze (= series of publications by the Lower Saxony Institute for Sports History Hoya eV , Vol. 2). Mecke, Duderstadt 1985, pp. 175-196.
  21. Imanuel Geiss: History at hand - 4. Terms , Art. Gleichschaltung , Gütersloh 2002, p. 975.
  22. Cornelia Schmitz-Berning: Gleichschaltung , in: Cornelia Schmitz-Berning: Vocabulary of National Socialism. Walter de Gruyter, Berlin / New York 2007, p. 280 (accessed via De Gruyter Online).
  23. See Bernd Stöver , Der Kalte Krieg 1947–1991. History of a radical age , Beck'sche Reihe, CH Beck, Munich 2007, ISBN 3-406-55633-7 , p. 49 f.
  24. See also Yvan Vanden Berghe, Der Kalte Krieg 1917–1991 . From the Dutch trans. by Martine Westerman, Leipziger Universitätsverlag, Leipzig 2002, ISBN 3-935693-81-8 , p. 104 .
  25. See e.g. B. Michael Richter, Die Ost-CDU 1948–1952: Between Resistance and Synchronization , ISBN 3-7700-0899-5 .
  26. Stefan Creuzberger , Manfred Görtemaker (Ed.), Gleichschaltung under Stalin? - The development of the parties in Eastern Europe 1944–1949 , Paderborn [u. a.] 2002; In spite of the title, there is no conceptual historical discussion in this work. However, one of the authors puts the word "Gleichschaltung" in quotation marks in his article.
  27. See Wolf Oschlies, Federal Institute for Eastern and International Studies (ed.), Reports of the Federal Institute for Eastern and International Studies , Volume 52: The Blocked Transmission Belt - The Struggle to Reconnect the Czechoslovak Trade Unions , Cologne 1969.
  28. Cf. Dieter Pohl , Justice in Brandenburg 1945–1955: Synchronization and adaptation in a state justice , Munich 2001, ISBN 3-486-56532-X .
  29. Cf. Dezsö Korbuly, Hungary's gradual synchronization by the communists 1945–1948 , Munich 1970.
  30. ^ Arnd Krüger: “Sieg Heil” to the most glorious era of German sport: Continuity and change in the modern German sports movement. In: International Journal of the History of Sport 4 (1987), 1, pp. 5-20.
  31. Herman defends himself against the media - in Nazi terms , Spiegel Online , September 28, 2007, accessed on January 14, 2020.
  32. Controversial Israel poem: Günter Grass complains about "conformity of opinion" , Spiegel Online, April 5, 2012.
  33. ^ "Book on Freedom of Expression". Sarrazin is written in Rage , Wirtschaftswoche , accessed on June 5, 2016.
  34. Klaus von Beyme: The Russia Controversy: An Analysis of the Ideological Conflict Between Russia Understanders and Russia Critics , Springer, 2016, ISBN 978-3-658-12031-3 , p. 66.
  35. Ulrich M. Schmid : The Putin Show , NZZ , June 3, 2014.
  36. Putin's Propaganda , ARTE, September 8, 2015, minute 46: “The printing presses are synchronized”.
  37. Manfred Quiring : Putin's Russian World: How the Kremlin Divides Europe , Ch. Links, 2017, ISBN 978-3-86153-941-4 , pp. 16 and 23.
  38. Jerzy Macków: Authoritarianism in Central and Eastern Europe , Springer, 2010, ISBN 978-3-53191-615-6 , p. 248.
  39. Russia's media - aligned democratically , newspapers for German and international politics , December 2006: “Reporting on the daily work of the Kremlin boss, on company tours, receiving foreign guests or teaching one's own, submissively nodding cabinet members, takes more than 80 percent of the news broadcasts the time it takes. "
  40. Frank Nordhausen: Media takeover: Turkish synchronization , RP Online , March 23, 2018, accessed on May 6, 2019.
  41. Interview with Sevim Dağdelen: “In Turkey, there is conformity” , , July 24, 2016, accessed on May 6, 2019.