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Domestic pollicy in the third Reich 1933-1939
1. From Hitler's seizure of power up to the Enabling Act
The National Socialist propaganda chose the catchword "Day of the seizure of power" for Jan 30th 1933, to suggest, that Hitler and the NSDAP got to power by themselves. This is a distortion of the truth. Hitler did not "seizure" the power, he was charged with the formation of the government and got the chancellorship of the Reich by Reichspräsident Hindenburg. In the days before the 30th the National Socialist Leaders were not sure of their victory. The tensions ended when Hindenburg made Hitler chancellor, which didn't mean a dictatorial authority for the NSDAP. Hindenburg's adviser had the argument, that the not-National Socialist majority of the parliament would control Hitler's activities.
The reason why Hitler and the NSDAP agreed to this plan has two facts:
1, The National Socialists trusted their own tactic enough to believe, that they will conquer this control.
2, They had to agree because they lost votes in the election of November 1932
On the 1st of February 1933 Hindenburg dissolved the Reichstag and new elections were set on the 5th of March .
"We will win hands down!" said Goebbels and showed the enthusiastic mood of the party.
The NSDAP worked on 2 layers in the election campaign. On the one hand they tried to build a new image in public, on the other they used their new instruments of power to handicap, fight and destroy their enemies.
Because only 33% of the voters voted the NSDAP in November 1932 the party found that it was necessary to make a new picture of the Hitler-party in public: Instead of the radical and hard-lined party there should be a popular party which is worried about the future of Germany. The non-voters should be convinced, that the NSDAP is a party, that doesn't act for egoistic reasons but for the sake of German's citizens as long as they are in favour of "progress" and the "New Germany".
For the time being no one talked about a National Socialist revolution but from a "cabinet of a national concentration". The organised marches and torchlight processions were interpreted as a expression of thanks of the German nation. The appeal of the government of the Reich on February 1st repeated the well known horror-picture of the Weimarer Republik in Hitler's speeches:
"14 years of Marxism have ruined Germany [...] and made an army of unemployed persons. Now, Germany, give us a time of 4 years and then judge and pass a sentence on us. May God shape our work and our will right and make the population trust us."
Hitler swore an oath to Hindenburg that he would dignify the constitution and that he would preserve the law and to discharge his duties fair against anyone.
In the "Völkischen Beobachter" was an article, that should convince sceptics of the sincerity of Hitler's party. A priest for example wrote that he had not seen such a statesman and the whole leadership of the Reich who is such a fundamental Christian than Adolf Hitler and his government since WW1. "Who fights against the National Socialism fights against Christianity, vote for list 1 ! " ("Völkischer Beobachter, Feb. 23rd)
The decree of February 4th limited the freedom of gathering and of the press, the one of February 6th was the end of the social democratic government in Prussia and transferred the power to van Papen and Göring. The decree of February 17th forced the Prussian police to support the national formations and the decree of February 22nd made the SS and SA to a kind of helping-police.
In the night from 27th to 28th of February the Reichstags-building was set on fire. There were contrary statements about this perpetration:
- The later convinced Dutchman van der Lubbe was a single offender
- Van der Lubbe should have worked for the communists as the Nazis said
- A secret commando of the Nazis should have set the fire as the communists wanted to proof.
Nowadays we can be rather sure that van der Lubbe had planned and done it, to make a signal against the regime. Even before there was any investigation the National Socialist leaders took the fire as justification for the "Verordnung zum Schutz von Volk und Staat" and the "Verordnung gegen Verrat am deutschen Volk und hochverräterische Umtriebe".
The first one was also called "Reichtagsbrandverordnung" and repealed "till further information" all basic rights and allowed the government to replace the stategovernments with Reichskommisaren. A wave of arrests, prohibitions, confiscation and limitations came over the other parties, mainly over the KPD, in the last days before the election. The decree of Feburary 28th founded a permanently state of emergency. Hitler and the NSDAP were able to to arrest people, eavesdrop phone-calls, open letters or censor newspapers, dissolve parties or organisations and to confiscate property or forbid gatherings without a judgement control. It's clear that such a powerful instrument wouldn't be abolished - the "Reichtagsbrandverordnung" was effective up to 1945.
In this atmosphere the election on March 5th was done. The Nazis were sure that they would win and had already prepared a party. But the enormous victory which was predicted by Goebbels didn't happen. The NSDAP got 43,9 % but still needed 7 % for the absolute majority in parliament.
