time of the nationalsocialism

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Nazi marching column with swastika flags on the way back from the Nazi Party (probably in 1938) on the outskirts Fürth / Nürnberg (prescribed at that time against Nazi flags), anti-Jewish propaganda in the town sign and children with the Nazi salute . In the background a factory building of the " Aryanized ", previously Jewish company JW Spear .
Center of Stalingrad, February 2, 1943

The era of National Socialism (also Nazi era and the Nazi dictatorship called) will be the period from 1933 to 1945, in which Adolf Hitler in Germany one of the Nazi Party supported (NSDAP) leader dictatorship established. The Nazi era began on January 30, 1933 with Hitler's appointment as Reich Chancellor and ended on May 8, 1945 with the unconditional surrender of the Wehrmacht to the Allies and their allies . With its expansive, revisionist and racist ideologyand politics unleashed the Second World War , in which the Nazis and their accomplices committed mass crimes and genocide .

The model of National Socialist social policy was a self-contained, racially and ideologically uniform national community of " Aryans ". Politically dissenters and opponents of the regime were persecuted by means of state terror from the beginning of the Nazi dictatorship and, among other things, locked in concentration camps . Jews were discriminated against and systematically deprived of their rights, for example through the Nuremberg Laws . The radical anti-Semitic politics of the National Socialists culminated in the Holocaust .

The foreign policy of the Nazi state was aimed at making Germany's defeat in the First World War forgotten and at renewing and expanding the previous great power position . Germany withdrew from the League of Nations as early as 1933 ; With the armament of the Wehrmacht , the reintroduction of general conscription in 1935 and the occupation of the demilitarized Rhineland in 1936, important parts of the Versailles Treaty were violated. In 1938 Austria was " annexed " to the German Reich . In the same year, the Munich Agreement allowed Germany to incorporate the Sudetenland .

In the expansion phase from 1938 onwards, the National Socialists and their supporters committed numerous crimes against humanity against ethnic , religious and other social minorities across Europe . Around six million European Jews were murdered in the historically unprecedented Holocaust , up to 500,000 Sinti and Roma in Porajmos and around 100,000 people with mental and physical disabilities as part of “ Aktion T4 ” and “ Aktion Brandt ”. According to the strategy of the Hunger Plan , the German occupiers in the Soviet Union deliberately let an estimated 4.2 million people starve to death between 1941 and 1944 and around 3.1 million Soviet soldiers died in German captivity .

The era of the National Socialist dictatorship in Germany and across large parts of Europe is seen in an ethical and moral sense as a breach of civilization and as the low point of German , but also of European history as a whole.

Origin and rise of National Socialism

The ideological ideas and social developments that came together under National Socialism are to be seen as deeply rooted in the 19th century. According to Kurt Bauer, extreme nationalist, racist, anti-Semitic and chauvinist views could be found in most European countries in the 19th and 20th centuries, without, however, being regarded as representative of a whole society . There are many reasons that National Socialism was able to come to power "at an ominous moment in history": "Monocausal explanations fail miserably when it comes to complex causes and connections that made National Socialism powerful."

In Hans-Ulrich Thamer's view, fascism and National Socialism emerged from the crisis of the European bourgeois-liberal order and from the age of revolutions. Both movements presupposed the formation and consolidation of the great political currents of thought of the 19th century: liberalism, democracy, socialism and conservatism - and their deformation through mass mobilization and mass ideology. Their relationship to the traditional state and social order is twofold: both reactionary and revolutionary. “They were traditionalist and modernist, anti-Marxist and anti-bourgeois. [...] With the apparent victory of the liberal democracies after 1918, their challengers rose at the same time: Bolshevism, fascism and National Socialism. "

Consequential First World War

George F. Kennan described the First World War as the “great catastrophe of the 20th century” and viewed it as the trigger for hyperinflation as well as the Great Depression, the Second World War and the Cold War . The political, social and economic conditions for the rise of National Socialism were created during and through the First World War . For Ian Kershaw "without the First World War and its legacy [...] the Third Reich is inconceivable." The National Socialists exploited the collective trauma by interpreting Germany's defeat in 1918 as a catastrophe that continued to have an impact. In doing so, they used conspiracy-theoretical interpretations such as that of the “ November criminals ” and the stab in the back legend : Jews and Social Democrats had treasonously stabbed the supposedly victorious German army with the November Revolution. This thesis was shared by large parts of the German population and was suitable for sustainably delegitimizing the Weimar Republic .

The Versailles Treaty , which was imposed by the victorious powers Germany and which most Germans perceived as unjust , also became a widespread object of National Socialist outrage and propaganda . In Article 231 he charged Germany and its allies with war guilt, which served as the basis for reparation claims and provided clear fronts in the war guilt debate. The Treaty of Versailles brought with it the loss of all colonies and considerable areas in east, north and west of Germany; the Rhineland was by troops of the Allies occupied , and Germany was subject to strict arms limitations. The amount of the reparation payments to be made remained indefinite for the time being; related benefits were enforced from 1920 to 1923 by means of ultimatums . The National Socialists, who rebelled in principle, described all attempts by the Weimar governments to soften the treaty through a policy of understanding with France and Great Britain as “national treason”. For them, the “fight against Versailles” was the central concern.

Domestically, too, the world war had devastating consequences, which the National Socialists were able to exploit: it was financed through government bonds , the buyers of which were promised a substantial return. Instead, the German Reich got rid of all of its national debt through hyperinflation up to 1923 , which de facto expropriated not only bond owners but also all holders of savings. This breach of trust favored the rise of National Socialism.

Kurt Bauer also considers the Bolshevik October Revolution to be hardly possible without the First World War, which has caused an intensification and radicalization of the political conflict in Europe: “The tremendous and extremely violent overthrow of social and social conditions in Russia led to the end of the war and in the post-war period not simply to be dismissed as irrational fears of a similar revolution - and thus ultimately the tendency to see right-wing extremist, fascist groups as guarantors of Bolshevism. ”In addition, it is sometimes pointed out that the clear command structures experienced during the war, the front generation for the alleged advantages of a authoritarian system and susceptible to the Führer principle .

Another factor that weighed heavily on the Weimar Republic and encouraged the Nazi movement was the persistence of undemocratic traditions in state and society: the November Revolution had left most of the imperial officials, judges, university professors, etc. in their offices. In the Weimar democracy, which was gripped by severe crises at the beginning of the 1930s, these monarchist and nationalistically socialized elites were not decidedly on the side of democracy, but were ready to form an alliance with the NSDAP. The historian Martin Broszat judges that the NSDAP, since its rise to a mass party in 1929/30, has only summarized "what - fragmented, but broadly - had long been pre-formed as ideological-political and interest-political potential". Although Ernst Troeltsch's much-cited catchphrase of the “republic without republicans” turned out to be wrong in view of the election results up to 1930, there was a shortcoming in the democracy of the population. An indication of this was the election of the declared opponent of the republic Paul von Hindenburg as Reich President in 1925 . After his re-election in 1932 , he appointed the defeated competitor Adolf Hitler on January 30, 1933 as Reich Chancellor.

One of the framework conditions that favored the rise of the National Socialists was the latent and often critical political instability of the Weimar Republic, which was exposed to several coup and revolutionary attempts in its early years . In the early 1930s, civil war-like clashes between members of the SA and the Red Front Fighters Association (which had been banned since 1929) shook public order. The government, and with it the political system of the Weimar Republic, lost massive trust in the population because of the failure to face the challenges of the global economic crisis : The procyclical deflationary policy and the German banking crisis of the summer of 1931 exacerbated the depression , up to and including every third German with five million unemployed Family was affected. The British economic historian Harold James sees National Socialism as “Germany's answer to the global economic crisis”.

Foundation and rise of the NSDAP by 1933

Hitler's DAP membership card with the alleged membership number 7 (January 1, 1920). According to Anton Drexler, the number 555 was retouched and the number 7 was inserted in its place.

In its formation in 1920 by renaming of which was German Workers' Party emerged (DAP) NSDAP only "one of several dozen small groups in the nationalist-ethnic that had emerged since the war in Munich spectrum." In the February 24, 1920 in Munich Hofbrauhaus presented In the 25-point program , she represented decidedly anti-democratic, völkisch-nationalist and racist, above all anti-Semitic positions. At the end of the year she acquired the Münchner Beobachter and made him Völkischer Beobachter (VB) as an organ of the NSDAP, the “ combat sheet of the National Socialist movement of Greater Germany ”. Adolf Hitler, DAP member since September 1919, acquired the reputation of a “drummer” and “whip” of the party and in 1921 was elected “First Chairman with dictatorial power” at his own ultimate request. In October 1921, with the involvement of members of the Ehrhardt Marine Brigade , which had failed in the Kapp Putsch, the Sturmabteilung (SA) was founded, which was initially used primarily in battlefields. Local supporters of the German Volkischer Schutz- und Trutzbund, which has a large number of members, helped establish local NSDAP groups beyond Munich .

When, after the murder of Walther Rathenau by members of the right-wing extremist organization Consul , the German National Guard was banned in the Free State of Prussia on the basis of the newly created Republic Protection Act (the government of the Free State of Bavaria saw no need for action), but not the NSDAP, it came about in 1922 a migration movement within the right-wing extremist milieu and to double the NSDAP membership. At the height of the crisis year 1923 of the Weimar Republic, Hitler decided, also under the impression of increasing impatience of his own party people, with the support of the former world war strategist Erich Ludendorff to a putsch based on the model of Mussolini's march on Rome with the aim of defeating the governments in Bavaria and To depose Berlin. The so-called "March on the Feldherrnhalle " in Munich by the National Socialist propaganda , however, was put down by the Bavarian state police , the NSDAP now also banned in Bavaria.

German first edition of Mein Kampf , July 1925. Exhibit in the German Historical Museum in Berlin.

In the Hitler trial before the Bavarian People's Court , those involved in the coup were consistently mild, if not acquittals. Hitler himself, for whom the course of the trial offered the widely perceived stage for propaganda on his own behalf, only received the statutory minimum sentence of five years imprisonment in the Landsberg Fortress . He was given the prospect of being released from prison after serving six months, and expulsion as a foreigner under the Republic Protection Act was waived. During his detention under unusually comfortable conditions, Hitler dictated his programmatic autobiography " Mein Kampf " to his secretary and later deputy, Rudolf Hess .

The NSDAP's ban of November 23, 1923 was undermined by the establishment of front organizations: in Bavaria by the Greater German National Community under Alfred Rosenberg , who was replaced by Julius Streicher and Hermann Esser in July 1924 ; in Northern Germany through the National Socialist Freedom Movement of Greater Germany led by Gregor Strasser and Erich Ludendorff . After his release from prison on December 20, 1924, Hitler found a divided and weakened ethnic camp that he reserved to unite and now to bring it to power through legal channels. In fact, he always succeeded in the future in keeping the upper hand in internal party struggles and rivalries. The historian Hans-Ulrich Wehler suspects that without the person of Hitler "National Socialism would in all likelihood have remained an ordinary authoritarian nationalist party with vague goals, as it existed in some places". After the ban in Prussia was lifted on December 12, 1924 - the danger posed by the National Socialists no longer seemed great enough for this severest sanction - the NSDAP was re-established on February 27, 1925 in the Munich Bürgerbräukeller with Hitler as the only speaker. In the two-hour speech, which he began with the well-known ideological set pieces, Hitler finally declared that he would not allow factions or wings to impose any conditions on him in his claim to leadership "and then cleverly staged the reconciliation of those who were hopelessly quarreling in his absence on the open scene". However, the speech also had the consequence that the Bavarian government issued a ban on speaking against Hitler, which numerous other state governments joined and which lasted until March 1927, in Prussia until September 1928. During this phase of the relative stabilization of the Weimar Republic , the NSDAP remained one marginal splinter party.

