Features of Fascism

1. One leader – a dictator

Leader Name Party Country
Il Duce Mussolini Fascisti Italy
Führer Hitler Nazi Germany
Caudillo Franco Falange Spain

2. A fascist state is TOTALITARIAN (one party state), so there would be no choice between parties in an election.

3. A dictator maintained his power by violence and fear. Private armies were used (e.g. Mussolini’s Blackshirts, Hitler’s Brownshirts = Sturmabteilung or Stormtroopers) to protect the leader and attack enemies (e.g. Communists)

4. A dictator maintained his power by strict control of the media. CENSORSHIP denied people information, and PROPAGANDA forced fascist ideas onto people.

5. Nationalism was encouraged with the use of symbols, e.g. Italy with the clenched fist and the sheath of corn, and Germany with the swastika, goosestep and straight-armed salute.

6. Hitler united the majority of Germans by attacking minority groups. He said ARYAN people (Teutonic, blue eyed, blond haired) were a HERRENVOLK or master race. He said inferior races (Jews, Slavs, Gypsies, Yellow/Black skinned people) should be exterminated. Uneconomic peoples (e.g. the aged or the disabled) or non-conforming Aryans (homosexuals, socialists, Jehovah’s witnesses etc.) were to be exterminated.

Political Groups

Political groups

In theory, the communists are opposite to the fascists, because Communism preaches equality, whereas Fascism believes in the superiority of one man over another.

In practice both Communism and Fascism are Totalitarian.

Weimar Government

Background Notes

1. Left wing = Communists

2. Right wing = Fascists/Nazis (i.e. the extremist groups)

3. Constitution = Rules by which a country is governed

4. WEIMAR GOVERNMENT = Germany’s first democratic republican government (1919-34), based at Weimar, a Spa town in the centre of Germany.

5. German Governments

  1. Pre 1914 German government = autocracy of Kaiser
  2. 1919-34 German government = Weimar democratic government
    • Head of State = President (elected)
    • Head of Government = Chancellor (elected)
  3. 1934-45 German government = Hitler’s dictatorship

6. Parliament in two houses:

  1. Reichsrat = Upper House
  2. Reichstag = Lower House

7. Voting Structure

Weimar government was elected by universal suffrage (all adults voted). MPs were elected by proportional representation (PR). Method = 2 votes taken before an MP is chosen. This system caused too many small parties to be elected. As a result, no single party held a majority to form a government. To solve this, a coalition government was formed, but passing laws took longer because of disagreements.

Strong government = One that passes laws quickly.

Germany: The Weimar Government (1919-34)


After the 11th November 1918, Germany had three problems to solve: peacemaking, rebuilding Germany’s economy, and the creation of an adequate form of government. Eventually, the Weimar constitution was written, which made Germany a democratic republic. This government failed by 1934, when Adolf Hitler became dictator of Germany.

Reasons for the failure of the Weimar government

  1. Weaknesses of the Weimar Constitution
  2. Hatred of the Treaty of Versailles signed by the Weimar government
  3. Challenges from Left and Right wing groups
  4. Failure to solve economic problems
  5. Hitler came to power

1. The Weimar Government

Left wing groups rose against Kaiser Wilhelm’s (II) government at Kiel, and in Bavaria. Socialists in the Reichstag (parliament) demanded the abdication of the Kaiser. On the 9th November 1918, the Kaiser abdicated and Friedrich Ebert became president. From February 1919, a National assembly met at Weimar to write a constitution. The Reichstag was elected, and passed laws. The Reichsrat could only delay legislation. The president could choose the chancellor, dissolve the Reichstag and rule by decree in times of emergency. The chancellor in the Reichstag chose the cabinet, and commanded a majority of the votes. Provision was made for a referendum on matters of acute controversy within the country, a Supreme Court was set up, and basic rights, such as freedom of speech, religion and movement were guaranteed.


  1. It was a weakness to give the Reichsrat delaying powers because laws could not be passed quickly – weak government.
  2. It was a weakness to allow the president to rule by decree because democracy could change to a dictatorship.
  3. The constitution was over-optimistic because it was difficult to change from autocracy to democracy overnight.