Because this result forced again a coalition with the DNVP the Reichstag should form an Enabling Act and allow the government of the Reich freedom of acting for 4 years long. It took some time until the popular parties trusted this law using the Reichtagsbrandverordnuung the Nazis tried to make the opposition silent.
The climax of this "commercial" were the "day of Potsdam", organised by Goebbels because of the inauguration of the Reichstag. The set of this celebration was the funeralchurch of Friedrich des Großen. Hitler, wearing a Cutaway, bowed to Hindenburg, appearing in the imperial uniform of the general field marshal. This act showed a kind of religiosity and tradition and influenced many people.
Hitler said in his speech this day and on March 23rd in front of the Reichstag that he would use the Enabling Act only, if it was for survival messures. Neither the existence of the Reichstag nor the Reichsrat should be menaced. The rights and political position of the Reichspresident stay untouched, the states would not be removed and the rights of the churches should not be limitated.
After the voting about the "Gesetz zur Behebung der Not von Volk und Reich", the result was 441:94 and Hitler was able to show his fury against the SPD which stayed in opposition. (The members of the KPD were almost arrested or had to emigrate) . When Wels, member of the SPD, said, that the government had acted unfair since January 30th, Hitler answered angrily, that he didn't want those social democratic votes any more, "Germany shall be free, but not because of you! We want the law or murder and manslaughter". This already made a slight idea of the destiny for those, who would be against the regime.
2. The Synchronisation
The "Gesetz zur Behebung der Not von Volk und Reich" and the "Verordnung zum Schutz von Volk und Staat" gave the Nazis all the power they needed for their progamm. The reason why the didn't change the state, economy and society suddenly though, was, that they wanted to win as many people as possible voluntary for their movement and that they didn't have a clear concept of the measures for this change. Although the government took measures which gave them and the party keypositions.
Special courts were installed. This courts decided political relevant trials in favour of the party. A few days later an attack against the self-confident states was started. The "1. Gesetz zur Gleichschaltung der Länder mit dem Reich" was a reformation of the state governments and local councils, the 2nd law gave priority to the so called Reichsstatthalter (who were directly commanded by the Führer) to the state governments, which degraded them to administrative authorities.
The next step was against the other parties and the trade unions. After the 1st of May - celebrations the trade unionists were forced to resign and to join the NS- Betriebszellenorganisation. The SPD was forbidden on June 22nd after many members had been arrested. The law of July 14th 1933 considered the matter close by declaring the NSDAP as the only justified political party and the (re)formation of any other party was punished with jail.
Hitler got rid of the state parliaments and the Reichsrat by the "Gesetz über den Neubau des Reiches" on January 30th and February 14th respectively. This was not in sense of the Enabling Act which protected the Reichsrat and the Reichstag from actions of the government of the Reich. This shows how safe Hitler and the NSDAP felt at this time.
In summer 1934 Hitler had a problem with the SA, because he hesitated too long after January 30th and did not refer to his promises. The boss of the SA, Röhm, postulated a "2nd Revolution" that should integrate the SA in the state and give it a position that was due it. The circumstances were even more complicated because meanwhile the SA consisted of 4 million members. Hitler hesitated a few months, then he said: "When the army has to protect our nation outside, the SA will have to guarantee the victory of the national socialist revolution in the country."
With this proclamation Röhm wasn't satisfied. The SA got completely isolated. The rivals of Röhm in the party, Himmler, Göring and Goebbels, suggested Hitler to build the new army with the help of the 100.000-man troup of the Reichswehr and to drop Röhm. Between June 30th and July 2nd SA-officials were arrested by the SS and executed.
In the law of July 2nd the government declared this action as legal self-defense and Hitler said that he was the greatest judge of the Germans. The Reichswehr and the SS thought that they had won but the only winner was Hitler because he destroyed an mighty enemy on the one hand and on the other he bounded the "winners" to loyalty and faithfulness. After June 30th 1934 the SS began to become the most powerful institution of the state.
After this Hitler planned the next action to get unlimited power: While Hindenburg was dying Hitler made a law that gave all political power of the Reichspräsident to the Reichskanzler after his death. The law was invented on August 1st and effective on August 2nd, day of Hindenburg's death.
Hitler's new title was "Fuehrer and chancellor of the Reich". So not only his power as chancellor of the Reich, even the whole state authority disappeared in a shadow of a new authority that was known as the "Führergewalt".
3. "Volksgemeinschaft" and "Führerkult"
The totalitarian state on the contrary to the authoritarian regime is not satisfied with the control of official positions. It doesn't want the people to have a bordered space of freedom, it demands complete loyalty and active involvement. This demand gives the totalitarian state involvement in areas that are normally protected from the state's influence like for example family, religion, leisure a.s.o.