The Stahlhelm flag companies move into the Berlin stadium during the major event “Ten Years of the Treaty of Versailles” (June 1929).

The referendum against the Young Plan , which ultimately failed in 1929 , and which gave the National Socialist agitation broad development, and the global economic crisis that spread to Germany with growing mass unemployment were important factors in the enormous increase in the number of mandates for the NSDAP in the 1930 Reichstag elections . With regard to the spectrum of potential voters, which included workers, the middle class and farmers, the NSDAP was unusually broad; In a formulation by party researcher Jürgen W. Falter, it was a “people 's party of protest”. The leading participation in shaping the Harzburg Front in October 1931 made the National Socialists increasingly compatible in German nationalist circles. In the Reichswehr trial in Ulm against Reichswehr officers who were accused of spreading Nazi propaganda, Hitler testified in his publicly effective so-called legality oath that he was trying to gain power “not by illegal means,” and thus countered rumors of another coup. However, also because of the declining capacity of the Reichstag to act in the era of presidential cabinets that began after the Reichstag elections in 1930, the political debate shifted more and more to the extra-parliamentary area. The military associations of the parties - the SA of the NSDAP, the Stahlhelm closely related to the DNVP , the Red Front Fighters' League based on the KPD , the Social Democrat-dominated Reichsbanner Schwarz-Rot-Gold - met in militant conflicts on the streets and in the meeting rooms.

With his naturalization, Hitler, who was stateless on his own initiative from 1925 , was given the opportunity to run against Hindenburg among others in the 1932 presidential election. The prevailed again; but from the two subsequent Reichstag elections in July and November 1932, which resulted from the Reichstag's resistance to the emergency ordinance regime of Reich Chancellor Franz von Papen appointed by Hindenburg, the NSDAP emerged as by far the strongest parliamentary group. As extreme wing parties, the National Socialists and Communists now had a negative majority in the Reichstag, which made any parliamentary work impossible. In talks with Hindenburg about the possible participation of the National Socialists in government, Hitler relentlessly claimed chancellorship for himself; he declined the offered vice-chancellorship . For a long time, Hindenburg refused to appoint Hitler as Chancellor and, even after von Papen's double failure, preferred Kurt von Schleicher to Hitler for an understanding with the Reichstag. When even von Schleicher found no support in the Reichstag, he himself, in cooperation with other confidants of the now 86-year-old Paul von Hindenburg, recommended the appointment of Hitler as Reich Chancellor.

Establishment of the regime in 1933/34

When the Hitler cabinet was formed , only two other National Socialists were represented among the twelve members besides himself: Wilhelm Frick and Hermann Göring . DNVP Minister Alfred Hugenberg and Vice Chancellor Franz von Papen believed that Hitler was “committed” to their own ends. Von Papen ironed off doubters: “What do you want! I have Hindenburg's trust. In two months we pushed Hitler into a corner and made him squeak. ”The French ambassador André François-Poncet , who disagreed from the outset, stated six months after Hitler took up his chancellorship that National Socialism would take over power within the next six months had covered a distance of five months that had previously taken Italian fascism under Mussolini five years.

After unsuccessful sham negotiations between Hitler and the Center for the Formation of a Majority Government, Hindenburg dissolved the Reichstag again on February 1, 1933 and called new elections. In the ordinance of the Reich President for the protection of the German people on February 4, the KPD was banned and the first emergency ordinances were issued, which were primarily directed against communists and socialists and restricted freedom of the press, freedom of opinion and freedom of assembly. Immediately after the Reichstag fire of February 27, 1933, Hindenburg issued the Reichstag Fire Ordinance , which curtailed these fundamental rights of the constitution even more. Many members of the KPD, the SPD and the smaller communist and socialist parties as well as the free trade unions were mistreated and taken into " protective custody ". All over the Reich, provisional places of imprisonment for the SA in gymnasiums, barns or cellars , in which political opponents were held and tortured, were set up. A first concentration camp of the SS camp system, which was later set up as a central government system, was set up in Dachau . Many detainees did not survive detention conditions, which included torture and murder.

In the Reichstag election on March 5, 1933 , which was accompanied by repression , the NSDAP missed an absolute majority, but this was corrected by canceling the seats won by the KPD before the first session of the new Reichstag. The Enabling Act of March 24, 1933 initially gave the government almost unrestricted legislative powers for a period of four years . With the law against the formation of new parties of July 14, 1933, the NSDAP became the only approved party in Germany: the demonstrative end of Weimar democracy. For the Reichstag election on November 12, 1933 , only a single list of NSDAP members and selected guests was presented. The German Reichstag was retained, but was a sham parliament until 1945. See also the right to vote in the time of National Socialism . With the alignment of the states , which lost all sovereign tasks, the independence of the states guaranteed by the Weimar Constitution in favor of the Nazi central authority, which soon afterwards was expressed solely in the “will of the leader”, ended. Until the end of 1934, similar measures affected most clubs, associations and unions, the craftsmen, student associations , media, cultural institutions and the judiciary. Party organizations of the NSDAP took over the former tasks of state agencies and non-state interest groups in many areas.

Schoolhouse in Fürth on the occasion of the referendum on the unification of the offices of Reich President and Reich Chancellor on August 19, 1934. Official result in the Reich: 89.9 percent approval

When driven by continued revolutionary impatience and private egotism SA leadership in mid-1934 under Ernst Rohm was the intent on consolidating its position of power and balancing of interests with the Army command Hitler annoying, this ended in agreement with Himmler , Goebbels and Goering called Putsch with Help from supporters of the SS and had both Röhm and his entourage as well as other personal opponents murdered - staging himself as the supreme court lord and restorer of orderly conditions. In doing so, he secured the support of the Reichswehr leadership, so that after the imminent death of Hindenburg, nothing stood in the way of Hitler's already prepared amalgamation of the Chancellorship and Presidency. By admitting that the Reichswehr would in future remain the only armed forces in the Reich, Hitler could now easily make himself their commander-in-chief.

After Hindenburg's death on August 2, 1934, Hitler took over the office of Reich President on the basis of a law passed by his government and gave himself the title of Führer and Reich Chancellor . With a plebiscite , he had his action confirmed retrospectively. War Minister Werner von Blomberg , whom Hindenburg had appointed before Hitler and who, along with others, should “frame” or “tame” his power according to the ideas of the conservatives, had the Reichswehr sworn in on Hitler's person. The officials also had to take a “ driver's oath ”. With the law to restore the civil service as a basis, employees critical of the regime were removed from the public administration. With this, Hitler had enforced, stabilized and permanently secured his rule domestically.

Peace years 1934 to 1939

According to the propagated claim, all social differences should be abolished in the National Socialist community. One promised to dissolve old social contradictions and to create a national mass society. Social relationships, even in the non-public area, were under constant tension. “The private could be a place of retreat, at the same time it was subject to the constant demand to realign one's own behavior and tear down the previous boundaries between private and public life. National Socialism demanded a permanent decision to behave appropriately in the interests of the national community. "

An essential instrument for bringing about the national socialist way of thinking was violence. It was an important part of the National Socialist self-image and the rise of the movement. It formed “a central pillar” of the political order since 1933, and according to Dietmar Süß it was “one of the essential characteristics of Nazi rule to continue to delimit state and party authority.” Even during the first months of Hitler's government, including Riccardo Bavaj , the expansion of National Socialist power took place by means of violence in a “reciprocal dynamic from above and below”. Violence also remained the always available means of choice against all those who corresponded to the political and ethnic-racist enemy images of the National Socialists and should therefore not belong to the National Socialist community. Even before 1933, the NSDAP published lists, directories and, in some cases, city maps that either marked the route to “German” shops or the location of “Jewish” shops. That should encourage the German housewife to make the right purchase decision.

The National Socialists paid special attention to youth, their comprehensive social control, indoctrinating apprehension and mobilization, while the educational role of parents was pushed back as far as possible. "Power and consensus in Hitler's state", so Thamer, "rested to a large extent on the fact that the regime repeatedly unleashed youthful enthusiasm and aggressiveness and at the same time knew how to discipline and manipulate them."

Propaganda and personality cult

1935: Shops close so that a speech by Hitler can be heard.

Hitler had already emphasized the importance of Nazi propaganda for achieving the self-imposed goals in the re-establishment phase of the NSDAP in 1925: The party was not an end in itself, but should only "enable the political-agitational struggle of the movement to create the organizational prerequisites for educational activity are absolutely necessary. ”In Mein Kampf he called for the use of propaganda to win over people for the party organization, who in turn should mobilize other people to continue the propaganda. It is a matter of decomposing the "existing state" and spreading the new teaching. Victory is possible "if the new worldview is taught to all people as possible and, if necessary, is later imposed."

The Reich Ministry for Public Enlightenment and Propaganda , created in March 1933 under Joseph Goebbels, was given responsibility “for all tasks of intellectual influence on the nation, advertising for the state, culture and economy, informing the domestic and foreign public about them and the administration of all Institutions serving these purposes. ”According to Thamer, several hundred officials were busy drafting the daily press instructions for the German newspaper system, which largely continued to exist in its numerical diversity, and monitoring compliance with them. Day after day, the newspaper representatives received the pre-filtered information and instructions on how to use it. Another important means of disseminating the regime's political propaganda was radio and the specially developed people's receiver , which was widely distributed and with which listening to the radio - according to the propagated claim - should no longer be a private matter for each individual, but a "state political duty". The coverage rate with radio sets rose from 25 percent of all households in 1933 to 65 percent in 1941, although some rural regions and low-income urban households still had no radio reception.

The core component of Nazi propaganda was the personality cult around Hitler. This became particularly visible in everyday public life after the Hitler salute had become mandatory for all Reich authorities, Reichsstatthalter and the state governments since July 1933 , which was carried over by the party as a "German greeting" to all public life, including schools, where teachers should greet the class with "Heil Hitler" at the beginning of each lesson. In cities, small enamel signs were sometimes attached to power poles, lamp posts, shops and front doors with inscriptions such as: “The German greets: Heil Hitler!” Or “Volksgenossen, if you come in, your greeting should be 'Heil Hitler' ! ”Another element of the Hitler cult was the annual celebration of the Fiihrer's birthday on April 20th. The evening before, the new age groups joined the Hitler Youth across the Reich ; On the day itself, swearing-in, membership and awarding of awards were carried out everywhere.

April 20 was thus integrated into the Nazi-specific calendar of celebrations, festivals and days of remembrance, the beginning of which on January 30th was the “day of the seizure of power”. On February 24th, the “party founding ceremony” took place, in the middle of March the Heroes' Remembrance Day ; on May 1st the “National Labor Day” was celebrated, soon afterwards Mother's Day with honors for the heroines of the “Gebärschlacht”. On June 21st, the summer solstice was celebrated with fire wheels and fire speeches; and at the beginning of September there was the annual Nazi party rally in Nuremberg, the highest festival of the NSDAP, a five-day celebration in 1933 and an eight-day celebration in 1938, which exceeded all other events on the Nazi calendar in terms of splendor and power. "The magic of the flags and torches, the mass rituals and the Führer cult, the transfiguration of death and oaths of loyalty numbed all the senses and satisfied the most ancient lust for horror." At the end of September or beginning of October, the Reichserntedankfest on the Bückeberg near Hameln was celebrated as a mass event , 1933 with 500,000 people, 1937 with more than 1.3 million. On November 9th, Hitler and his entourage celebrated the day in Munich to commemorate the "fallen of the movement": Together with the "old fighters", Hitler marched behind the "blood flag" between other flags and burning sacrificial bowls in order to avoid the failure of the coup of 1923 into a triumph and to elevate the fallen of the movement "to the founders of religions of a new state cult": "The blood they shed became water for the Reich to baptize". The end of the Nazi festival calendar was in December the celebration of the winter solstice and the “People's Christmas , the Nazi-specific modifications of which were intended to push back the Christian Christmas, which, however, only had some success in party-affiliated circles.

