Nazi Germany

Essay by EssaySwap ContributorHigh School, 11th grade February 2008

download word file, 7 pages 0.0

To what extent did Hitler bring about a political and social revolution within Nazi Germany in the years 1933 to 1939?         In the years of Hitler’s rule in Germany some dramatic changes took place in both political and social areas of German life. Some of these developments were genuinely revolutionary and had significant effects on people’s lives. However, most of the changes made by the Nazis could not be fully described as “revolutionary” as they affected particular sections of society, rather than the state as a whole.

        When Hitler became Chancellor in 1933, his political stance could be viewed on the surface as revolutionary simply in comparison to the Weimar Republic which existed previously. The Weimar Republic consisted of a weak coalition government which caused its policies and ideals to be hazy and unclear. Hitler emerged as a strong leader with clear-cut ideas and in this way he offered the country guidance, in contrast to the ineffective Weimar government.

        Hitler introduced a new political order to Germany. In February 1933 he used Article 48, an emergency decree, to pass the Law for the Protection of the People and the State. This was a drastic and revolutionary political measure which suspended constitutional civil rights, gave secret police power to hold people indefinitely in custody and repressed the KPD in Germany. This stayed in place throughout the Third Reich and in effect, was its’ basic law.

        An extremely significant political act was the Enabling Law of 1933 which in effect made Hitler a totalitarian dictator. It gave him the right to pass laws without consulting any other members of government.

        More drastic political measures followed to give Hitler complete control of the state. These included the Law for the Restoration of the Professional Civil Service which meant that administration, courts, schools and universities were to be purged of “alien elements.” This was referring to Jews and political opponents of Nazism. The Law Against the Formation of New Political Parties was extremely significant and revolutionary as it created a one party state. Germans could now not exercise their own individual political beliefs.

These measures are certainly drastic, but in some cases, there were limitations to Hitler’s’ political position. The Nazi Party surprisingly only managed to gain 44% of the March 1933 election and in an attempt to gain a parliamentary majority, Hitler is forced to form a coalition with the DVP party. This suggests that Nazi politics were in fact, not revolutionary. Also, Hitler’s’ Law for the Restoration of the Professional Civil Service was severely limited as only 5% of “alien elements” were removed form the institutions it was concerned with. Also, the term “revolutionary” suggests that all aspects of German politics were altered. Many were, but very few changes were made to the original Cabinet of January 1933.

Overall, the political basis of Nazism was one of polycratic decision-making on Hitler part. The Enabling Act of 1933 effectively meant that Hitler’s will was made law, and this fact remained throughout his rule.

        Hitler’s social reforms between 1933 and 1939 were as clear as his political ones. Hitler had an effect on Germany in an obvious way by massively inundating the country with propaganda, lead by the propaganda minister, Goebbels. All mediums were used as a Nazi mouthpiece such as theatre, press, radio and film. Sculpture and architecture was used to convey images of Nazi strength and any abstract art was treated as suspicious. All art work had to be approved by a Nazi minister for art. This was a revolutionary measure as it meant that all areas of culture were taken under government control and freedom of speech and opinion was jeopardised. The October 1933 Press Law reaffirmed this when it was ruled that only German citizens could be published and that editorial control lay with Nazis. This measure was remarkably successful Hitler as very few non-German writers managed to slip passed this law.

        Hitler’s Germany was indeed a police state. The SS and the Gestapo were used to terrorise or intimidate opposition into dissolution. This was certainly was a drastic action, but few Germans were ever faced with the secret police, so it did not “revolutionise” the state.

        Hitler took on huge welfare programs to help Germany recover from the devastating depression. One major factor was the need to reduce unemployment in the country. The Law for the Reduction of Unemployment appeared to be a hugely successful and revolutionary reform on the surface, but it had huge limitations that suggest the opposite. Unemployment decreased from 6 million to less than 1 million in this period, which looks as if the Law was successful, when in fact, that reduction of unemployment was largely due to Hitler removing huge social groups from the official figures; women for example, were removed from employment figures and later on, Jews. This suggests that Hitler’s employment policies were not revolutionary, as they were not as straight forward as they appeared on the surface.