To be able to control these regions and every single citizen day and night the regime has to throw a "net" of organisation over the nation. This was exactly the intention of the Nazi- regime.
The control began in the youth with organisations like "Deutsches Jungvolk", "Jungmädel", "Hitler Jugend", "Bund deutscher Mädel", "NS-Studentenbund" the system expanded over the SA, SS, "Reichsarbeitsdienst", "NS-Juristenbund", "NS-Dozentenbund", "NS-Lehrerbund", "Reichskulturkammer" up to the "NS-Frauenschaft", "NS-Kriegsopferversorgung" and "Kraft durch Freude", an organisation that "looked after" the workers in their spare-time.
Hitler said in a speech 1938, that should interpret the use of the system: "Our youth doesn't learn anything but thinking German and acting German. We educate them from the age of ten on and won't stop to refine them and they won't be free their whole life. If anyone wants to argue that there will be some left, i say: the National Socialism is not in the end of it's days, its in the beginning!"
The synchronisation in the area of culture was very intense. The will to guide science and arts in the Nazi's sense led from the control of newspapers and radio to an all surrounding organisation of life. For example not being a member of the "Reichskulturkammer", founded and led by the minister of propaganda Josef Goebbels, was adequate to a job-prohibition. It's clear that all Jewish artists were expelled as well as liberal, democratic, humanistic or pacifistic - thinking people. All modern science and art was considered to be "ungerman" and forbidden.
The ostracism started with the symbolic act of burning books in public on May 10th 1933 in Berlin. Students burned the books of slandered authors like for example Karl Marx, Trotsky, Brecht, Kafka or Freud on huge funeral pyres.
Artists were only substituted if they were loyal to the regime. Even schools were controlled, teachers, who didn't accept the "new spirit" or thought that the invention of a "German physics education" was useless were fired. Many famous scholars left Germany, the prosper of art and science, that started after WWI, was set a fast end here.
To clear up all doubts against this system of the organised citizens it was necessary, to carry away the commander and the one who encouraged this, Adolf Hitler, from all possibilities of human errors. To suggest the nation to trust him blindly, because it was the only thing that was right, he was praised in every way. Goebbels once said: "He is the truth itself. He can see what is blind to others' eyes."
This worship of the Führer shows the pseudo-religious character of the National Socialism. To practise this cult the Nazis invented many public holidays like for example "day of the seizure", "führer's birthday", "St. Givings day", "Day of the German work" a.s.o. The climax of the year was the annual in September celebrated "Reichsparteitag" in Nürnberg. Here was a great show für hundred of thousand visitors, that should convince them of the National Socialist Idea and Organisation again.
A convincing proof for the cult and myth of the Führer is the fact, that people didn't blame Hitler himself for negative aspects in state and party. ("If the Führer knew!!") It's unnecessary to say that everyone who didn't join this departure or even was against it had to expect hard measures. The Concentration camps were places to educate "unconfident" or "hostile" elements. The "Heimtückeverordnung" of March 21st gave the possibility of arresting everyone who said something critical against the regime. The combination of "Reichssicherheitsdienst" as intelligence service and the Gestapo as executive organ made it possible to grab effective.
This threats had a big influence on the citizens. But this was not the reason for the success of the regime. Not least important was the enormous willingness to adaptation of people of every age or social status. Students, teachers, judges, lawyers, educators in schools or in trainingcamps, priests, journalists and authors of newspapers, doctors, soldiers, artists, intelectual or "ordinary" people - it's no doubt that many people supported the government voluntary.
It showed that the Nazis had "friends" everywhere. Some had sanctioned them already in the Weimarer republic, others supported them after Jan 30th 1933 in an opportunistic way.
A statement due to education-scientists can be quite gerneralized: "When Hitler got to power in 1933 many education-scientists welcomed the new way and contributed to the legitimation of the Nazis. The fewest were really Nazis but some shared their views to a certain extend and some were in favour of them for opportunistic reasons or because of fear.
It's hard to say how many obeyed the rules unquestioning and how many just adjusted as much as to survive. People established obvious as in masses temptable and turned a blind eye on the brutality of the regime.
4. The racial theory
The racial ideology was a real menace for the Jewish part of the nation. Thought for bringin disasters on the state and plot against the world, they were chased by the Nazis. Already on April 1st 1933 the Nazis organised a boycott against Jewish stores, doctors, lawyers a.s.o. They demanded a joblimitation and no Jew was allowed to be a state authority any more.