Social policy accents

While the communist and social democratic oriented sections of the working class lost their political and trade union representation within a few months of the Nazi rule due to violence and repression - instead, the German Labor Front (DAF) was founded under Robert Ley and working life in the companies was Organized the principle of allegiance - on the other hand, for the National Socialists it was a question of winning over the mass of wage earners to their ideas of a new, racially exclusive national community. In addition to May 1st, other paid holidays have been created and paid leave has been expanded. They provided tax relief for lower and middle income at the expense of higher incomes, put debtors in a better position than creditors and improved tenant protection.

The regime's leisure-time policy measures under the umbrella of the "NS-Gemeinschaft 'Kraft durch Freude'" (KdF), which followed the example of the fascist Opera Nazionale Dopolavoro in Italy, gained lasting popularity . In Hitler's founding appeal it was said: “I want the German worker to be given sufficient leave. I want this because I want a people with strong nerves, because you can only make great politics with a people who keep their nerve. ”With the extension of the collectively regulated annual vacation time from three days in 1933 to six to twelve days created a travel opportunity for everyone. Since membership in the DAF included that in the KdF, there was a broad social impact. According to Thamer, the prices were unrivaled, both for a weekend trip to the Bavarian Forest and for a cruise to Italy. This was made possible through strict rationalization, through subsidies from DAF funds and through price dictates vis-à-vis the accommodation industry. The number of participants in KdF vacation trips rose from 2.3 million in 1934 to 10.3 million in 1938. Nevertheless, only every third to fourth participant in a KdF trip belonged to the workforce; The main beneficiaries were the middle classes.

With the catchphrase “culture for everyone”, concerts and plays were brought to the factories within the KdF framework and financial and social hurdles, such as the dress code , that had prevented workers from entering concert halls and theaters, were lifted. In the end, larger contingents of tickets for the Bayreuth Festival were offered to a working-class audience at low prices.

Burleigh sees the National Socialist People's Welfare (NSV) as an essential instrument for mobilizing the Nazi community feeling , to which Hitler in May 1933 granted responsibility for "all questions of people's welfare and welfare" under the direction of Erich Hilgenfeldt . The church welfare associations that still existed next to it and the German Red Cross were gradually subordinated to the NSV, which rose to the largest NS mass organization after the DAF by 1939 - with over eighty thousand employees and one million volunteers. Through membership fees and mass collection campaigns, she had enormous financial resources. The National Socialists were particularly interested in duty and sacrifice for the well-being of the community and an activist climate in their service. This also applied to the Winter Relief Organization of the German People (WHW) assigned to the NSV as a social emergency aid program for the toughest months of the year. The solidarity of the better-off was demonstratively demanded, especially through the stew Sunday on every first Sunday of the month in winter, whereby the funds saved for a lavish meal should be transferred to the WHW.

According to Thamer, the activities emanating from NSV, KdF, WHW and other NS organizations, such as mass tourism and stewing, “worked towards a psychological equalization and a change in the social world of emotions. The evocation of the national community and the equalizing effect of mass consumption and industrial mass culture reinforced each other. The National Socialist national community remained a myth, but myths also have a transformative power, especially when they make use of the suggestion of technical and civilizational progress. "

Women's role and family function

In the Nazi national community, women were ideologically determined to play their part in marriage, family and household within the framework of a “comradeship of the sexes”. In a speech to the National Socialist Women's Association , Hitler emphasized that the success of the National Socialist National Community would only be made possible through the deployment of millions of “fanatical fellow fighters” who dedicated themselves to the service of common life support. This made marriage a “place of performance-oriented conservation of the species”. It was funded by a marriage loan on the condition that a "marriage suitability certificate" established the "marriage suitability" and "marriage suitability". The test criteria were fertility, hereditary health as well as social and educational skills in the sense of the National Socialist community. "To a greater extent than ever before, the state gained access to the physicality of married and newlywed men and women through official medical examinations."

According to the Nazi program, four children per family should ensure the survival of the people. “The population planners and family judges of the Third Reich now patrolled the intimate place of marriage.” The interest-free marriage loan of 500 to 1,000 Reichsmarks was also linked to the unemployment of the woman when it was introduced. For each child the woman gave birth, a quarter of the loan amount was waived, so that the loan was "deferred" after the fourth birth. With the upgrading of Mother's Day and the introduction of the Cross of Honor of the German Mother , further incentives were intended to encourage childbearing. The mother and child aid organization created on February 28, 1934 - Goebbels stated in the foreword to the foundation: "Mother and child are the pledge for the immortality of a people" - provided for immediate help in eliminating material emergencies, such as the procurement of laundry and food aid. The care of pre-school children and the sending of mothers to rest homes were also among the possible services, whereby the selection was again based on “hereditary biological” aspects.

It is true that marriages and births actually increased in the first years of Nazi rule; But the National Socialists could not break the trend towards smaller families: an average of 2.3 children were born in the marriages concluded in 1920; in the 1930 closed 2.2 children; in those of the war year 1940, however, only 1.8 children on average. In 1941 the production of contraceptives was banned. On abortions was from 1943, the death penalty .

Against the ideological guidelines, there was no decline in female employment during the Nazi era. Between 1933 and 1939 the number of women in the labor force rose by 1.3 million. However, the proportion of women in academic professions and administrative officials has been reduced. At universities, a numerus clausus from 1933 onwards limited the proportion of female first-year students to 10 percent. In 1936 Hitler personally decreed that women were not allowed to become judges or lawyers. When, under the conditions of the Nazi economy, which was heading towards war, the exhaustion of the workforce became a priority, the employment ban for wives as a condition for a marital loan was lifted in 1937.


One of the National Socialist guiding principles was that the future belonged to those who had the youth behind them. By embedding in the Nazi organizational and indoctrination structure - from the young people to the Hitler Youth (HJ) to the various NS adult associations and mass organizations, the adolescents should, according to Hitler, be completely formed into "whole National Socialists". Eventual remnants of “class consciousness or class arrogance” are finally taken over by the Wehrmacht for further treatment, “and when they return after two, three or four years, then we immediately take them back to the SA, SS so that they do not relapse under any circumstances and so on, and they will no longer be free all their lives. "

According to contemporary advisors, early childhood education was already aimed at strict regulation in terms of time and emotions: strictly synchronized eating and sleeping rhythms, cleanliness training with flogging and hardening in a harsh environment. There were National Socialist kindergartens with trained educators even for the toddlers; for illegitimate or surplus children there was the Lebensborn facility , where they were brought up in state homes.

The objectives of Nazi education in the further development stages of adolescents were aimed at loyalty to the people instead of the ability to think, towards faith and devotion instead of enlightenment and insight. Central values ​​were honor, Germanness, blood and soil, as well as the lordship of the Aryan race, as well as scorn and hatred of alleged "pests of the people" of all kinds. Parents and schools were put under pressure to adapt in this regard. Hitler's slogan of “breeding perfectly healthy bodies” was taken up by an expansion of physical education. In particular, the curricula for the school subjects biology, geography, history and German were given anti-Semitic and racial ideological accents.

The service obligation of young people in the Hitler Youth, the Nazi principle that youth should be led and educated by youth, as well as the introduction of the State Youth Day , which exempted Hitler Youth members from attending school on Saturdays in favor of the Hitler Youth service, meant a weakening of the school's educational function. especially since the young management staff sometimes claimed even more extensive service and training-related special exemptions from school attendance. In some cases, in contradiction to the Nazi image of women, such special rights were also used by BDM activists. They also spent their free time in a politically organized way outside of the home. "The totality claim", says Thamer, "with which the upbringing to become a 'race-conscious' and 'genetically healthy' German woman and mother was carried into the last corner of the empire," said the girls from the traditional confinement of household, family, Church and school brought out. "In the provinces, even girls' sport and the wearing of sportswear were tantamount to a revolutionary break in modernity."

Nonetheless, the Nazi education system in the school sector also reached the limits of its influence in terms of complete ideological penetration. The inertia of educational federalism played just as much a role as the extensive continuity of the German teaching staff between 1933 and 1939. Therefore, in some schools the internal climate was rather indifferent to the ideological guidelines of the Nazi apparatus, if only cautiously distant. On the other hand, the National Political Educational Institutes (Napolas) and Adolf Hitler Schools serving to train Nazi leadership cadre did not make up more than one to two percent of an Abitur class.


During the Weimar period there were separate sports organizations for the Communists, Social Democrats, Catholics and Protestants, but none of the National Socialist ones. In autumn 1932, Gregor Strasser, the head of organization of the NSDAP, was asked whether one should set up one. He wrote that it was too late to do something sensible for this, the time to take over power was too short, one would go the fascist way of state sport as in Italy. Since no NSDAP personality had distinguished himself as a potential Reich Sports Leader , Hans von Tschammer und Osten was selected, who as a violent commissioner in Central Germany had to be compensated for the task of his marauding SA men. Sports policy took several steps: in the spring of 1933, Jews and democrats were forced out of the clubs and associations, workers' sports organizations were closed, and a standardized sports organization was founded. In the summer, company sports came into force through joy , and in the autumn the focus was placed on the 1936 Olympic Games. In the summer of 1936, the church sports organizations were closed and the Olympic Games were held. From then on, the entire sporting youth work was taken over by the Hitler Youth (HJ). In 1938 the sports organizations were taken over by the NSDAP ( NSRL ). Jewish associations were banned.

During the National Socialist dictatorship, sport experienced “an appreciation like never before in history. The younger generation in particular was trained in sports at school and in the Hitler Youth to an extent that was unprecedented. ”Physical fitness was considered the basis of military performance. In addition, the National Socialists saw sport as an instrument to promote military virtues such as toughness, courage and discipline. Finally, sport was also a means of strengthening public health . Therefore, women's sport also experienced a strong boom in the Nazi state.

Cultural policy

Cultural life was shaped by politics and served propaganda purposes. Most of the works were created by artists who conformed to the regime and served Nazi propaganda or at least conveyed the views of the National Socialists. An agricultural idyll untouched by modern technology or Germanic gods were often depicted.

The visual arts were anti-modern and followed a concept of realism of the 19th century, in which, for example, heroically exaggerated motifs or those of petty-bourgeois idyll were in the foreground. Pathetic representations in the sense of National Socialist ideology glorified agricultural work ( blood-and-soil ideology ), motherhood or war. In sculpture and architecture, monumental representations, which were essentially based on classicism , were often in the foreground.

Modern art such as pictures from the fields of New Objectivity or Expressionism were condemned as "degenerate" and burned, the creators of the works first declassified, then persecuted.