        Family roles were revolutionised in Germany between 1933 and 1939 as Hitler attempted to restore traditional values in Aryan communities. Women were forced back into a social role as a wife and mother and were discouraged from work. Marriage loans were provided when Aryans married other fully German Aryans. Also, in these relationships, Hitler provided medals and cash prizes to mothers that had the most “pure-blood” children. To some this was a revolutionary measure, but only in the cases where individual families took these ideas directly to heart. In reality, Hitler’s prizes for mothers had little to do with the population rise (this was more because of the prosperous economy) and some women remained in work. Hitler’s reintroduction of conscription did however cause a social revolution for many as it massively altered many young men’s lifestyles and also rearmament did rouse a sense of patriotism in a previously downtrodden and defeated society.

        Hitler also changed the lives of German people from a very early age. Curriculum changes were made to instil Nazi ideas in even the youngest of children. Extra sport was introduced in schools to create a strong healthy race and also potential soldiers. History lessons became completely racially and politically orientated to indoctrinate students with Nazis ideas and all teachers had to be members of a Nazi Teacher’s League. The Hitler Youth program was also introduced and it was compulsory for all children to attend. Not attending was viewed by Nazis as opposition to the regime and was made a final offence.

        These measures did have an impact of most German children, but in my opinion to call them “revolutionary” changes would be inaccurate. These changes altered education and social life, but did not transform life entirely.

A measure taken by Hitler that was indeed very drastic was his sterilisation program. Any German that suffered from a hereditary disease was sterilised to stop ill children being born into Germany. This was in Hitler’s attempt to create an elite “master race.” As drastic as this reform was, it perhaps was not revolutionary as it only affected a small section of society.

Hitler’s most prominent principle in this period was the ousting of Germany’s Jewish community. This attitude had a profound effect on German Jews. Jews or “asocials” were persecuted on a social level to begin with, under Hitler’s widespread influence and enforced opinions. For example, Jewish children were driven out of schools and in many towns or cities Jews were bullied with signs reading “Jews are not welcome here.” It soon became compulsory for Jewish shops to be marked with a yellow star and eventually these shops were boycotted all together. It became common practise for a German to lose their job if they married a Jew. Persecution of Jews escalated in this period and this discrimination was legal under the Nazis. The Nuremburg Laws of the 1930s meant that Jews could not be members of the Reich, German/Jewish marriages were completely outlawed and Jews were not allowed to work with currency or medicine. In November 1938 “Crystal Night” was organised by leading Nazis Himmler and Goebbels; many Jews were murdered and Synagogues and Jewish businesses were destroyed. This outright racism worsened to such an extent that by the outbreak of World War 2, Jewish children were not allowed to be educated and Jewish publications were banned. Ultimately, 42,000 were murdered in a nationwide euthanasia program under Nazi authorisation.

On the surface, Hitler’s drastic and shocking social policy does appear revolutionary, but there are factors to suggest otherwise. Anti-Semitism is a huge part of Hitler’s rule, but as many synagogues he destroyed, he did not destroy people’s faith. This is a limit of his power and Jews remained in Germany throughout this period. Some adjusted to persecution, but there were those who emerged and campaigned. Also, a “revolutionary social policy” would suggest changes were made that would effect the entirety of society, but these measures only affected the Jewish community.

Overall, in my opinion there was more of a political revolution than a social one. As Chancellor, the Enabling Act allowed Hitler to transform Germany’s political framework from that of a republican to a totalitarian dictatorship. Hitler was given the power to do whatever he liked in the political sense and as a result, Hitler’s will became law.

On the social side, Hitler’s policies are dramatic and extreme and may indeed appear revolutionary. However, his ideas are clearly based on racial ideas rather than any sort of social policies. Hitler’s priority for Germany is completely race orientated, which means that Jewish life in Germany is undeniably transformed, but socially, German life is not so affected.

Hitler does have support across all sections of German society, however in the majority of cases, it exist in the form of tacit approval rather than active support; this can hardly be described as a revolutionary change.