2. Unpopularity of the Treaty of Versailles (28th June, 1919)

  1. One of the first tasks of the Weimar government was to sign the Treaty of Versailles. The German Foreign Minister, Walter Ranthenau (a Jew), who upheld the Versailles agreement, was seen as a traitor. The treaty was very unpopular because it was a diktat, and because it was not based on the fourteen points (see previous notes).

3. Opposition to the Weimar Government from Left and Right Wing Groups

  1. Ebert’s government soon faced the Sparticist rising. Two communists, Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht led this uprising. Beginning in 1918 it reached its climax in January 1919, when it was suppressed, and the leaders killed.
  2. Right wing groups also rose up against the Weimar government. The returning soldiers were bitter and thought they should have remained fighting. The Free Corps was a ‘club’ of returning ex-soldiers. In the Kapp Putsch (armed rising) people protested at the Treaty and at the governments acceptance.

4. Failure of the Weimar Government to solve Economic Problems

Reparations posed the greatest problems to Germany after 1919. The Treaty said Germany must pay £6,600 million. Germany paid reparations through foreign laws in the early twenties. France invaded the Ruhr valley and took coal when Germany failed to pay in 1923. This invasion horrified Germans who saw the Weimar government as weak.

Results of the French occupation of the Ruhr

  1. Extremist groups (namely Fascists and Communists) grew in number in 1923.
  2. The German mark dropped in value because in order to combat inflation, the Weimar government printed extra bank notes, without increasing the gold held in its treasury. Bank notes then dropped proportionally in value. This led to HYPERINFLATION.

    German marks in exchange for one dollar

    Date Marks for each dollar Amount less valuable
    January 1919 9  
    January 1921 65 7
    January 1922 192 20
    January 1923 17,972 1800
    September 1923 4,620,455 580,000
    October 1923 25,260,000 2.5 million
    November 1923 4,200,000,000,000 420,000 million

    The more marks to the dollar, the less they are worth. To put this in context, in September 1923, one pint of milk cost 250,000 marks.

  3. Germany gained loans from the USA. Stresemann arranged the economic recovery of Germany 1923-29. The Dawes plan and the Young plan staggered Germany’s reparations over a period of time, and included USA loans. European powers gradually accepted Germany: witness the Locarno Pact (1925) and the entry of Germany to the League of Nations in 1926.

Economic Slump

Many Germans gained faith in the Weimar Government while Stresemann was in power, but his death, and the ‘Wall Street Crash’ in October 1929, saw the growth of extremist groups. The Wall Street Crash collapsed the German economy because the USA wanted her loans repaying. The Weimar government suffered because the coalition of moderate right and left wing groups ended. The ruling by decree and the system of proportional representation caused political confusion in the Weimar government. Autocracy was being forced onto a democracy and many small parties were being formed. Law passing was slow.

5. End of the Weimar Government

The President, Paul Von Hindenburg, appointed three chancellors between 1930 and 1932 (Bruning, Von Papen and Schleicher), but because these men could not command a majority in the Reichstag Hindenburg reluctantly appointed Adolf Hitler to be chancellor, in January 1933. Hitler became dictator of Germany in August 1934 after the death of President Von Hindenburg.

The Rise of Hitler

Reasons for his rise

1. Weimar Government was weak

  1. The German people did not trust democracy; they preferred the autocracy of the Kaiser.
  2. Laws could be delayed by the Reichstag (Laws could not be passed quickly)
  3. Proportional representation produced weak. Coalition governments (Laws could not be passed quickly)
  4. Democracy could end if a president ruled by decree in an emergency
  5. Economic problems were not solved

2. Nazism was popular

  1. He promised strong, national government
  2. He said he would correct the errors/weaknesses of Weimar rule, and end the Treaty of Versailles (28th June 1919), including:
    1. reparations
    2. war guilt
    3. disarmament
  3. He promised full employment
  4. He said he would get rid of lawlessness
  5. He united all classes in society behind Nazism:
    1. Upper Class (Junkers) – Feared communism and saw their futures reviving, if Germany rearmed.
    2. Middle Class – Wanted the strengthening of the law
    3. Working Class – Wanted employment
    4. Churches in Germany – German churches (Catholic and Lutheran) feared communism and Atheism (Godless society), and therefore were more sympathetic towards Hitler.