See also: Degenerate Art , Architecture in National Socialism , National Socialist Film Policy , Book Burning in Germany in 1933 , Reich Music Chamber , Literature in the Time of National Socialism

Persecution of the Jews

Jewish emigration from Germany 1933–1941
year Number of emigrants
1933 37-38,000
1934 22-23,000
1935 20-21,000
1936 24-25,000
1937 23,000
1938 33-40,000
1939 75-80,000
1940 15,000
1941 8,000
Even leaders of Sciences were expelled, including the mathematician Emmy Noether .

The disenfranchisement and persecution of German Jews began immediately after Hitler came to power, initially with targeted street terror by the SA. From March 1933, Jewish doctors, lawyers, pharmacists, pool attendants , etc. were forced out of their freelance professions, excluded from their professional associations and were banned from practicing their profession . On April 1, 1933, the SA organized the first boycott of Jewish businesses . With the law for the restoration of the civil service of April 7, 1933, unpopular civil servants were removed from the civil service. The Aryan paragraph contained therein was the first racist law for "non- Aryans " and affected followers of the Jewish faith or presumed Jewish origin. They were first removed from the public service, then also from clubs, professional associations and Protestant regional churches that introduced similar regulations. They were also legally excluded from general schools and gradually from public life. Only former Jewish soldiers of the First World War did the front-line fighters' privilege offer little protection until 1935. The law on admission to the bar was aimed at eliminating Jewish lawyers and was also enacted on April 7, 1933.

As a result, around 200,000 politically or racially persecuted people chose to emigrate . The Nazi regime welcomed this as a "flight of opponents of the system". At the same time it set up concentration camps - first the Dachau concentration camp - in which mainly political opponents, but also religious minorities, were interned en masse. This made the dictatorial character of the regime at home and abroad obvious.

As of September 1935, the Reich Citizenship Act deprived all German Jews of their civil rights. However, only a few more of them then emigrated than before. Most of them had adjusted to the discrimination and hoped in vain for the regime to be replaced. In 1938 the systematic disenfranchisement of German Jews continued with the Aryanizations , which were legally underpinned by numerous ordinances, e.g. B. the ordinance on the elimination of Jews from German economic life and the ordinance on the use of Jewish assets . With the name change ordinance for the use of an additional first name, the ordinance on passports of Jews , with identification cards and registration lists, all Jews were recorded. At the end of October 1938, thousands of Jews who had immigrated from Poland were arrested, deported and brought to the Polish border as part of the so-called Poland campaign . During the nationwide November pogroms of 1938 , in which Jewish culture was destroyed throughout Germany and Austria, tens of thousands of “ action Jews ” were imprisoned in concentration camps. Immediately afterwards, the remaining Jews were forbidden from possessing weapons by the regulation against the possession of weapons by Jews of November 11, 1938 ( RGBl. I, 1573). The mistreatment and killings continued for the days and weeks that followed.

Terror apparatus

An apparatus of repression made up of the Gestapo , SS , SD and security police was set up. The nature of the violent repression included the imprisonment and the establishment of illegal concentration camps as a police measure in 1933 immediately after the parliamentary elections in March ( preventive detention declared as “ protective custody ”). The steel helmet and the assault departments of the NSDAP were made into " auxiliary police ", which arbitrarily humiliated and mistreated their previous opponents. In Bremerhaven, prisoners were tortured on the " ghost ship ".

In the years that followed, the Gestapo was primarily responsible for combating “anti-state tendencies” and had 32,000 employees; this was comparatively little, but the regime was able to rely on the many Nazi sympathizers and informers .

Legal system in the unjust state

The structure, tasks and basic structure of the courts did not change in the transition from the Weimar Republic to National Socialism. A large part of the laws, such as the German Civil Code (BGB) or the Criminal Code (StGB) , have only been partially changed. The Weimar Constitution was not officially repealed, but in fact it was overturned by a large number of laws (cf. the “ Law to Eliminate the Need of the People and the Reich ” (Enabling Act) of March 24, 1933 and the “Regulation for the Protection of the People and State ”of February 28, 1933, the so-called Reichstag Fire Ordinance ). The Nazi legal doctrine did not recognize the WRV: Carl Schmitt declared in 1933 "in truth [the] Enabling Act is a provisional constitutional law of the new Germany". This concerned in particular fundamental rights , the separation of powers and legislation . Many laws and regulations were in direct contradiction to the WRV. Changed criminal laws applied retrospectively.

In addition to parliamentary laws and ministerial ordinances , the so-called Fuehrer's Decree , viewed by Nazi lawyers as a sui generis legal source , came as a new source of law , above all other legal sources. Special courts have been introduced to implement this .

The BGB was hardly changed, but through the "gateways" of the general clauses of §§ 138, 242, 826 BGB, the National Socialist ideology was also implemented in civil law. For example, each contract was i. S. d. BGB, which was concluded with a homosexual or a Jew, immoral and therefore null and void according to § 138 BGB .

Prussian Minister of Justice Hanns Kerrl visiting the trainee camp, Jüterbog . Symbol of justice, the paragraph sign, hung on the gallows. 1934

The overlapping of NSDAP guidelines and administrative law, which resulted from the “unity of party and state”, led to the latter being marginalized. The new administrative purpose was the fulfillment of a community purpose. In this context there was an elimination of subjective public rights (citizens' rights to defend themselves against state action) and a loss of competence of the administrative judiciary .

By the protective custody (detention by SA and SS completely without method) were deliberately set on or off under pressure in advance of criminal defendant, and witnesses. Torture was seen as a legitimate means of gathering evidence, among others. by the Gestapo . An admission of guilt at the beginning of the process (similar to the guilty plea in the Anglophone legal system ) to shorten the process was introduced and also applied. Criminal laws were extended to a large number of offenses by applying the same law (Section 2a StGB old version). The " healthy public feeling " was considered an extended customary law .

Special offenses for minorities or groups of people (Jews, forced laborers , foreigners) have been included in criminal law . The persecution of homosexuals also intensified during the Nazi era. In 1935, Section 175 of the RStGB was massively tightened in terms of the offenses as well as the sentence and thus the total criminalization of male homosexuality was decreed. In 1936 a “Reich Central Office for Combating Homosexuality and Abortion” was set up. With the gradual expansion of the German Empire, special "legal principles" were applied to the subject peoples (especially in Eastern and Southeastern Europe ). During the Second World War, the National Socialist hierarchy of “ super- ” and “ sub-humans ” found expression in numerous decrees, Führer orders and regulations, most consistently enforced in the eastern regions (including the General Government , see also: Poland Decrees , Polish Criminal Law Ordinance ).

The criminal law of the Third Reich was for the most part not related to the crime, but focused on the perpetrator (cf. the Customs Criminal Law of 1933 and the Ordinance against Pests of the People of 1939). This meant that the punishment was not primarily determined according to the seriousness of the offense, but rather according to the perceived danger to the people from the perpetrator.

In the foreground of the penal system in National Socialist Germany was the “atonement” of guilt and deterrence in the sense of general prevention . Special prevention only played a subordinate role. From 1944 onwards, standing courts were used more and more throughout the entire Reich to try those who disrupted the military and deserters . These were generally occupied by lay judges (e.g. the mayor of a town).

Roland Freisler (center) as President of the People's Court , 1944

In 1934 the People's Court (VGH) was created. Its main purpose was to handle political show trials. From 1934 to June 1944, the VGH passed 5,375 death sentences. For the period from July 1944 to April 1945, it is estimated that around 2,000 further death sentences will be passed. The members of the White Rose and the assassins of July 20, 1944 were sentenced to death by the VGH.

The jurisprudence changed its basic orientation from the jurisprudence of interests to the jurisprudence of ideology. This was accompanied by a strict rejection of a natural law . In National Socialist jurisprudence, law-making through interpretation (circumvention of legislation, “Führer word”) was generally recognized.

Economic policy

Economic life in the Nazi state was based on incentives and obligations. The private-sector control over the company remained fundamentally unaffected. At the same time, as announced and promised to its supporters in large-scale economy before 1933, the regime invested in the armament of the Wehrmacht and in the military-civil infrastructure (motorway, barracks construction) and benefited from the recovery of the world economy with the The result of a reduction, then an end to general unemployment, was welcomed by all. While the labor movement was suppressed and persecuted by all means, a number of socio-political improvements were introduced, limited to “ German-blooded ” workers. Symbolically and demagogically, May 1st was rededicated as a traditional “day of struggle” for the labor movement as a non-working holiday in 1933, and the leisure organization “Kraft durch Freude” offered vacation opportunities and cultural events.

Sections of the economy played an important role in Hitler's takeover and goals. A group of industrialists, including the President of the Reichsbank and later Minister of Economics, Hjalmar Schacht , submitted a petition to President Hindenburg in 1932 , demanding that Hitler be appointed Chancellor. In addition, Hitler received donations from big industrialists like Flick and Krupp and bankers ( Keppler-Kreis ) before and especially after the seizure of power. B. the Adolf Hitler donation to the German economy . The general approval of large and growing parts of the “German national community” was important for the success of the National Socialists , initially due to political and ideological agreement and later due to economic successes and socio-political improvements, which were to be understood as privileges vis-à-vis minorities. Since the beginning of the war, the initial military successes, especially the victory over France, made a significant contribution to general satisfaction and economic security.

One of Hitler's most urgent tasks after he came to power was overcoming the economic crisis, which had helped him gain power, but which would have endangered him if it had failed. He achieved this primarily through deficit spending , i.e. economic stimulus programs and job creation measures financed with loans (the Mefo bills ). The end of reparations payments during the Weimar Republic also began to take effect, and the economic situation had already improved before Hitler. By turning away from Brüning's deflationary policy , contrary to popular opinion, the previous governments of Franz von Papen and Kurt von Schleicher introduced measures to stimulate the economy that did not primarily serve to prepare for war, such as the construction of the motorways .

Preparations for war initially did not play a major role in stimulating the economy for the general public. For example, measures aimed at population policy, such as marriage loans, were more obvious : a couple was offered a loan of 1,000 Reichsmarks upon marriage if the woman then left working life permanently. Dictatorial steps also played a role, such as the abolition of the trade unions or the murder of the anti - capitalist SA chief of staff Ernst Röhm , who called for a social revolution based on the 25-point program.

An important measure was the production battle in agriculture . In September 1933 all farms, cooperatives and chambers of agriculture were forcibly united in the Reichsnährstand . The nutritional status was glorified and popularized as a source of racial renewal, but in reality it became less important. The average wage in agriculture fell steadily, and the percentage of those employed in agriculture also fell. The industry should also become more independent from abroad, so that the extraction of domestic raw materials was increased. The establishment of the Reich Labor Service combined the propagandistic purpose of apparently “getting the young unemployed off the street” in the short term with the striving for self-sufficiency to create new agricultural areas through z. B. To gain drainage of moors and swamps.

With the law on the organization of national labor on April 20, 1934, the leader principle was also introduced in companies. In the operating community , the operator was responsible for his "followers"; she was obliged to be faithful to him. In order to tie important industrialists to the Wehrmacht, they were appointed military economic leaders. Labor trustees had been controlling the factories since May 1933 and ensuring that the economy was brought into line; they also regulated the issue of collective bargaining regulations .

There was no increase in the standard of living for most of the working population, as armaments were soon given priority. So z. B. hidden inflation , restrictions in the choice of occupation, in the free choice of the job and an extension of the working hours are accepted. The growth was based on a planned economy and served the systematic armament and war preparation. With the law to restore the civil service of 1933, the dismissal of Jewish officials and judges based on the " Aryan paragraph ", which was soon extended to doctors and pharmacists, lawyers and journalists, university professors and artists, and the Aryanization of businesses, property, apartments and Mobiliar set in motion a gigantic redistribution of jobs and assets, from which Germans who had not become unemployed during the global economic crisis soon also benefited.

