Life in Nazi Germany notes and summary study guide



Life in Nazi Germany notes and summary study guide


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Life in Nazi Germany notes and summary study guide

Notes on life in Nazi Germany

Women in Nazi Germany
The Nazis had very clear ideas about the role of women in German society – the Nazi women’s movement was led by Gertude Scholtz-Klink. She was blonde haired, blue eyed, had four children and was committed to her family. She was also unquestioning loyalty to the leadership of the party and never had any real political power. To the Nazis she was ideal for all German women.

In the Weimar Republic women had been freed from many of the traditional roles expected of them. By 1933 there were 100 000 female teachers, 13 000 female musicians, over 60 female members of the Reichstag and over 3000 female doctors. To the Nazis this was a sign of everything that was wrong with Germany – they wanted women to be wives and mothers and not workers.

Increasing the birth rate.
The Nazis believed that women and men had different roles – men as soldiers and women as mothers and wives. The Nazis were concerned about the decline in the birth rate which had dropped from 2 million births a year before World War One to 1 million a year by 1933. Families were getting smaller as more women went out to work – this was a problem when Germany needed more soldiers and workers.

The Nazis decided to reward women who had lots of children and used propaganda to encourage motherhood and large families. They offered loans to new brides who became housewives – 800 000 women took up this offer. Women were encouraged to give up smoking, stop slimming and take up sport to encourage fertility. They were also give a medal for having lots of children – bronze for four children, silver for six children and gold for eight children.

The ideal German woman
An Aryan woman would display the following characteristics.

  • They didn’t go to work – all female doctors, teachers and civil servants were sacked.
  • They would be blonde haired, blue eyed, would wear no make up, a full length skirt and wore flat healed shoes.
  • They made good use of food and wasted none of it.
  • They did not use foreign materials in their clothes and did not buy foreign produced clothes.
  • Women were forbidden to smoke in public – policemen would stop women smoking in the street and give them lectures on morals and their duty as mothers.
  • They bought their children up as loyal Nazis who worshiped Hitler and joined the Hitler Youth.

Contradictions in Nazi policy towards women.
Some policies contradicted the official party line on women’s role in German society – after encouraging women back to work in the early years they needed them to return to work in the build up to war especially as men were drafted into the army. Women returned to work on farms in return for bed and board and no pay. Women did not like the thought of working in factories where conditions and wages were poor – many employers did not like providing separate facilities for women and preferred foreign labour instead. This worried Hitler who thought that going to work could effect a woman’s fertility. In 1938 the divorce law was changed  - if a husband or wife was infertile the fertile spouse could demand a divorce – even if the other partner had made the other infertile by infecting them with venereal disease. They also set up a programme where specially chosen unmarried women could make themselves pregnant by specially chosen SS men.

Life for women in Nazi Germany
The pressure to have children told on many women – several even kidnapped children to ease the pressure. For many women the early years of Nazis rule were a golden era – husbands now had work and those who had jobs found that they were easy to get a s you could pay a women a lot less than a man. Many women supported the Nazis and were members of the party. Hitler was particularly popular with women – some cried out his name when they gave birth.

Women and the war
The war placed more demands than ever on German women – they had to balance having babies, bringing up families, coping with deaths in the family as well as working to help to war effort. To cope with the pressures women began to get fatigue and began to start smoking to calm the nerves. When the war began to go badly after 1942 3 000 000 young women were conscripted to go to war. The birth rate collapsed as male casualties in the war got higher and higher.

The Nazis and the church
The Nazis faced a choice in how to deal with the church – did they destroy the churches completely or could the use them. The arguments for destroying the church were as follows.

  • In 1933 all Germans were Christians – one third were Catholic whilst two thirds were Protestants. The Protestant churches had more members than the Nazi party and a strong internal organisation – it could be used to oppose the Nazis.
  • Peoples religious beliefs tended to be stronger than their political ones – the church had clear rules on behaviour? How could you worship the Fuhrer if you worshipped god? Christian views were often against what the Nazis believed in.
  • Church meetings could be used to spread anti-Nazi ideas.

The arguments for keeping the churches and using them to get the Nazi message across were as follows.