    Hitler united the majority of Germans, by attacking the minorities.

Hitler’s Early Life (up to c.1918)

Hitler was born of the 20th April 1889, at Braunau am Inn. (am = on the, Inn is the name of an Austrian river), in Upper Austria. He was the son of a minor customs official. Earlier, in 1876, the family name had been changed from Schickelgruber to Hitler, because Schickelgruber was Jewish. He was educated at Linz, but he was not very academic; he had a talent for art. In October 1907, he moved to Vienna, attempting to get into the art academy, but he failed the entrance exam. (He later blamed the Jews for this.) He frequented Bierkeller, with other unemployed, where his hatred of the Jews and the Slavs grew. He had part time jobs – e.g. postcard selling and as an unskilled mechanic.

In 1912 he moved to Munich in the province of Bavaria. In the First World War he joined the Bavarian army, where he was promoted to corporal, and he was awarded the Iron Cross first class (got it twice) for being gassed. He was convalescing at the time of the peace treaty, and claimed he would never have signed it. (28th June 1919).

Hitler’s Early Political Career

At the end of the First World War he returned to Munich, where he joined the German Workers Party, which became the NSDAP (National Socialist German Workers Party) or Nazi party. He became its Führer (leader), and used the swastika as its emblem. He befriended Ernst Rohm, the leader of the SA (Sturmabteilung or Stormtroopers) which defended Hitler and attacked the Communists. He spoke at meetings, often at Beer halls, where his active, and aggressive, policies appealed to all classes.

Munich Putsch (23rd November, 1923)

A putsch is an armed rising. The Munich putsch is compared to Mussolini’s march on Rome, but whereas Mussolini was successful, Hitler failed to gain power.

On the 23rd November 1923, Hitler tried to take over the Government of Bavaria. The attempted coup d’état failed, because of mistiming. Hitler’s rebels left the beer hall and collided with the police on their way to the state building. Shots were fired, 16 Nazis were killed, and Hitler, and his aid Rudolf Hess, were arrested. The attempted coup received widespread support, because the Weimar Government was unpopular in 1923 (hyperinflation and the French occupation of the Ruhr valley, January 1923-25). Established figures supported Hitler, e.g. General Ludendorf (gave support in camera) and Wilhelm Frick (the Munich chief of police was actively involved. His men were supposed to be dealing with a false riot at the other end of the city, but the diversion failed, and they ran into the Putsch.)

Landsberg and Imprisonment

He was tried and sentenced for Treason in April 1924, and used his trial to advertise Nazi ideas. He was supposed to serve five years but was imprisoned for only nine months, in the comfort of Landsberg Castle. This lenient sentence for so serious a crime shows that the judiciary was sympathetic to right-wing groups. While he was in prison he wrote Mein Kampf (My Struggle) which was partly autobiographical, and partly about Nazi ideas. Hess acted as his amanuensis. His ideas included:

  1. The Weimar Government was weak
  2. The Treaty of Versailles was unfair
  3. Germany should increase its population – ‘take lands in the east by the power of the sword’ (This would involve rearming, taking the Polish Corridor by force, and a likelihood of war.)
  4. He said the Aryan (Teutonic people) race, which had blonde hair and blue eyes, was a Herrenvolk (master race). He said inferior races (Jews, Slavs, Poles, Gypsies (Romanies), Orientals (Kincaid), and Blacks) should be exterminated.

He was released after nine months, and he said that in future, he would come to power by democratic means, rather than using violence.

Stresemann: Recovery & Collapse

When Hitler was released, he found Germany in the capable hands of Gustav Stresemann, who was foreign secretary and chancellor, improved Germany’s economy and international position, e.g.