The distribution of ration cards began three days before the attack on Poland, scheduled for September 1, 1939, the beginning of World War II . Soon prisoners of war and an increasing number of abducted civilians were being used as slave labor, sometimes under inhuman conditions; at the end of the war there were around nine million ( see also: Poland decrees , Polish Criminal Law Ordinance , Eastern Workers , General Representative for Labor Deployment Fritz Sauckel ). Since men were needed in the war , more and more women worked in the factories, contrary to the statements of Mein Kampf . It was only after the first defeats against the Soviet Union and the USA entered the war at the end of 1941 that there was a clear switch to a war economy; of total war with the goal of full utilization of the economic and human potential for warfare was of only on February 18, 1943 Joseph Goebbels proclaimed.

At the end of the war, industry collapsed due to the bombing of the infrastructure (railways) and industrial plants and the lack of raw material supplies, the supply of food became problematic, the black market flourished. A gradual recovery only came with the loans from the Marshall Plan and the currency reform .

Research and medicine

The main concern of many Nazi-minded doctors and professors in the German Reich was the " breeding of perfectly healthy bodies " (quote from Hitler) and the " extermination of the weak and the sick " or the Jews. These purposes served z. For example, the Lebensborn homes , in which Aryan children were born and raised, racial hygiene and, as eugenic measures, the murders of the sick under National Socialism : seeAktion T4 ”, “ Aktion Brandt ” and “ Child euthanasia ”.

Other areas of science and research were also instrumentalized and organized in line with National Socialism.

Religious politics

The church and religious policy of National Socialism was inconsistent and full of contradictions. While older research was based on a unified will to annihilate churches and Christianity, opponents, sympathizers and neutralists from churches and Christianity faced each other in both the party and government agencies. Apart from the ban on slaughtering in April 1933, the laws of the Jewish religion were essentially not affected. However, in the course of the general, racially justified persecution of the Jews, the Jewish communities were gradually deprived of their protection and legal status.

In his government declaration of March 1933, Hitler had assigned the two major churches a state-supporting role. He then initially relied on the German Christians , who achieved a landslide victory in the church elections in June 1933 and then ruled part of the regional churches. Thereupon the inferior groups also elected Ludwig Müller as Reich Bishop . Against the exclusion of baptized Jews originated Pastors , from 1934, the Confessing Church emerged. This fought on the basis of the Barmer Theological Declaration against state encroachments on church affairs and against the total state without legal obligations. In practice, only rudimentary consequences were drawn from this, e. B. the formation of a separate organizational structure with the United Church leadership , a memorandum to Hitler against the deprivation of rights of minorities and against concentration camps, later the establishment of the Grüber office to help persecuted Jewish Christians and Jews. From 1937 the activities of the BK were increasingly subject to state control and many of their representatives were imprisoned, from 1939 most of the BK pastors were called up for military service. As a rule, however, the Protestant churches and their hierarchies showed themselves to be compliant supporters and sympathizers of the regime.

The Catholic Church distanced itself from the racism of the NSDAP until 1933. On July 22, 1933, however, the Vatican surprisingly concluded the Reich Concordat with the new Reich government in order to protect the German Catholic bishops, their dioceses and structures from attacks by the regime. In return, priests and bishops were obliged not to interfere in politics. The Center Party , which had been quite strong until then, gave up its opposition and then lost its right to exist. Through the Concordat, Hitler gained international prestige on the diplomatic stage.

Nevertheless, there were attacks on Catholic orders, the Kolping Youth and other Catholic groups. In 1936 and 1937, the Nazi state organized a series of around 250 criminal trials against Catholic priests and religious who were charged with various sexual crimes such as homosexual acts among men or child abuse . The trials, some of which had been prepared very negligently - in the summer of 1937, for example, a witness wanted to identify the presiding judge instead of the defendant as his alleged molester - were accompanied by malicious comments in the press at the direction of Propaganda Minister Goebbels. The aim was to discredit the church and to soften the rights promised in the Reich Concordat.

Pope Pius XI In 1937, with his encyclical With Burning Concern, turned sharply against German church policy and pointed to the part of the Concordat agreements not fulfilled by the National Socialists, but also to the contradictions between Christian faith and Nazi ideology. The encyclical did not directly denounce the systematic disenfranchisement of Jews or other religious and population groups, but condemned a distinction according to race.

National Socialism also had its own religious elements, above all the Führer cult and ritual mass marches with worship-like forms, Führer salutes, torches, solemn proclamations and hymns. The “party philosopher” Alfred Rosenberg wanted to split the Catholic and Protestant churches into opposing groups after the “final victory” by “counter- popes” and tried to revive the old Germanic, Persian and Indian religions to “make the passing biblical tradition an even older and better one to push in ". Hitler's private secretary, Martin Bormann , worked out a National Socialist catechism , the teachings of which were to gradually replace the Ten Commandments of the Bible . Reichsführer SS Heinrich Himmler had far-reaching ideas about the introduction of an old Germanic-pagan belief in gods and about the “pacification” of the Slavic peoples through the “teaching of the serious biblical researchers ”.

The official bodies had reservations about most of the smaller religious communities. Connections abroad, especially in the USA, refusal to take the oath and a fundamental distance from the National Socialist “national community” made such groups suspect; Pacifism and rejection of the National Socialist racial doctrine made them appear as opponents of the regime. The security service therefore demanded the destruction of the vast majority of the “sectarian”, while “harmless” groups should remain in order to promote “fragmentation in the ecclesiastical-religious area”. However, some agencies such as the Foreign Office warned against the dissolution of some religious communities, such as the Mormons or Christian Science , out of consideration for their international connections . The National Socialist state therefore proceeded differently with the individual small religious communities based on political considerations and depending on the degree of adaptation. The Jehovah's Witnesses were particularly severely persecuted from the start ( see also: Jehovah's Witnesses during the National Socialist era ). The Jehovah's Witnesses were banned in 1933 as allegedly related to Judaism, externally controlled and pacifist from the USA . Around 10,000 of them were imprisoned during the Nazi era, 2,000 of them in concentration camps; 1,200 Jehovah's Witnesses were executed or murdered. The Christian Science was indeed gradually restricted in their operation, but only prohibited 1,941th The Seventh-day Adventists were banned in 1933, perhaps also because they were confused with the pacifist Reform Adventists . The ban was lifted after ten days, whereupon the church leadership tried to adapt to the state in order to avoid the dissolution of the church. The Reform Adventists, on the other hand, were banned in 1936. Entire churches were on trial and many of their members were sentenced. Young men like Anton Brugger were sentenced to death for conscientious objection. The Reform Adventists remained underground until the end of the Nazi regime. Other communities like the Mormons, however, could continue indefinitely.

natural reserve

Nature conservation under National Socialism began in 1933 with the co-ordination of nature conservation associations and the exclusion of members of the Jewish faith from the associations. Comprehensive new legal regulations in the years 1933 to 1935 of the Nazi regime in the field of nature and environmental protection , above all the Reich Nature Conservation Act (RNG), regulated for the first time compensation after private interventions and introduced the less protected "landscape protection" as a new category. In practice, the Nazi regime did not stick to the path of comprehensive nature conservation that was initially prescribed by law.

Organization of the military

With the Reichswehr , the National Socialists took over the armed forces of the Weimar Republic . The Reichswehr was loyal to the state and did not actively support the NSDAP until it came to power, but many soldiers themselves were not supporters of the republic, so they did not defend it either. Under Hitler, the Reichswehr also hoped for progress in the revision of the Versailles Treaty, the leadership of the Reichswehr had already been informed of Hitler's plans on February 3, and they feared the SA. Efforts within the SA to take over the Reichswehr were ended by Hitler's crackdown on the Röhm Putsch , in which he eliminated the SA because he saw the Reichswehr as better suited to the war. The Reichswehr was also involved in this action and even tolerated the murder of two of its generals.

On August 3, after the death of the previous Commander-in-Chief, Reich President von Hindenburg, the Reichswehr was sworn in on the person of Hitler and thus became an instrument of Hitler. With the reintroduction of compulsory military service on March 16, 1935, the Reichswehr was renamed the Wehrmacht. The Wehrmacht was expanded and modernized; in 1939 it had a strength of 2.75 million men.

The resistance within the Wehrmacht leadership to his war plans, more out of doubts about the feasibility of the plans than for ideological reasons, he eliminated through the Blomberg-Fritsch crisis and created the high command of the Wehrmacht . The continued resistance, especially after the first successes of the war, could not prevail. The Wehrmacht tolerated the war of annihilation against the Soviet Union, parts of the Wehrmacht were also involved in executions. Only when Germany suffered defeats like the one at Stalingrad did members of the Wehrmacht try to end the war by eliminating Hitler in the assassination attempt on July 20, 1944 .

Foreign and Armaments Policy

The Treaty of Versailles was gradually broken and repealed. At the same time, Hitler affirmed his will for peace. This was initially believed abroad, especially in the appeasement era of Great Britain; an attempt was made to "tame" Hitler through concession and to avoid a new world war.

In 1935 the Saarland was reintegrated into the German Reich after a referendum carried out under international control resulted in overwhelming approval (90.8%). The Reichswehr was with the introduction of conscription into the Wehrmacht converted, at the same time the existence was Air Force revealed. Both steps violated the Versailles Treaty. The invasion of the demilitarized Rhineland on March 7, 1936 also represented a breach of the Nobel Peace Prize - winning Locarno Pact , which Hitler justified with the ratification of the Franco-Soviet Assistance Pact by France, which would have represented a breach of the Locarno Pact on the part of France.

At the Nuremberg Rally of the Nazi party in 1935 which were the Nuremberg racial laws decided that anchored the 1,933 already begun exclusion and isolation of German Jews as state laws and robbed them with racist reasons a lot of their civil rights. In 1935 Himmler gave his speech Der Untermensch in front of SS members , in which he contrasted the alleged atrocities of the Jews with the good and great cultural acts of the people .

In August 1936, Hitler used the Olympic Games in Berlin as a propaganda stage for the world public. The four-year plan was supposed to make the German Reich ready for war by 1940 at the latest. The regime, together with Mussolini's Italy, supported the fascist General Franco militarily in the Spanish civil war against the republic there. This gave Hitler the opportunity to test the operational readiness of his military in the event of war. The Condor Legion of the German Air Force destroyed the Basque city of Guernica in a first area bombing in 1937 . In a meeting recorded in the Hoßbach transcript on November 5, 1937, Hitler presented his plans for German war and foreign policy to the most important representatives of the Wehrmacht and the Foreign Minister.

In a speech on February 20, 1938, Hitler announced his goal of uniting all Germans in Central Europe in one state. On March 12, 1938, he preceded an intended referendum in Austria and after the invasion of the Wehrmacht ( company Otto ), to the cheers of the Viennese gathered on Heldenplatz , announced the “entry of my homeland into the German Reich”. Another area outside the empire that was mainly inhabited by Germans was the Czech Sudetenland . With the Karlovy Vary Program, which was practically impossible to achieve, Hitler provoked the Sudeten crisis , which on September 29, 1938 led to the annexation of the Sudetenland to the German Reich in the Munich Agreement . Hitler had intended to use the crisis to start a war and had been pushed by Mussolini and Goering to an agreement, which he perceived as a political defeat.

