Germany: Democracy and Dictatorship (Part three (Churches and religion: …
Germany: Democracy and Dictatorship
Germany and the growth of democracy
Before the war, Germany was a
with a Kaiser, Wilhelm II, and a parliament elected by adult males who held the right to vote, there were two main political themes:
Wilhelm was determined to turn his nation into a world power. Germany built an empire, became active in world affairs and took part in an arms race with other European nations that would eventually lead to war.
However, at the same time
, and the Social Democratic Party were becoming the largest party in the
After the war, with the Kaiser removed, Germany began
. All adult Germans were able to vote and the system of
meant a wide range of views were given voice in parliament. However, the defeat in the war, in the shape of crippling
payments and the military restrictions in the
Treaty of Versailles
, led to serious problems:
In 1923 there was a
crisis that left Germany's currency worthless.
In the first four years of the Weimar Republic there were three serious attempts to overthrow the government.
During the early nineteenth century, Prussia was the only German state that could match the power and influence of the Austrian Empire. They were comparable in terms of size, population, and wealth.
Prussia had become the most industrialized state in Germany. She was now a force to be reckoned with in Europe.
Prussia was producing more key resources such as coal and iron than Austria and it had surged ahead of its rival in building road and rail networks to help promote trade.
From 1898 onwards Germany massively expanded its navy. This was a key part of the policy known as Weltpolitik or 'World politics'. This policy was designed to turn Germany into a world power by building an overseas empire, growing its world trade and increasing its Naval power.
Impact of the war
By September 1918, leading German generals began to realize they had lost the war. This came as an enormous shock to the country. Weeks of violence followed as the Germans expressed their anger.
An impact on Germany could be the Treaty of Versailles:
Accept full responsibility for causing the war and therefore devastation and losses of the war.
Pay reparations of 6600 million for the damage caused, and give the coal mines of the Saar area to France as compensation for destroying their coal mines.
Lose land. They lost control of all foreign colonies and Germany was forbidden to unite with Austria.
Limit their military power, with an army of no more than 100,000 members and only small ships in the navy. The Rhineland was demilitarized.
The Weimar republic faced violent uprisings from various groups, not so mention devastating economic problems. Germany between 1918 and 1919 was in chaos. People were starving, the Kaiser had fled and people hated the government for signing the armistice in November 1918 - they called them the November criminals. Bands of soldiers called Freikorps refused to disband and formed private armies.
There was continuous violence and unrest:
In March 1920, there was a rebellion - the
that aimed to set up a new government as the rebels were angry at them for signing the Treaty of Versailles.
Nationalist terror groups assassinated 356 government politicians.
Many of the people in Germany were communists, who wanted to bring in a Russian-style communist government. There were a number of communist uprisings. For instance, in 1919 the Spartacists rebelled in Berlin.
The Weimar government's main crisis occurred in 1923, when the Germans failed to make a reparations payment on time, which set off a train of events that included:
A French invasion of the Ruhr
A general strike
Runaway inflation - hyperinflation
A number of communist rebellions
An attempted Nazi putsch in Munich
The proportional representation idea made parliament a mess. Since there were so many different parties in the Reichstag, no one could ever reach the majority vote which means nothing would have ever passed. This means the state of Germany could not have improved at all during this period. This is how Hitler got into power, he paired up with the nationalist party to gain the majority vote, winning him becoming chancellor.
In 1924, the crisis of hyperinflation was brought to an end by the
and the introduction of a new currency, the Doichemark. The German economy was now dependent on loans from the USA.
The young plan reduced the total reparations debt from 6.6 billion to 2 billion. The payments could be made over a longer time.
After 1920, the Weimar republic flourished in a sense where it developed itself into a
. This meant that the people grew regarding:
Education and social life
Visual arts like architecture. These were Bauhaus houses that were very modern looking at the time
Music, specifically Modern classical, Jazz, and Cabaret
Cinema, such as expressionist film makers
The depression in Germany
There was a massive stock boom in America, loads of people made money. However, this soon plummeted which caused many people to go bankrupt. This was so bad that 23,000 suicides in one year in the USA.