  1. 1924-29 – He improved the economy by arranging the Dawes (1924) and Young (1929) plans, with the USA, to ease the payment of reparations.
  2. July 1925 – He organised French withdrawal from the Ruhr
  3. 1925 – The Locarno Pact improved relations between Germany and France.
  4. 1926 – Joined the council of the League of Nations

As a result of the improvements in economic conditions, the Nazis did badly in elections

The death of Stresemann (3rd October 1929) and the Wall Street Crash (29th October 1929) caused the German economy to collapse and so Hitler realised his party would do better in the elections. Note: Poor economic conditions = Extremist groups prosper.

Nazi Revival (1929-33)

Hitler claimed that he knew there would be a crisis, and that he had been waiting, and prepared, for the Nazis to save Germany.

  1. He gained financial backing from some Junkers and from two Ruhr Steel Magnates (Manufacturer and Investor): Krupp & Thyssen. The deal was money to Hitler in return for orders later.
  2. He expanded the existing scout movement who the Hitler Youth which by 1924 had 7 million members. It extended to girls in 1928 with the BDM (League of German Maidens) He stressed physical fitness, so they could fight in future, and he indoctrinated them with Nazi ideas so they would vote for him in future. He was shaping young minds.
  3. Rallies were organised by Josef Goebbels, and he and Hitler whipped their audience into a frenzy of support.

As a result, Nazi seats in the Reichstag increased.

Hitler did NOT have an overall majority, and so did not automatically become chancellor.

Hitler becomes Chancellor

President Paul Von Hindenburg used his power of decree in an emergency to appoint four chancellors between 1932-33. In May 1932, Brüning was dismissed, and replaced by Von Papen, who in turn was replaced by General Schleicher. These three could not control the communists and the Nazis in the Reichstag and so reluctantly in January 1933 Von Hindenburg appointed Hitler. Hindenburg’s idea was that Hitler would be his puppet and only two other Nazis were in the cabinet: Göring and Frick. Hindenburg disliked Hitler for two reasons.

  1. Hitler was only an Austrian Corporal (Snobbishness)
  2. Hitler had stood against Hindenburg in the presidential election of 1932. Hitler gained 13 million votes; Hindenburg gained 19 million votes. (Jealousy)

Hitler’s appointment as chancellor is a vital step in the downfall of the Weimar government.

The Establishment of the Nazi Dictatorship

It took Hitler only 18 months to change from Chancellor to Dictator of Germany:

Burning of the Reichstag (27/2/33)

On the night of the 27th February 1933, the Reichstag was set ablaze by a Dutch communist student, van der Lubbe, who was found guilty of arson and treason, and beheaded. (This shows the Law Courts were harsh towards left-wing groups.) The German Communists had not caused the blaze and they tried to blame the Nazis. Hitler used van der Lubbe’s guilt as an excuse to discredit all communists.

The Enabling Act (23/3/33)

As a result of communist unpopularity, the Nazis increased their votes in the March 1933 election where they gained 288, or 43%, so Hitler still had no Reichstag majority. He forced Hugenburg’s 52 nationalists to form a coalition. Hitler now passed the Enabling Act, which gave executive power (power to pass laws) to the cabinet for four years, hereby Hitler made all the decisions (dictator.)


With the power of the Enabling Act, Hitler banned all other political parties, so Germany became Totalitarian. To further weaken the communists, he banned the Trade Unions in 1934, and workers had to join the Nazi Labour Front, led by Dr. Robert Ley. There was no freedom of speech, and Hitler imprisoned people without trial.

Röhm Purge (30/6/34)

(Operation Hummingbird/The Night of the Long Knives)

Hitler became increasingly suspicious of the intentions of Ernst Röhm, the leader of the three and a half million working class, brownshirted, SA. Hitler was told by Goebbels, Göring and Himmler that Rohm wanted to be a military dictator with Hitler as his puppet. The SA then disgraced themselves by not saluting Hitler, at a mayday parade. Hitler plotted Rohm’s downfall. He gave them summer leave, and its leaders were arrested. Hitler arrested Rohm himself at Bad Weisse in Bavaria. Rohm’s chauffeur was shot and Rohm refused to commit suicide, so was shot in Berlin. Himmler gained the most, because his SS (Schutz Staffel – Protection squad) replaced the disbanded SA. At the same time, Hitler’s other enemies were rounded up and shot, including Ex-chancellor Schleicher. In the Reichstag next day (1/7/34), Hitler said he had executed over 60 traitors, though the number was nearer 2,000. He said he was ‘supreme judge with a licence to kill’.