This statements made Hindenburg write a letter to Hitler describing the involvement of the Jews who were harmed in the war as unbearable.
Hitler excepted those Jews but he was able to get out of it by some extra - paragraphs. Just as successless as the letter of the president were letters from artists to Goebbels, asking him to stop taking action against Jewish artists. Their expellation from the "Reichskulturkammer" forced them to emigrate.
The at first only for official demanded "Ariernachweis" was expanded to further jobs later on. Because of the "Gesetz zur Verhütung erbkranken Nachwuchses" also Gipsies were involved. This group of about 20.000 people had also have problems in the Weimarer republic because of their lifestyle and were discriminated against. But before1933 this was due to residention, after 1933 they were hunted systematically and arrested in concentration camps. A fundamental step to extinguish the ca. 500.000 Jews and Gipsies was done on the "Parteitag der Freiheit" in 1935 in Nürnberg.
To prevent the nation from a further "crossbreeding" because of mixed marriages a law was invented that prohibited the marriage and the sexual contact between Ariers and Jews.
Gesetz zur Verhütung erbkranken Nachwuchses:
(1) Everyone who is suffering from a hereditary disease can be made infertile by operation if doctors think that his offspring could suffer from physical or mental diseases.
(2) "Suffering from a hereditary disease" is in sense of law everyone who suffers from:
1. mental deficiency from birth on
3. hereditary blindness
4. hereditary deafness
5. heavy hereditary physical deformity
Jews were not allowed to have German domestic servants and to raise a swastikaflag. In Nürnberg they also made the "Reichsbürgergesetz" which said that Germans have full political rights and that other groups have minor rights.
"Jewish" was, who descended from at least 3 full-jewish grandparents. Paralles to the acts of law against Jews the party made slander and discriminationcampaigns. Signs were for example installed in railwaystations ("Warning! Jews and pickpockets") The slogan "Juda perish!" showed the niveau of these campaigns.
The German newspaper "Deutsches Ärzteblatt" said: "Protozoons and people who didn't join a community are just alive because they live as parasits in other communities. This counts for bacteria and for Jews who can be compared to tuberkels."
Up to 1938 Jews were able to do certain jobs. But the regime was keen to extinguish them. A great hunt on Jews was started in the "Reichskristallnacht". The Nazis took the assassination of the ambassador Ernst vom Rath, that was comitted by a young Jew named Herschel Grynspan, whose parents had been deported to Poleland, as a reason for a big action of destroyment and brutality. From Nov. 8th to 10th 1938 they demolished and plundered Jewish stores, set synagogues on fire and beat Jews up in the streets, arrested or even executed them. The insurances for the damage were taken away by the state and the Jews had to pay 1 billion Reichsmark as penalty (!). Their shops were sold to arish people.
On Dezember 3rd Jews were taken away their driving license, on Dez 6th they were expelled from schools, not allowed to have or use radios, pets, records or a record player, bikes, ofens, vaccumcleaner a.s.o.
Till Oktober 1st 1941 about 270.000 Jews had left Germany. The reasons why 200.000 stayed there were on the one hand the hard emigration-conditions (they lost all their ownership, foreign relatives had to pay the emigration) on the other hope played a big roll because many thought that things would get better and didn't want to leave their homecountry. After Oct 1st 1941 emigration was forbidden, the "great requital" of which Göring already had spoken after the "Reichskristallnacht" had begun.
5. Measures to support the Arier
Roll of the SS
With the same consequence they worked on the foundation of a "National Socialist Elite" which was the complementary element to the expellation of the jews.
Main actor was Heinrich Himmler, leader of the SS, who wanted to build a group of northern men.
Basis of the education was the believe that Arish is the stronger (strongest ?) race. The former SS-members were trained in Bad Tölz and Braunschweig. Himmler got more and more powerful, he became the leader of the "Sicherheitsdienst" (SD) and later he took over the whole police system.
Special positions in the SS had the "Feundeskreis Reichsführer SS" and the "Fördernden Mitglieder". The "Freundeskreis" consisted of industrialists and ecconomic managers who joined the SS voluntary or by advise of Himmler. The members benefited from the missions of the SS, Himmler from the money donations.
The roll of the "Hitlerjugend"
With their influence on the educationsector the SS boardered to another NS-Institution, the "Hitlerjugend". Hitler said in "Mein Kampf" that he wanted to create a new human through physical education and corporal punishment.