The impact on Weimar Germany was even more dire. Germans were not so much reliant on exports as they were on American loans, which has been supplying the Weimar economy. Germany was not equipped for this retraction of cash and capital. Banks struggled to provide money and credit. By the end of 1929, around 1.5 million Germans were out of work; within a year this figure had more than doubled. By early 1933 unemployment in Germany had reached a staggering six million.
Growth of extremist parties
The depression in Germany caused support for extremist parties to increase, this is because:
Democracy seemed to be failing as the moderate parties in the Reichstag failed to work together.
Many working-class people turned to extreme left wing parties who seemed to offer solutions to unemployment and falling wages.
Many middle and upper-class people turned to the extreme right wing party, the Nazis, because they were afraid of the communists gaining power.
He kept his ideas vague and changed the message for different audiences, thereby appealing to a wide range of people.
He constantly emphasized the failures of Weimar.
He gained the support of business leaders which made him more powerful and appealing.
Propaganda was used effectively.
The SA played a major role, using fear and violence to stand up to communists and sabotage opposition parties.
Hitler was a very influential person at the time, he was incredible at speeches, he appealed to every class of citizen by talking about everybody and how he could help them. He traveled all over the country giving speeches in person and on the radio.
The role of the SA
or SA, were a paramilitary force. Formed in 1921 by Hitler, they were led by Ernst Röhm and wore brown uniforms. In 1930 they numbered about 400,000, and grew to around 3 million by 1934. Many members were unemployed former soldiers. They played a major role in increasing support for the Nazis during the elections of 1930 and 1932 as they seemed to be able to control unrest on the streets by standing up to Communist paramilitary force.
The failure of Weimar democracy
As Weimar Germany could not change its way of governing, economic problems would not stop and the country went spiraling downwards. Hitler used this as a weak spot to gain as much popularity as he could.
Weimar parties lost electoral support in the elections between 1928 to 1932. This failure of Weimar democracy, together with the plotting of key figures - including President Hindenburg, Schleicher, and Papen - led to Hitler's appointment as chancellor in 1933.
The enabling act 1933
Hitler proposed the Enabling Act in order to destroy the power of the Reichstag and give himself total power to make laws. It stated that:
The Reich Cabinet could pass new laws.
The laws could overrule the constitution.
Hitler would propose the laws.
Result: Germany would no longer need a democracy.
The Reichstag Fire
A lone Dutch communist was executed for 'starting' the fire but Hitler seized the opportunity to accuse the Communist Party of a conspiracy against the government. Four thousand communists were arrested.
It gave Hitler an excuse to issue the emergency Decree for the protection of People and the State, giving him powers to imprison political opponents and ban opposition newspapers.
He persuaded Hindenburg to call an election in March 1933 to secure more Nazi seats.
The Nazi Party managed to secure two-thirds of the seats by using the emergency powers to prevent the communists from taking up their 81 seats.
Hitler was now able to change the constitution.
Elimination of political opposition
The communist party was finished after the Reichstag fire; most communists who had not been arrested and put into concentration camps left the country.
31 March 1933
Regional parliaments were closed down and reorganized with Nazi majorities.
Nazi opponents were rooted out from the civil service and law.
Offices and finance of other political parties were confiscated by the Nazis.
Trade union offices were broken into, and officials were arrested and sent to concentration camps; the ntrade unions were banned.
22nd June 1933
The SPD was banned as hostile to the German nation and the state, then the center party dissolved themselves before they could get banned.
14 July 1933
The Law against the formation of the New Parties banned any political party except the Nazis.
Why Rohm and the SA were removed
Rohm led at least 3 million SA, which potentially made him a very serious rival, especially as he disagreed with some of Hitler's policies.
Many important people in Germany, including Hindenburg, disapproved of the SA, some of them were violent thugs who lacked any discipline.