Death of Von Hindenburg (2/8/34)

Hindenburg’s death meant the cabinet could combine the roles of chancellor and president, so Hitler became fuhrer of the Third Reich.

Did Hitler behave democratically?

Yes, because he had the power of the Enabling Act.

No, because the Weimar constitution said the president should be elected.

Life in Nazi Germany (1933-39)

1. Hitler’s Economic Policy

During the years 1933-39 Hitler was popular because he was able to improve Germany’s economy. The virtual abolition of reparations by the Allies in 1931 also helped. The number of unemployed people went down.

The main reason for this was an increase in government expenditure, in 1933 it was 4 billion, from 1938-30 it was 30 billion. Hitler found work for people by beginning Public Work Schemes, e.g. the autobahns – the splendid new roads of Germany. Rearmament also helped to reduce unemployment via conscription and munitions factories. People were conscripted into the army so were no longer unemployed, and people gained employment producing weapons. Firms involved with the production of weapons were encouraged to expand. Krupp and Thyssen produced steel parts, but later, weapons for Hitler too. The disadvantage of the expansion of large firms was the smaller firms suffered. (Krupp and Thyssen were based in the Ruhr). Hitler wanted to gain autarky, which means to make Germany economically self-sufficient, which involved expanded German lands. Schacht produced ersatz (substitute) material to replace imported goods. For example, plastics (BUNA) replaced rubber.

Germany needed to expand her lands to achieve self-sufficiency, so she had suitable lands for the mining and production of products. Raw materials (e.g. coal and iron from Upper Silesia) needed somewhere to be mined from, land was needed for farming and industry, and people needed to form a workforce for the new areas. If Germany expanded beyond its 1919 national boundaries war would follow.

2. Nazi Propaganda

Hitler’s minister of Propaganda was Josef Goebbels. Hitler’s ideas about race and nationalism were taught in schools. Intellectual life in Germany was stifle by the lack of free expression. Universities were unable to play a significant role, as they were under constant fear of being suppressed.

A young person who did not belong to the Hitler Youth Movement was unlikely to make progress in life, and so nearly all young people were subjected to Nazi propaganda constantly. It did produce physically fit youths, which Hitler could conscript for war. Indoctrinating Nazi ideas to young people made them support Hitler, and they would vote for him when they were older (not necessary after he became a dictator). They would fight for him in war, and follow him to the bitter end.

3. The Churches of Nazism

There were two major branches of Christianity in Germany: the German Lutheran Church (Protestants) and the Roman Catholic Church. The Protestant Churches either joined the Nazi controlled ‘German Christians’ or found their leaders persecuted and imprisoned. For example, Pastor Niemoller was opposed to Hitler and was sent to a concentration camp. The Catholic Church signed a concordat with the Nazi regime in July 1933, by which the liberty of the Church was guaranteed. Hitler did not adhere to this agreement, so Pope Pius XI issued the Encyclical ‘Mit Brennender Sorge’ (‘With burning sorrow’) in which he accused the Nazi regime of breaking the Concordat and in which he forecast the dangers emanating from Germany (March 1937)