Most Germans agreed to this policy. Referendums were 1933 , 1934 , 1935 , 1936 and 1938 large majorities in favor of former decisions of Hitler. There were four main reasons for this:

  • Harmonization and terror against all dissenters intimidated the population.
  • A beginning upswing in the world economy, government investment programs, especially for armament and infrastructures that could be used by the military, revitalized the economy and brought about full employment in the second half of the 1930s , with wages remaining at the low level of the world economic crisis .
  • The ideology of the national community gave many Germans the feeling of living in an increasingly egalitarian society without class differences.
  • They experienced the foreign policy measures of the National Socialists as successes and reparations for past national humiliations.

After Herschel Grynszpan carried out an attack on the embassy secretary Ernst Eduard vom Rath in Paris on November 7, 1938 , the National Socialists staged the November pogroms . Local SA and SS members, some of whom appeared as civilians, set fires in numerous synagogues , abused and murdered many German Jews in front of the police, who did not intervene according to the orders, and deported tens of thousands of Jews to the concentration camps from November 10th. The " Jewish fine " imposed on the victims of over one billion Reichsmarks was used to finance the armament as immediate preparation for war.

In mid-March 1939, Slovakia was proclaimed an independent state. The area remaining from the former Czechoslovak Republic became dependent on the German Empire as the protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia . A week later, the Memelland was also annexed to the German Reich.

In order to keep his back free for his expansion goals in the east, Hitler concluded the German-Soviet non-aggression pact with the Soviet Union in August 1939 . In its secret additional protocol, Poland was divided up between the two states in the event of war. Hitler, on the other hand, promised not to act against Stalin if Stalin seized Finland, which he then did.

Second World War 1939 to 1945

With the attack on Poland , the Nazi regime began to implement its policy of conquest and Germanization , which it had been preparing for years, with war. During the Second World War , National Socialist Germany committed genocide millions of times . On September 27, 1940, Germany, the fascist ruled Italy and the Japanese Empire - the Axis Powers - signed the three-power pact as a political and military coalition. After rapid victories over the Netherlands, Belgium, France and Norway in 1940, the Nazi regime broke the German-Soviet non-aggression pact of 1939 and attacked the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941 (" Operation Barbarossa "). On December 11, 1941, Germany and Italy declared war on the United States .

The turn of the war began in the autumn and winter of 1942/1943 with the German defeats in the battles of El Alamein and Stalingrad . Mid-1943 was the turning point of the German submarine war in the Atlantic . The British and US air forces achieved almost complete air control over Germany from spring / summer 1944 and destroyed entire cities in the bombing war . At the beginning of June 1944, Western Allied troops landed in Normandy ( Operation Overlord ) and thus opened the second front in the west with the aim of pushing the Wehrmacht troops back into German territory and ultimately overthrowing the Nazi regime.

The Allied troops reached the borders of the "Old Reich" in October 1944. American and Soviet troops met in Central Germany on April 25, 1945 (" Elbe Day "). After Hitler's suicide on April 30, 1945, the battle for Berlin ended two days later . As a result, the Wehrmacht unconditionally surrendered to the Allies and their allies on May 8, 1945.

World War II killed over 62 million people worldwide. During its course, the National Socialists and their helpers murdered around a third of all European Jews ( Shoah ), around 3.5 million non-Jewish Soviet citizens and Poles (see also Crimes of the Wehrmacht ), at least 100,000, possibly over 500,000 Sinti and Roma ( Porajmos ), around 200,000 Disabled people (including “ Aktion T4 ”), an unknown number of German “ anti-social ” and around 5,000 homosexuals (→  Rosa Winkel ). In the National Socialist racial hygiene these groups were considered "inferior" or "unworthy of life" "racial pests". Before the war, around 20,000 political opponents of the regime classified as dangerous, mostly members of the left-wing parties, and around 1,200 Jehovah's Witnesses had been murdered. Deserters , looters and saboteurs received the death penalty as " pests of the people " .

Conquests (1939-1942)

The attack on Poland without a declaration of war on September 1, 1939 triggered World War II . On September 3, Great Britain and France first declared war on the German Reich . After the Wehrmacht's victory over Poland , the western part of Poland ( Greater Poland , West Prussia , Upper Silesia ) was annexed by Germany and the center was declared a General Government. On September 17, occupied the Red Army almost without a fight eastern Poland ; Poland was divided as agreed in the Hitler-Stalin Pact .

In 1940 the Wehrmacht occupied Denmark and Norway and then defeated the states of Luxembourg , the Netherlands , Belgium and France in the so-called “ Blitzkrieg ”, which lasted only six weeks . After the campaign in the west, France was divided into two zones. Only the north and west of France remained under German occupation. Marshal Pétain moved the seat of government to Vichy in the unoccupied part of France . Hitler's popularity peaked with the "erasure of the shame of Versailles ". The planned invasion of Great Britain - the " Operation Sea Lion " - was canceled by Hitler because the German Air Force could not achieve air sovereignty over England despite the numerical superiority of the pilots (6: 1) in the Battle of Britain .

In 1940/1941 Germany, together with fascist Italy, occupied the countries of Yugoslavia and Greece . Both countries were divided among the allied dictatorships. However, their conquest was followed by a grueling partisan war . Hungary , Romania and Bulgaria were won as allies of the Greater German Empire . At Mussolini's request , the Italian troops in North Africa were supported by German units from January 1941, the German Africa Corps , made famous by Field Marshal Erwin Rommel , the "desert fox".

On June 22, 1941, the Wehrmacht marched into the Soviet-occupied part of Poland and immediately afterwards attacked the Soviet Union itself in breach of the German-Soviet non-aggression pact . In the " Operation Barbarossa " planned as a war of annihilation , the German armed forces reached Moscow , Leningrad and Stalingrad . The Battle of Stalingrad marked a turning point in the war against the Soviet Union .

The occupied territories in the east were systematically plundered on the instructions of the National Socialists . The occupied Soviet territory was divided into various Reich Commissioners , each subordinate to a Reich Commissioner . The overall plan provided for the division of the USSR and its destruction as an independent state. This ultimate goal was only prevented by the further course of the war, but the systematic pillage, suppression and murder of the civilian population began.

The " General Plan Ost " drawn up by Reichsführer SS Heinrich Himmler provided for the decimation of the Slavic peoples by a total of 30 million and the oppression of the rest of them who work as construction workers, unskilled workers, factory workers, domestic staff, agricultural workers, in the armaments industry, building roads, etc. should. According to the German Hunger Plan of May 1941, agricultural products from Ukraine and southern Russia were transported to Germany on a large scale as "a prelude to the 'General Plan East'" . While up to 30 million starvation deaths were taken into account, at least four million people died of starvation in the occupied territories of the Soviet Union due to the failed blitzkrieg. The 2.6 million Soviet soldiers who starved to death in German captivity are also counted among the victims of the “Hunger Plan”.

The Jewish population in the occupied territories was recorded and deported to concentration camps , insufficiently fed, used for forced labor and murdered in specially set up gas vans and gas chambers in extermination camps . In the occupied eastern areas in particular, many thousands of Jews were shot by the Einsatzgruppen of the Security Police and the SD as well as by SS units and then buried in mass graves . The total number of Jews killed in the Holocaust from shootings, gassings, starvation, mistreatment, forced labor and disease is estimated at around six million. Their property was expropriated and declared imperial property. In this way, the occupying troops had funds in local currency at their disposal.

From Stalingrad to the surrender (1942–1945)

In the winter of 1941/1942 the Wehrmacht offensive in the Soviet Union stalled. On December 11, 1941, after the attack by the German ally Japan on the American base at Pearl Harbor , Hitler declared war on the USA, which was supplying Great Britain with goods.

In the Battle of Stalingrad, the Wehrmacht suffered its first - and ultimately decisive - defeat due to bad decisions made by Hitler. By the end of 1943, the Red Army of the Soviet Union, which was also supported by the USA with arms deliveries, was able to recapture large areas. On May 13, 1943, the Axis powers in North Africa had to surrender.

Buchenwald near Weimar on April 24, 1945

In the meantime, the Holocaust against the Jews, announced ideologically since 1924 and politically initiated since 1933, was in progress. In 1943 the Allied bombing war began on German cities, killing around 300,000 civilians. On February 18, 1943, Goebbels announced “ total war ” in the Sportpalast speech . From the end of 1944, many Germans fled their traditional homeland in the east before the advancing Red Army. In 1944 it conquered large parts of south-eastern Europe. The invasion of Normandy by the western allies began on June 6th , after they had conquered Italy from the south after landing in Sicily and were advancing against Germany. On July 20, an assassination attempt and a coup attempt by members of the Wehrmacht and members of the " Kreisau Circle " resistance group against Hitler failed .

At the beginning of 1945 at the Yalta Conference , the Allies decided to divide up the empire after the war. In order to leave the Allies with no usable infrastructure, Hitler issued the Nero order on March 19, 1945 , which was only partially carried out. In April the Soviet troops reached the capital of the Reich and the battle for Berlin broke out . Hitler killed himself on April 30th in the bunker of the Reich Chancellery after he had designated Admiral Karl Dönitz as his successor as Reich President and Commander-in-Chief of the Wehrmacht. In addition to Hitler, other leading functionaries also killed each other, such as Joseph Goebbels and Heinrich Himmler - but he was later taken prisoner after he was presented with forged ID cards. In the early morning hours of May 7, 1945, Colonel General Jodl - authorized by Dönitz - signed the unconditional surrender of the German armed forces , which, ratified by signing another document of surrender, was to come into force the next day. Shortly after the unconditional surrender, the executive government with Karl Dönitz was arrested in Flensburg - Mürwik .

The Second World War lasted in Southeast Asia until September 2nd. He claimed a total of over 62 million deaths . In the last months of the war and following the occupation of the kingdom, most remaining Germans from Eastern Europe were expelled .

Resistance to National Socialism

Even before the takeover of power, the resistance of various groups against the National Socialists began. During the period of National Socialism itself, the resistance, which was always associated with mortal danger, was limited to a vanishingly small minority of the German population, whereas this resistance had taken on larger proportions in the areas occupied during World War II, for example in the partisan war.

Shortly after the NSDAP came to power, mainly communist , social democratic and other left groups were active. However, within a few years these were severely weakened by the Gestapo and the SS. In the Reich, for example, the Catholic Bishop of Munster and Cardinal Clemens August Graf von Galen, through his public condemnation of the murders of the disabled, contributed to the fact that Action T4 was stopped by the National Socialists. Individuals of the Protestant Confessing Church such as Pastor Martin Niemöller or Dietrich Bonhoeffer joined resistance groups after the outbreak of World War II. Like many other Nazi opponents, Bonhoeffer had to pay for his courage in the concentration camp with his life. The communist lone fighter Georg Elser carried out a bomb attack on Hitler in the Bürgerbräukeller in Munich on November 8, 1939 , which Hitler survived because he unexpectedly left the room shortly before the bomb detonated with a time fuse . Elser was soon caught and murdered in Dachau concentration camp in April 1945. The Munich student resistance group White Rose around the siblings Hans and Sophie Scholl called for resistance against the Nazi regime in several leaflets. This group also sought contact with resistance groups in the Wehrmacht. The most important members of the group were caught in February 1943 and sentenced to death by the People's Court under the chairmanship of the notorious judge Roland Freisler and executed a short time later. The edelweiss pirates appeared in the Cologne area , some groups of young people coming from the Bund and communist tradition, who initially opposed the uniformity of the Hitler Youth , but in the course of the war also took up concrete resistance actions that went as far as acts of sabotage . From Vienna, the resistance group around chaplain Heinrich Maier passed information on the locations, employees and productions of the Nazi armaments factories to the Allies in order to enable their bombers to target air strikes, which should shorten the war and protect the civilian population. The Rote Kapelle resistance group consisted of various independent groups that worked against the regime on several levels.