The German army only numbered about 100,000. Officers believed Rohm wanted to make the SA the new army. Hitler needed the Army's allegiance.
The night of the long knives
Hitler decided he wanted to rid himself of the threat of Rohm and the SA. He did this by inviting Rohm and 100 SA leaders to a meeting in the town of Bad Wiessee on 30 June 1934. It was a ruse - when the leaders arrived they were arrested by the SS, taken to Munich and shot.
After the arrests, Papen's staff were arrested and he was put under house arrest. Papen was no longer able to watch what Hitler was up to.
Further killings occurred, including that of Schleicher.
Hitler becomes Fuhrer
On 2 August 1934, just a few weeks after the night of the long knives, president Hindenburg died. By this time, he was the only person preventing Hitler from having total power in Germany. Within hours of his death, a law concerning the Head of State merged the offices of Chancellor and President to create a new office of Fuhrer. Hitler also announced that from now on the army would swear an oath of allegiance to him, not to Germany.
Economic policies 1933-36
Although the German economy had already started to grow before Hitler came to power, the Nazis did revive the economy. They:
Invested huge sums of money in public works programmes.
Gave loans, subsidies, and tax relief to businesses to increase production and take on more workers.
Put controls on wages a d prices to avoid hyperinflation.
Controlled imports and made new trade agreements which increased trade and production in the New Plan of 1934.
National Labor Service
This was started by the Weimar Government and continued under the Nazis.
From July 1935, it was compulsory for all men aged 18-25 to serve for six months on this scheme.
They worked on public works programmes or on farms.
Many hated RAD. The pay was low, the hours long, and the work boring.
Impact of war
The years 1939-42
A rationing system for food was set up in August 1939, before the war began. Rationing for soap, clothing and fuel followed soon after.
There were few shortages to begin with as food and goods were sent back to Germany from countries the army occupied. There was a thriving
for luxury goods for those that could afford to pay high prices. From late 1941 rationing was more severe as the army became bogged down in Russia.
Impact of war
The years 1942-45
By July 1944 the German armies were in retreat from the Soviet Union's Red Army. Millions of refugees living in Poland, East Prussia and Czechoslovakia flooded into Germany ahead of the Russian advance. From January 1945, Russian troops entered Germany and millions more fled to western areas to escape. Cities already suffering from bombing and severe shortages of food and other essentials were therefore put under increasing pressure.
Up to 500,000 people were killed and 750,000 wounded in bombing raids.
Over a million homes were destroyed, leaving over 7 million homeless.
Many Germans left the cities for the comparative safety of rural areas.
Damage to supply lines and factories disrupted industrial production of goods, particularly of armaments.
Thousands of Businesses were seriously affected as property and goods were destroyed.
After January 1943, all men aged 16-65 and women aged 17-45 had to register for work.
Boys and girls from the Hitler Youth and League of German Maidens helped with farm work.
Forced labor increased dramatically to include Russian prisoners of war and people in labor and concentration camps.
From 1943 shortages of food and other goods increased, so rations were reduced. Clothes rationing ended completely and exchange centers were opened to swap second hand clothes.
By 1945 the rationing system had almost totally collapsed, and there were severe shortages of food and other essentials. People relied on the black market or had to scavenge for food.
Reasons for policies
The Nazis had very traditional views about women, how they should behave and what they should look like. Their ideas about women directly influenced their policies. Women's main role was to breed and raise a 'master race' of Germans, which would make Germany bigger and stronger.
Impact on women
A policy set by the Nazis were women should not work, especially who were married. During 1933-36 the number of employed married women fell. However, after 1939, there was a shortage of workers due to men leaving for war so women had to go back to work.
Another policy is that women should get married, and the number of marriages did increase.
Women should have at least four children, the birth rate did increase but this may have been because the economy was improving rather than because of the Nazi policies.
A women's role should be to look after children and the home.
Young people and youth groups
There were four Nazi youth groups. Meetings and activities took place after school, at weekends and in the holidays:
Young German Folk (10-14)
Young Girls (10-14)
Hitler youth (14-18)
League of German Maidens (14-18)
In 1933, the Nazis banned nearly all groups for young people except Nazi ones.