4. The Persecution of the Jews

In the early years of Hitler’s rule the Jews were persecuted. In 1935 the Nuremberg laws were passed, which deprived Germany’s 600,000 Jews of citizenship. For example the Jews were not allowed to vote, receive medical, or rely on police protection, and subjected them to various indignities, such as travelling in separate parts of buses and trains, and the need to display a distinctive badge or sign to shown that they were Jews. In November 1938, a young Jew killed a German diplomat in Paris. The Nazis used this an excuse to launch a violent revenge on Jews. Plain-clothes SS troopers were issued with pickaxes and hammers and the addresses of Jewish businesses. They ran riot, smashing up Jewish shops and workplaces. 91 Jews were murdered. Hundreds of synagogues were burned. 20,000 Jews were taken to concentration camps. Thousands more left the country. This event became known as Kristallnacht or ‘The Night of the Broken Glass’. Many Germans watched the events of Kristallnacht with alarm and concern. The Nazi controlled press presented Kristallnacht as the spontaneous reaction of ordinary Germans against the Jews. Most Germans did not believe this. However, hardly anyone protested. The few who did were brutally murdered. Two major groups persecuted the Jews, the press and the Gestapo and SS. The Gestapo is short for Geheime Staats Polizei, or the secret state police. SS stands for Schutz Staffel or ‘protection squad’. It protected Hitler from all political enemies such as the communists. Himmler was head of the Gestapo and SS, his deputy was Heydrich.

The SS ran the Nazi concentration camps. There were two types:

  1. Labour camps: originally set up by Göring to house political prisoners
  2. Extermination camps: to eliminate ‘inferior’ races in a policy of mass murder (genocide) known as the ‘final solution’ or ‘holocaust’

Concentration Camps

There were two types of Nazi concentration camps:

Labour Camps

For political prisoners mainly, e.g. Communists. Dachau was the first camp to be opened by Goring in March 1933, for 5,000 men. By 1937 it held 27,000 prisoners. The SS under Himmler ran the camps.

Extermination Camps

For inferior races in the ‘Final Solution’ after 1941. Not only Jews were sent. The Gypsies, Slavs, Poles and Russians were also victims. Jews were transported in cattle trucks expecting to go to re-settlement camps in remote, rural areas, near railway lines. Those who survived the journey were divided into two groups.

The ‘Fit’

Young adults and selected essential workers would pass through a gate marked ‘Arbeit Macht Frei’ (Work makes you free). Most were used as slave labourers and were flogged if they refused or could not work. In some camps they were used for medical experiments (e.g. at Auschwitz, Dr. Mengele experimented on twins). Workers were housed in cold, stark, insanitary barracks. All belongings were confiscated, hair removed and skin tattooed with a number. Confiscations were recycled.

They were given a small bowl for the dual purpose of food vessel and a toilet. They worked all daylight hours, in all weather conditions. Diseases were rife (e.g./ pneumonia and malnutrition). Once unfit to work they were ‘exterminated’ with the ‘unfit’.

The ‘Unfit’

The young, aged and lame, were taken to gas chambers expecting to be deloused in a shower. Fellow Jews (kappos) were made to work these chambers. Earlier attempts to gas with exhaust fumes in lorries were inefficient. SS guards would pass canisters of Xyclon B (prussic acid) through a gap in the chamber wall and as it was pierced, the gas entered the shower room through ‘water’ roses. Opened doors revealed a pyramid of tangled corpses. Bodies were cremated. Earlier mass graves had been used, but in time corpses suppurated and the graves erupted. Approximately six million Jews were exterminated in the Holocaust.

Chart of Jewish Deaths in Europe
Country Number of Jews Killed
Germany 125,000
Poland, USSR, Baltic States 4,566,000
Rumania 264,000
Yugoslavia 60,000
Hungary 300,000
Austria 70,000
Czechoslovakia 277,000
Italy 75,000
France 83,000
Denmark 120
Belgium 24,000
Luxembourg 700
Norway 868
Greece 55,000

Effects of the Second World War on Germany (1939-45)

1. Economic

Germany had been rearming since 1934, but with the outbreak of war conscription and output from munitions (arms) factories increased. Agriculture was also part of the ‘war economy’: prime produce was sent as victuals (supplies) to troops. With the increase in conscripted men, women and aged men farmed and worked in factories, taught and ran hospitals. As Germany began to lose the war, the Hitler Youth were employed, and by 1945, children were even conscripted to defend Berlin. They also acted as night watchmen during air raids.

2. Propaganda

Goebbels made the most of Nazi military successes before c.1942, and Hitler refused to accept defeat, even in Russia, so the news of defeat at Stalingrad (January 1943) shocked ordinary Germans. Propaganda had led them to believe they were still winning.