The isolated and comparatively rare resistance from private individuals, which was rather quiet, often arose out of a moral disgust for the acts of the regime or out of compassion for the victims. It ranged from denying the Hitler salute to the forbidden supply of food for forced laborers or the hiding of persecuted people, mostly Jews.

Hitler survived several attacks, including the most famous attack on July 20, 1944 , which was organized by the military resistance , which was also in contact with the Kreisauer Kreis resistance group . Following the bomb attack carried out by Colonel Claus Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg , there was an attempted coup in " Operation Valkyrie " in Berlin , but after Hitler's survival became known, it quickly collapsed and was suppressed. The direct actors in the attempted coup, members of the Wehrmacht, including Stauffenberg himself, were shot on the night of July 20-21, 1944. In the course of the following investigations, further overturn plans from the years 1938 to 1944 were discovered. By the end of the war , over 200 people were brought to trial before the People's Court , which were initially shown in excerpts in the newsreel, in connection with the assassination attempt on July 20 sentenced to death. Several popular generals (including Erwin Rommel , Günther von Kluge ), who were suspected of complicity, were advised to commit suicide .

The Secret State Police ( Gestapo ) and the People's Court were important executive authorities in the persecution, especially of the resistance within Germany.

Resistance was also offered by artists living in Germany or in exile, such as the critical writer and playwright Bertolt Brecht and others who, with their means - mostly journalistic - turned against the Nazi regime.

In addition to the resistance in Germany, resistance groups such as the Polish Home Army or the Resistance in France also emerged in the occupied territories after the start of the war . They provided the Germans under their occupation with bitter resistance in the partisan war , which was particularly effective in the Balkan states of Yugoslavia , Albania and Greece as well as in Poland ( Warsaw Uprising ), but also resulted in extremely cruel reprisals by the German occupiers - such as mass shootings of hostages of civilians. In occupied Poland in particular, the population of entire villages and towns was very often indiscriminately murdered in retaliation for resistance.

The resistance in Germany itself, unlike in the occupied territories, received almost no support from the Allies; rather, the Allied war goal of unconditional surrender led to indirect solidarity with the leadership and, even after a coup d'état, hardly any more favorable peace conditions could be expected.

Genocide and other crimes against humanity

Photo of the gatehouse of the Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination camp , taken by Stanisław Mucha shortly after the liberation by the Red Army on January 27, 1945

Supporters of the left-wing parties, Jehovah's Witnesses and opposition youths were persecuted as politically undesirable groups and thousands were murdered before the war began.

The murder of population groups for reasons of " racial hygiene " began before the war with the mass murder of German disabled people . From the beginning of the war, " Aktion T4 " was justified by the lack of hospital places and disguised as " euthanasia ". The murder was justified with the disability of the disabled. For this purpose, specialist departments of psychiatric institutions were converted at around 30 locations for the killings. The murder also happened while being transported in sealed trucks (" gas vans ") with their exhaust gases or with carbon monoxide . The corpses were cremated and their relatives received false death certificates. The perpetrators were then used as specialists in the death factories in Eastern Europe.

The Holocaust , the systematic genocide of around six million Jews and “mixed Jews”, including over three million Poles and 1.8 million children, was the Nazis' greatest crime. It began with mass shootings of Jews and Polish leaders by special "Einsatzgruppen" in occupied Poland . This was followed by large-scale deportations (under the code name “resettlement”) and internment in ghettos and labor camps , where hundreds of thousands had already perished as forced laborers. There were also German and Austrian Jews deported ; With massacres such as the one in Babyn Yar (September 29/30, 1941) and Riga (November 29– December 1, 1941), overcrowded ghettos were emptied for the transport of Jews.

With the war against the Soviet Union in 1941–1945 , the murders of Jews expanded to widespread genocide . To carry out the Reinhardt campaign from June 1941, three extermination camps were set up; From December 1941, the first murders in gas vans began, based on the example of Aktion T4. The aim was to test the effects of poison gas in order to be able to kill more effectively and to avoid the moral scruples of the murderers in mass shootings. At the secret Wannsee Conference on January 20, 1942, representatives of all the important Nazi authorities organized the “ final solution to the Jewish question ” in detail and arranged for the Europe-wide deportation of up to 11 million Jews to the Eastern European ghettos and camps. By the summer of 1942 the crematoria in the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp had been completed; now the mass murders were concentrated on industrial gassing. The exploitation of the property of the approximately three million gassed people was regulated in detail.

Starved Soviet prisoners of war in Mauthausen concentration camp

In addition to the Jews, the National Socialist racial policy also regarded “ Gypsies ”, Slavs and homosexuals as “unworthy of life” or “racially inferior”. These groups - the largest of them about 2.5 to 4 million Soviet prisoners of war - were also murdered en masse, some of them also in the extermination camps. These people, according to Timothy Snyder , “were either deliberately killed or deliberately intended to starve to death. If it had n't been for the Holocaust , it would be remembered as the worst war crime of modern times. ”The main reason for these crimes was the race and living space ideology that Hitler had expounded in Mein Kampf in 1924 and that had been realized since 1939 in a world war .

The Nazi perpetrators tried to keep their crimes as secret as possible and to camouflage them with euphemisms such as resettlement or special treatment . Nevertheless, the Germans learned enough details from private reports and sometimes quite undisguised hints in the media to be able to draw conclusions about the organized murder of Jews. The disappearance of Jewish neighbors without a trace, the goal of their public evacuation was noticed but not further questioned. From 1933 onwards, the phrase “otherwise you would go to a concentration camp” was a threatening word for almost everyone. Rumors about the camps “in the east” came with the vacationers to practically every village; Allied radio stations (which were heard although listening to enemy stations was forbidden and in some cases was severely punished) reported the mass murders. The Holocaust was an “open secret” in Germany: Whoever wanted to know, could know, but a widespread lack of curiosity prevented many Germans from knowing more precisely . The Polish secret service provided the British with evidence of the mass murder in Auschwitz as early as 1942. The then Pope Pius XII. knew about it early on .

The constant attacks against Jewish sections of the population from April 1933 onwards were in part passively accepted and welcomed by beneficiaries. Expropriation-like “aryanizations” of even the smallest shops or businesses always had beneficiaries and happened in front of the eyes of the local population. Rescue operations for Jews were a rare exception; Complicity or indifference were the rule. Oskar Schindler saved around 1200 Jewish forced laborers from Krakow from murder. The Grüber office, established by the Confessing Church in 1938, secretly helped Jewish Christians in particular to leave the country until it was closed in 1940.

In the Nuremberg Trials , only leaders were convicted of crimes against humanity and war criminals , among other things . A real reappraisal of the Nazi crimes and how they were made possible only began in West Germany around 1960. Holocaust denial has had a lasting and international tradition since 1945 .

At the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum , an Encyclopedia of Camps and Ghettos has been written since 2000 (directors: Geoffrey Megargee and Martin Dean). In 2013 they named over 42,500 places of violence that existed in occupied Europe during the Third Reich (including concentration camps, labor camps, ghettos, Jewish houses and places where women were forced into prostitution). Until then, that number had been estimated to be far lower.

Forced laborers and spoiled children

Hundreds of thousands of people from the occupied territories, especially from Poland, the Balkan countries and the Soviet Union , were kidnapped into the Reich as forced laborers . Many of them did not survive World War II. The children of the forced laborers were brought to “ foreign child care centers” set up on Himmler's orders , which had no other aim than to let these “unwanted” children wither away unnoticed by the public.

In addition, tens of thousands of Polish children who met the “racial characteristics” were taken away from their families and deported to Germany, few of whom were able to return to their parents after the war. Others who did not meet the racial characteristics were murdered en masse in concentration camps. The best-known case is probably the deportation of tens of thousands of children from the area around Zamość - where Germans from the Baltic States and Bessarabia were resettled - to Auschwitz .

Reflections on the status of Nazi research

An overview of the controversies about Nazi research up to the turn of the millennium can be found in Ian Kershaw , who discusses reflections on the “essence of National Socialism” in a chapter of his relevant work and “historiographical development trends since German unification” in the final chapter. Regarding the term totalitarianism, which was already related to fascism and National Socialism in the 1920s , he states that the totalitarianism theory was re-launched in the 1990s and is still widespread. The heated ideological debates that dominated the Cold War era , however, would have evaporated.

Michael Burleigh , in his overall account of the time of National Socialism , expresses understanding for the fact that German-speaking historians concentrated on German history between 1933 and 1945 in their reappraisal of the Nazi era, but counters that the world was already covering the effects of Nazism before the outbreak of war felt, for example by the numerous refugees who fled from Germany and Austria, but also in the form of arbitrary and violent disturbances of the international order. When portraying the crimes committed in World War II, Burleigh also considers the portrayal of European manifestations of collaboration with the National Socialists as important as the participation of non-German and non-Austrian perpetrators in the Holocaust. As a political religion and totalitarian form of rule, Burleigh interprets and treats National Socialism in his work and notes, like Kershaw, that this approach only "came back into fashion" in the 1990s.

Riccardo Bavaj recognizes the “totalitarian will to shape” among the National Socialists in his synthesis published in 2016 and explains: “There is talk of a totalitarian will to shape, not because a theory of totalitarianism of classical character is to be adhered to, but because the term totalitarianism reflects the political aspirations of the Nazis aimed at a complete delimitation of the political, typologically best sums it up. ”The Nazi national community therefore stood for a“ totalitarian social experiment ”which was about transforming society into a homogeneous community,“ organized in the form of leadership that expresses itself a supposedly unified popular will. ”For Bavaj, war, expansion and annihilation were“ integral parts ”of this experiment.

In the conclusion of his 2017 study «One people, one empire, one leader». German society in the Third Reich states, Dietmar Süß , that National Socialism not only smashed the existing forms of plural publicity, but also intervened in the way of life of every individual and every family. “But this private life was not simply externally controlled by the Nazi leaders, because many people were able to reconcile individual happiness with changed political regulations. They contributed to the fact that National Socialism was able to penetrate almost every crack in society, and often enough they themselves embodied the totalitarian claims of the regime. "

The historian Wolfgang Wippermann, on the other hand, in various publications, most recently in 2002, strictly rejects the application of the term totalitarianism to the Nazi era: The inherent equation of National Socialism with Stalinism or other dictatorships from the left serves to relativize and trivialize the National Socialist crimes: You question "the singularity of the Holocaust ".

With regard to the model of the “Volksgemeinschaft” in the Nazi era, Michael Wildt concludes that, according to the unanimous research opinion, the social reality did not meet the propagated claim: “Contrary to the end of the class struggle and the unity of all workers in the Forehead and fist, as well as the entrepreneur, the structural differences and social asymmetries between employers and employees, small traders and large businesses, independent smallholders and large landowners remained intact even under National Socialism. ”Instead of using a National Socialist propaganda term, it is important to start from social reality“ and dimensions of consent and rejection, participation and refusal, taking part and looking the other way. ”For Wildt, a scientifically productive use of the term does not presuppose“ national community ”, but rather examines the practice n their production, i.e. the communalization. It seems to him worthwhile to examine the "modes of appropriation" according to generation and gender, "precisely because the Nazi regime tried hard to bind both young people and women to itself." to be differentiated from the community experiences of young BDM leaders through “camaraderie”. Their sense of community was also fed by an increase in responsibility and access to management positions that were previously not open to them as young women.