Women had typical biological functions, being the mothers of the "new human" they got - depending on how many children they had - the brass, silver or golden mothercross as a public honoring.
Because of the biologistic thinking the mental talents were not trained as much as the physical.
Hitler needed people who believed in the "right of the stronger" and who would destroy
"invalid life" without thinking. As in the animal world the human is in an eternal fight.
The HJ got the mission to train the whole German youth mentally, physically and traditionally in the sense of the National Socialism.
The main point in the education of the normal HJ-boy and in schools was sports because this was the basis for miltiary fitness. To bound the normal HJ-boys to their targets the HJ arranged camps so they could influence them easier in isolation.
6. The reform of the right
It's clear that the Nazis changed many laws and rights in favour of the National Socialist idea. "Right is what is usefull for the nation", the will of the Führer is congruent to the will of the nation and "right and the will of the Führer are equal."
The new right should clear following things: 1, blood of the nation
2, ground of the nation 3, honor of the nation
4, military strength of the nation
A typical example was the expandition of crimes that were punished with the death sentence (from 3 up to about 50) because more and more new crimes were invented and referring to the "will of the nation / Führer" punished with death.
All sentences could be changed voluntary, if Hitler read about a judgement by chance he changed it if he wasn't satisfied.
To be able to act free and opportunistic the Nazis didn't invent a new rights - system instead of the old. They had a kind of dual - system. On the one hand basic norms were still existing (for exampel civil rights except for Jews) on the other hand there was the authority of the Führer that interfered in public and political law without any basements. This was only possible because many judges and lawyers were members of the NS.
Another dissolution of the law-form was the invention of special courts. From 1934 on betraying was judgement by them. The crime was expanded and the punishment raised. The special courts judged completely loyal to the will of the Führer.
7. The NS - ecconomic & social policy
In the years of the ecconomic crisis the NS considered other politicians as dumb and promised "bread and work" to the people. Because this propaganda brought success the regime had to think of a solution to satisfy people.
On June 1st 1933 the "law to minor work" was invented. The building of highways was the main area of this work-offense. Already in September 1933 Hitler made the first cut of the spate.
Hitler was very interested in new technics especially cars, which was another motive for the offense than just creating work.
The fact of very low wages was overpowered by the sense of the new area about to dawn.
1-hour wage of a normal worker: April 1933: 65, 6 Pfennige Okt. 1928: 110,7 Pfennige At the same time many buildings for the party were under construction in Berlin, Munich and Nürnberg.
Another reason for the decrease of unemployement were the call-up-orders for the army. The difference to other ecconomic plans (Roosvelt's New deal) was that Hitler didn't try to boast the industry with a raising of the buying power. The concept of the NS-regime was to raise producer goods and the heavy industry to realize their plans in armament.
After the beginning of the war people who wanted to settle were taken to the areas in the east by the SS which Germany wanted to "take under the plough after the conquer by the sword". "Socialsim of doing" played an important role. 370.000 children have been sent in the country to relax already in 1933. The raise of the birthrate was important for the regime, safety and recovery for mothers was supported and the helpingprogram "mother and child" was founded to make family life easier.
Beside of the "Volkswagen" for 990 Reichsmark and cheap journeys there was an organisation for "the beauty of work". This made people happy and they got more & more in favour of the regime, but all these actions to comfort people were a pure end in itself. "We just did this to save the working power of every single worker and we wanted our workers to come back to work with new strength" said an official of the Kdf.
Job creation, armament and revitalization demanded money that couldn't be earned by taxes alone. The low export and high import rate was also a big problem.
"Reichsbankspräsident" Schacht thought that he had found a solution for both problems. It was a kind of investment with hidden credits. To get foreign exchange goods were sold under the prize of the world-market. The result of this plan was an enormous increase of the state- debts:
The increasement of the debts of the Reich:
1928: 7.1 billion Reichsmark
1937: 16 billion Reichsmark 1939 40 billion Rm.
1945 380 billioin Rm.
This brought an enormous harm for everyone.
The NS got used to ignore demandments and fed their creditors with hopes of the final victory. Göring said in 1936:
" There is no end of the armament in sight. If we win, and we will win, our ecconomy will gain regress. You can't take ones cue from pursuit of gain, you have to take it from the interests of policy. We are already in war, we only haven't shot yet."
Source: "Informationen zur politischen Bildung 123/126/127, Der Nationalsozialismus" translated into English by myself
- Quote paper
- Peter Voss (Author), 2000, Domestic pollicy in the third Reich 1933-1939, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/98374