3. Allied Bombing of Germany

Though ‘Bomber Command’ had bombed Germany from 1942, the raids increased after June 1944, when the second front was opened. Berlin, Hamburg and Dresden were key targets of the RAF. Note the following statistics:

  1. In July and August 1943, 40,000 civilians were killed in Hamburg.
  2. In February 1945, Dresden, an architectural masterpiece, was razed to the ground.
  3. 1939-45 British civilians killed in the blitz = 65,000. 1939-45 German civilians killed by aerial bombardment = 600,000.

Bombing raids weakened and strengthened the morale of Germans. Proud Nazis were certainly shocked at the devastation. The German economy was also damaged. Usually Bomber Command aimed to destroy dams, railways and factories. It seems the target in Dresden was people.

4. Resistance

As the German people became more aware of defeat (gradually after 1943), more Germans resisted Hitler, though the effect of propaganda made most people either too afraid to resist, or unable to accept defeat.

Jews were largely passive and did not resist the Nazis, but anti-Semitism, totalitarianism and brutality from a government led by a common Austrian, caused real resentment among some intellectuals and Junkers. For example, Count Von Molkte led a network of Germans who helped resistance movements in Europe, and helped rescue some Jews. Attempts were made by younger offices to assassinate Hitler, but these all failed. For example in November 1943 at Berlin, Hitler avoided a bomb plot by cancelling his visit to a factory making new great coats for the Russian Front. The best known and nearly successful plot was:

The Stauffenburg Plot (July 1944)

Count Colonel Klause Von Stauffenburg plotted with other high-ranking officers against Hitler, at Hitler’s Bavarian Headquarters. (The Wolf’s Lair). Hitler was meeting the chiefs of staff in a bunker. Stauffenburg arrived with a briefcase, with a bomb in it. He puts it under the table, then as planned, goes to receive a phone call. The suitcase is kicked under the table accidentally, before it goes off, so the bomb went off at the wrong end of the table. Stauffenburg says it is a success, but Hitler was not killed, only injured. One naval officer was killed. Stauffenburg and two others were shot, others were rounded up and faced trial, but were guilty to start with, the trial was meaningless. The convicted were taken to a place with meat hooks in the ceiling, and hung them with piano wire. Hitler made a movie of this to discourage others.

5. Germany’s Final Collapse

As USSR approached Germany from the east, GB/USA and Canadian forces came from the west using large amounts of artillery and tanks, with air cover. Hitler still believed (15th July 1944) that he could win the war, so ordered a counter-attack in the Ardennes, which failed. In this desperate plight the C in C gave the following order on 9th March 1945.

‘The capital will be defended to the last man and the last bullet… for the successful defence of Berlin… every building, every house, every floor, every hedge, every shell, every crater, be defended to the utmost.’

By 19th March 1945, even Hitler accepted defeat, and he ordered that nay weapons that could be used by the enemy must be destroyed. His forces in Berlin amounted to conscripted veterans and teenagers. Hitler and his wife committed suicide in the Führerbunker (30/4/45). Admiral Doenitz was named Führer.

Hitler’s Henchmen

Rudolf Hess

Deputy Führer until 1941, crashed his plane in Scotland on a peace mission. He suffered from amnesia. He was tried at Nuremberg, sentenced to life imprisonment at Spandau Prison, Berlin. He died in 1987 in hospital. Heart failure? Strangulation? Was it Hess?

Josef Goebbels

Propaganda chief from 1929-1945. He committed suicide in 1945 in the führerbunker. His wife committed suicide after poisoning her six children.

Hermann Göring

Head of the Luftwaffe. He was sentenced to execution, but committed suicide by poisoning himself.

Wilhelm Frick

Munich Chief of Police (1923). In 1933 he became a cabinet minister. He is hanged at Nuremberg in 1946.

Heinrich Himmler

Leader of SS and Gestapo. He committed suicide in 1945, by poisoning.

Ernst Rohm

Leader of the SA. He died 30th June 1934, in the Rohm Purge. He was shot by the SS. Hitler arrested him, shot his chauffeur, then shot him.