See also

Portal: National Socialism  - Overview of Wikipedia content on the subject of National Socialism


Richard J. Evans: The Third Reich. Volume 1: Ascent. DVA, Munich 2004, ISBN 3-421-05652-8 .
Richard J. Evans: The Third Reich. Volume 2 / I – II: Dictatorship . DVA, Munich 2006, ISBN 3-421-05653-6 .
Richard J. Evans: The Third Reich. Volume 3: War . DVA, Munich 2009, ISBN 978-3-421-05800-3 .

Web links

Commons : National Socialism  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: National Socialism  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Wiktionary: Hitlerzeit  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Wiktionary: Nazi era  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations


  1. Leo Foitzik: Rauden, the village of my childhood , p. 51.
  2. ^ Kurt Bauer: National Socialism. Origins, Beginnings, Rise and Fall. Vienna / Cologne / Weimar 2008, p. 15 f.
  3. Hans-Ulrich Thamer: Seduction and violence. Germany 1933–1945. Berlin 1998, p. 25.
  4. ^ Kurt Bauer: National Socialism. Origins, Beginnings, Rise and Fall. Vienna 2008, p. 53.
  5. Ian Kershaw: Foreword. In: Gerd Krumeich (Ed.): National Socialism and First World War . Essen 2010, p. 7.
  6. cf. B. Gerhard Hirschfeld , Gerd Krumeich , Irina Renz in connection with Markus Pöhlmann (Ed.): Encyclopedia First World War . Ferdinand Schöningh, Paderborn 2014, pp. 728, 988 ff., 997 ff .; Gerd Krumeich: National Socialism and World War I: An Introduction . In: ders. (Ed.): National Socialism and First World War. Klartext, Essen 2010, p. 11 ff .; Helmut Reinalter : stab in the back legend. In: the same (ed.): Handbook of conspiracy theories. Salier, Leipzig 2018, ISBN 978-3-96285-004-3 , p. 92 ff.
  7. Michael Salewski : The Weimar revision syndrome. In: From Politics and Contemporary History . 2, pp. 14-25 (1980); Peter Hayes : Why? A story of the Holocaust. Campus, Frankfurt am Main 2017, p. 71 f.
  8. Henning Köhler : Germany on the way to itself. A story of the century . Hohenheim-Verlag, Stuttgart 2002, SS 227.
  9. Volker Berghahn : The First World War . CH Beck, Munich 2003, p. 17.
  10. ^ Kurt Bauer: National Socialism. Origins, Beginnings, Rise and Fall. Vienna 2008, p. 57.
  11. ^ Kurt Bauer: National Socialism. Origins, Beginnings, Rise and Fall. Vienna 2008, p. 58. “Studies of the social and age structure of Nazi elites show that academically educated technocrats who looked back on years of experience at the front - often as young officers - were clearly overrepresented. They knew obeying as well as commanding; Nothing seemed more natural to them than for a leader to set the direction autocratically and without tolerating contradiction. "(Ibid.)
  12. Martin Broszat: On the structure of the Nazi mass movement . In: Vierteljahrshefte für Zeitgeschichte 31, Heft 1 (1983), p. 63 ( online , accessed on May 5, 2019).
  13. Ursula Büttner : Researched? The Weimar Republic as a subject of historical research. In: Aus Politik und Zeitgeschichte , 68th volume, issue 18–20 (2018), p. 32 ( online , accessed May 5, 2019.)
  14. Christian Striefler: Struggle for power. Communists and National Socialists at the end of the Weimar Republic . Propylaea Publishing House, Berlin 1993.
  15. Harold James: Germany in the Great Depression. 1924-1936 . Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt, Stuttgart 1988, p. 24.
  16. ^ Sven Felix Kellerhoff : The NSDAP. A party and its members. Stuttgart 2017, p. 27.
  17. Kellerhoff points out that the idea of ​​the party program still explicitly applied to the DAP. In March 1920, Hitler had asked to join the DAP and did not use the new party name for the first time until May 2, 1920. (Sven Felix Kellerhoff: Die NSDAP. A party and its members. Stuttgart 2017, p. 48 f.) The German National Socialist Workers' Party already existed in Austria , which also introduced the swastika symbol. ( Werner Maser : The storm on the republic. Early history of the NSDAP . Stuttgart 1973, p. 224).
  18. ^ Sven Felix Kellerhoff: The NSDAP. A party and its members. Stuttgart 2017, p. 66 f.
  19. ^ Sven Felix Kellerhoff: The NSDAP. A party and its members. Stuttgart 2017, p. 67 f.
  20. ^ Sven Felix Kellerhoff: The NSDAP. A party and its members. Stuttgart 2017, p. 74 f.
  21. ^ Sven Felix Kellerhoff: The NSDAP. A party and its members. Stuttgart 2017, p. 80 f.
  22. ^ Ernst Piper : National Socialism. Its history from 1919 until today. Bonn 2012, pp. 28–36.
  23. "In the opinion of the court, the provisions of the Republic Protection Act cannot be applied to a man who thinks and feels as German as Hitler did." (Quoted from Ernst Piper : National Socialism. His story from 1919 to today. Bonn 2012, p. 37.)
  24. “The day began with a working breakfast under the swastika flag. Each of the gentlemen had a small suite of one or two rooms. There was a smoking room and lavish parties were celebrated in the evenings. Separate rooms were available for the pile of mail and the countless gifts and bouquets of flowers that came from everywhere. [...] The party celebrities waited to receive instructions. And government agencies such as the Reichswehr continued to maintain contact with Hitler. ”(Quoted from Ernst Piper : National Socialism. Its history from 1919 to today. Bonn 2012, p. 37 f.)
  25. Hans-Ulrich Thamer: Seduction and violence. Germany 1933–1945. Berlin 1998, p. 114.
  26. ^ Hans-Ulrich Wehler: German history of society . Vol. 4: From the beginning of the First World War to the founding of the two German states 1914–1949 . CH Beck, Munich 2003, p. 551.
  27. ^ Sven Felix Kellerhoff: The NSDAP. A party and its members. Stuttgart 2017, p. 112 and 115 f.
  28. ^ Kurt Bauer: National Socialism. Origins, Beginnings, Rise and Fall. Vienna 2008, p. 130.
  29. Jürgen W. Falter: Hitler's voters. Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, Darmstadt 1991, pp. 364–374; similar to Hagen Schulze : Weimar. Germany 1917–1933. Siedler, Berlin 1994, p. 339 f.
  30. Quoted from Sven Felix Kellerhoff: The NSDAP. A party and its members. Stuttgart 2017, p. 272.
  31. Quoted from Hans-Ulrich Thamer: Seduction and violence. Germany 1933–1945. Berlin 1998, pp. 14, 19.
  32. ^ Kurt Bauer: National Socialism. Origins, Beginnings, Rise and Fall. Vienna 2008, p. 198.
  33. ^ Kurt Bauer: National Socialism. Origins, Beginnings, Rise and Fall. Vienna 2008, p. 198.
  34. Dietmar Süß: "One people, one empire, one leader". German society in the Third Reich . Beck, Munich 2017, p. 12.
  35. Dietmar Süß: "One people, one empire, one leader". German society in the Third Reich . Beck, Munich 2017, p. 10.
  36. ^ Riccardo Bavaj: The National Socialism. Origin, Rise and Rule. Berlin 2016, p. 63. The SA, which had grown to more than 400,000 members, became the dominant power in public space. "There were no longer any limits to the hunt for communists, and the social democrats also caught the wave of violence with full force." (Ibid., P. 65)
  37. ^ Riccardo Bavaj: The National Socialism. Origin, Rise and Rule. Berlin 2016, p. 81.
  38. ^ Kurt Bauer: National Socialism. Origins, Beginnings, Rise and Fall. Vienna 2008, p. 277.
  39. Hans-Ulrich Thamer: Seduction and violence. Germany 1933–1945. Berlin 1998, p. 400.
  40. Quoted from Sven Felix Kellerhoff: The NSDAP. A party and its members. Stuttgart 2017, p. 142.
  41. Hans-Ulrich Thamer: Seduction and violence. Germany 1933–1945. Berlin 1998, p. 430.
  42. Hans-Ulrich Thamer: Seduction and violence. Germany 1933–1945. Berlin 1998, p. 433.
  43. ^ Riccardo Bavaj: The National Socialism. Origin, Rise and Rule. Berlin 2016, pp. 127 and 129.
  44. ^ Riccardo Bavaj: The National Socialism. Origin, Rise and Rule. Berlin 2016, p. 85 f.
  45. ^ Kurt Bauer: National Socialism. Origins, Beginnings, Rise and Fall. Vienna 2008, p. 266.
  46. Hans-Ulrich Thamer: Seduction and violence. Germany 1933–1945. Berlin 1998, p. 420 f.
  47. ^ Riccardo Bavaj: The National Socialism. Origin, Rise and Rule. Berlin 2016, p. 91 f.Bavaj notes on the logic of the “bizarre drama” the special weight attached to the peasantry for the self-sufficiency policy of the Nazi regime: “The lesson learned from the First World War was that Germany itself of economic imports in order to be immune from the consequences of a renewed blockade policy in a future war. 'Freedom of food' and 'freedom of defense' were closely related. "(Ibid., P. 92)
  48. Quoted from Hans-Ulrich Thamer: Seduction and violence. Germany 1933–1945. Berlin 1998, p. 421.
  49. ^ Kurt Bauer: National Socialism. Origins, Beginnings, Rise and Fall. Vienna 2008, p. 270.
  50. ^ Kurt Bauer: National Socialism. Origins, Beginnings, Rise and Fall. Vienna 2008, p. 273 f.
  51. Quoted from Hans-Ulrich Thamer: Seduction and violence. Germany 1933–1945. Berlin 1998, p. 500. DAF leader Ley compared the working manpower with the engine of a motor vehicle, which also has to be regularly overhauled after a certain mileage. (Ibid.)
  52. Hans-Ulrich Thamer: Seduction and violence. Germany 1933–1945. Berlin 1998, p. 501. “For the small employees and workers, the cruise remained a dream,” says Süß, “the shorter excursions and short trips that made up the majority of the KdF tourism program and also for smaller budgets were more real were affordable. "(Dietmar Süß: " One people, one Reich one leader ". German society in the Third Reich . Beck, Munich 2017, p. 144)
  53. Michael Burleigh: The time of National Socialism. An overall picture. Frankfurt am Main 2000, p. 294.
  54. Michael Burleigh: The time of National Socialism. An overall picture. Frankfurt am Main 2000, pp. 257-261.
  55. Michael Burleigh: The time of National Socialism. An overall picture. Frankfurt am Main 2000, p. 262.
  56. Hans-Ulrich Thamer: Seduction and violence. Germany 1933–1945. Berlin 1998, p. 502 f.
  57. ^ Riccardo Bavaj: The National Socialism. Origin, Rise and Rule. Berlin 2016, pp. 115–117.
  58. Dietmar Süß: "One people, one empire, one leader". German society in the Third Reich . Beck, Munich 2017, p. 12.
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  96. Michael Burleigh: The time of National Socialism. An overall picture. Frankfurt am Main 2000, p. 39. “There is no tenable reason why only Germans should decide how many and which points a history of this period should have, as much as they do to research and understand this inglorious epoch of German history may have contributed, which in a fundamental sense is not only 'their' story. "(Ibid., p. 14)
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