Young people were increasingly under pressure to join the groups and many did so.
Those who did not fit with Nazi racial ideas - Jews or disabled children, for example - were not allowed to join.
From March 1939, it was compulsory for all young people to join Nazi youth groups.
Churches and religion
The Nazis were particularly worried about the Catholic Church as Catholics were loyal to the Pope and had Catholic schools and youth organisations.
At first Hitler tried to work with the catholic church. In July 1933, he reached a concordat with the Pope that Catholics were free to worship and schools could continue as they were. However, the bishops had to swear loyalty to the Nazis and all clergy had to swear loyalty to the Nazis and all clergy had to stay out of politics.
Hitler broke his promises when he banned Catholic youth organisations, closed Catholic schools that failed to teach the curriculum that other schools had to teach, and closed some churches and many monasteries.
In 1937, the Pope spoke out against Hitler in his statement which criticized Nazi policies.
One of Hitler's main beliefs that was behind many Nazi policies was his idea of 'pure Germans', an 'Aryan' race he believed was superior to other people. Many people were excluded from this idea of racial perfection.
The perfect Aryan:
Men: Athletic and strong, for work or being a soldier
Women: athletic and strong for producing lots of children
Racial policy and persecution
Racial policies affected everyone to differing degrees in Nazi Germany. The severity of the persecution depended on where they stood in the Nazi racial hierarchy.
Aryans were banned from marrying or having sexual relations with non-Aryans.
Mixed race children were sterilized.
Seen as the 'lowest race', the worst policies and persecution were reserved for the Jews.
The final solution
During the Second World War, persecution of Jews reached levels not seen before. At some point during the summer of 1941, Nazi leaders decided on the 'Final Solution' of the Jewish question. - To exterminate Jews across all German territory in Europe.
The setup was to put Jews on trains to death camps where they would either work until they died or were taken straight to the gas chambers and killed, and cremated in large ovens. A notable death camp is Auschwitz.
Propaganda and censorship
Methods of censorship:
Public burning of books by Jewish writers or others who disagreed with Nazi views.
Radio producers, playwrights, filmmakers, and newspapers were told what to say.
Only radios that couldn't receive foreign stations were made.
Methods of propaganda:
Posters showing Nazi beliefs.
Huge rallies and military parades were held.
The cinema showed propaganda films with subtle Nazi messages.
Hitler made radio speeches which were played through loudspeakers in various public places.
All sports teams had to give the Nazi salute and stadiums were covered with Nazi symbols.
The Nazis had strong ideas about the cultural activities that should an should not be part of Germany. They particularly hated the modernist art associated with the Weimar period.
Paintings, sculptures, plays, films, and books:
Showed the superiority of Aryans.
Showed the Jews as evil, same with the Communists.
Portrayed the ideal family with motherhood.
-Depicted Hitler as a great leader.
The police state
The role of the SS:
Members were trained to be highly disciplined and obedient so they would carry out any orders.
They had unlimited powers to search property and arrest and imprison people without trial.
Recruits had to be pure Aryans and were expected to marry Aryan wives to breed Aryan children.
After 1936 the SS controlled the whole police system and ran the concentration camps.
The role of the Gestapo:
Many members were professional police officers, not members of the Nazi party.
No uniforms made them hard to identify.
Their main aim was to identify opponents.
They spied on people using the general population.
They frequently used torture during questioning and sent many people to concentration camps.
They were a small force with never more than 50,000 members.
The Edelweiss Pirates:
They were made up mainly of boys who copied an American style of clothing.
They were formed in the late 1930s, possibly as a consequence of Nazi policies enforcing Hitler youth membership.
The Alpine flower, the edelweiss was used as their symbol.
They read and listened to banned music and literature and wrote anti-Nazi graffiti.
They taunted the Hitler Youth.
By 1939 they had 2,000 members.