Joachim Von Ribbentrop

Nazi foreign minister. He was hanged in 1946.

Martin Borman

Party chairman after 1941. He disappeared. He may have gone to South America, or have been killed in bomb raids.

Dr. Robert Ley

Head of Nazi Labour Front and education minister. He hung himself with his belt from a light fitting, thus also electrocuting himself as well.

Reinhardt Heydrich

Himmler’s deputy and in charge of Bohemia. He was assassinated in Prague in 1942 (27th May, died on 29th)

Julius Streicher

Editor of ‘Der Strumer’. Hanged in 1946, Nuremberg.

Krupp & Thyssen

Financiers and steelmakers. Died of old age. Both families are still around, and immensely rich.

Albert Speer

Armaments minister and Hitler’s architect. Sentenced to 20 years in prison. His diaries were published, as were Göebbels’.

Eva Braun

Mistress and wife of Hitler. Committed suicide in the bunker.

The Effects of Nazi Rule on Germany

Young people’s reaction to the Nazi regime

Young people were among the most fanatical supporters of the Nazi regime and the Nazis had great success in controlling them

The Nazis wanted to control young people because:

The Nazis used a range of methods to control young people:

However many young people in Germany were enthusiastic about life under the Nazi regime, especially as they enjoyed leisure opportunities.

Not all young people supported the regime, however. Groups that opposed the Nazis were:

These groups opposed the Nazis because they resisted the Nazi control of their lives. Due to their opposition, the Nazis acted against them by:

Did the German People Benefit from Hitler’s Rule?

It has been argued that if Hitler had died in 1938/9, he would have been hailed as the greatest German leader of all time. Certainly after 1939, with the Second World War and the ruination of Germany, Hitler cannot receive the same praise.

Area of life Positive effects Date Negative effects
Government Unlike the Weimar government, Hitler’s government was strong – it passed laws quickly. 1933-45 Germany did not benefit from democracy:
  • Hitler was a dictator
  • Germany was totalitarian (Enabling Act: 23/3/33)
  • Censorship prevented freedom of speech
  • Propaganda gave people a biased view
Press/Media As the press published the positive side of Germany, the morale of the people was boosted. 1933-45 Censorship and propaganda meant people had a distorted view of events. This was bad in the long run.
Judiciary   1933-45 Law courts were known to be biased against the left wing, and in favour of the right wing – e.g. Hitler’s trial (1923). The bias got worse (1933-45), e.g. The Burning of the Reichstag (1933) and the Stauffenburg Plot (July 1944).
Economy Reduced inflation and unemployment, e.g. the building of the Autobahns. He tried to make Germany self-sufficient, e.g. BUNA, a substitute for rubber.

Foreign trade improved, e.g. Volkswagen

1933-39 Women deprived of jobs, which were given to men. Minorities lost their jobs, e.g. the Jews (Nuremberg Laws, 1936)
  1939-45 Economic growth wrecked.
Armed Forces The Junkers benefited from rearmament. Unemployment was reduced by conscription and munitions factories. 1933-45  
1939-c.1941: Army benefited from military success. 1939-45 1941-1945: Armed forces defeated
Churches Catholics were supposed to be protected by the Concordat with the Pope (1933) 1933-45 The Concordat was broken. Protestant ministers were also persecuted, e.g. pastor Niemoller who was sent to Auschwitz. Prejudice and intolerance were encouraged by propaganda, e.g. against Gypsies, Slavs, Poles and Negros.
Minorities   1933-45 Minorities were persecuted, e.g. the Jews were exterminated after 1941 (The Holocaust)
Youth Both boys and girls in the Hitler Youth Movement became fit 1933-45 Narrow-minded youth resulted through propaganda and education, i.e. the education policies of Dr. Robert Ley.
Women Like men, they benefited from the effects of economic reform – more wealth. 1933-45 Women depended on the incomes of men for their wealth:
  • Women lost jobs (1933-41) then regained them as men were conscripted.
  • Sexist policies, e.g. medals for breeding – gold cross for 8 children.
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