  • Many church members, particularly Protestants, had voted for Hitler. Church pastors were amongst the most popular and successful speakers.
  • The church promoted the importance of family life and militarism – they had this in common with the Nazis.
  • The church was a good power base for the Nazis – if they could use this they would be stronger for it.

Agreements with the churches
Hitler chose not to aggravate the churches when he came to power – in a speech to the Reichstag he described the church as being vital to the moral welfare of the German people. In June 1933 the church signed an agreement – a concordat – with the Nazis. Hitler promised to leave the Catholic churches, schools and Youth organisations alone and as a result the church would keep out of politics in Germany.

Hitler united all the Protestant churches into a single Reich Church under the control of a Nazi Bishop, Muller. They became known as German Christians and adopted Nazi style salutes and uniforms. The motto of the church was “the swastika on out breasts and the cross in out hearts.”

The German Faith movement
The Nazis formed a faith movement as an alternative to the church – it involved a pagan style of worship based on the sun. Some people joined this movement although it gained little support in the country.

Church opposition to the Nazis
The vast majority of Christians supported the Nazis but a small minority opposed them – the four most important critics are listed below.

  • Martin Niemoller – A hero of World War One disliked the ideas of German Christians and, with Bonhoeffer, formed an alternative “Confessional Church.” As a result he and hundreds of other ministers were put into concentration camps. He was in a concentration camp from 1938 to 1945 and survived the wa despite Hitler ordering his execution.
  • Paul Schneider – was a pastor in small town who criticised Hitler and Goebbels. In 1934 he was warned to stop but did not and was sent to a concentration camp in 1937. He refused to salute the Nazi flag and was whipped in public – he left to become a lice ridden skeleton. He still refused not to give up preaching – and was defiant and even watched and notes SS murders of inmates. He was kept in the camp for two years.
  • Cardinal Galen – this Catholic cardinal attacked the Nazis as early as 1934 and in 1941 he revealed the existence of the Nazis Euthanasia campaign. The Nazis did not want him to become a martyr so took no action directly against him – he was too popular and influential. They feared a backlash against the Nazis.
  • Josef Fath – was a Catholic priest in a rural village where the church clashed with Nazi schoolteachers and the Hitler Youth – he stirred up the campaign and proved that in many areas the church was still much more powerful than the Nazi party.
  • Jehovah’s witnesses – Germany only had 30 000 Jehovah’s witnesses who believed that the state should not tell people what to do –  all of them were put into concentration camps where 10 000 of them died.

Did the Nazis succeed in controlling the churches?
As the regime grew stronger they felt more able to take on the power of the churches. Here are some of the attempts they made.

  • 1935 – Gestapo arrested 700 protestant ministers who were opposed to the Nazis.
  • 1936 – Nazis ran a campaign to encourage children to stop going to church. Anti-Nazi nuns and priests were sent to prison on trumped up charges such as homosexuality and illegal currency dealing.
  • 1937 – carols and nativity plays banned from schools.
  • 1938 – priests banned from teaching RE in schools.
  • 1939 – all remaining church schools were abolished.

Yet the Nazis changed their minds about church policy all the time – much depended on who was in charge of the local party. Some local leaders led vigilante groups to beat up priests and churchgoers whilst others went to church every Sunday.

In 1939 a census of the German Reich showed that there were 44 000 000 Christians in Germany compared with 1 200 000 without religious belief and 2 750 000 who were members of the Nazi faith movement. Even the majority of the 3 000 000 Nazi party members paid church taxes and were registered as Christians.

The Second World War
Since 1933 life for most Germans had got better but many had feared the results of Hitler’s foreign policy – especially those who had lived through the First World War. Yet the period 1936 to 1941 saw unseen success on the battlefield and the Germans had stockpiled food and materials in case of war. Rationing was much more severe than in Britain – many goods were severely rationed or even outlawed – such as toilet paper. New good plundered from conquered countries flooded into Germany during the first year of the war.

Between 1941 and 1943 the tide of the war began to turn particularly in the eastern front. People got used to seeing injured soldiers and all families had someone in them who had been killed. This began to sap morale – in response the Nazis stepped up their propaganda campaign to get goods for the troops in Russia.

Between 1943 and 44 Germany was plunged into a state of total war – everyone was pushed to work or fight in the war effort. Any good which were not needed for the war effort stopped being produced. Hair dying and hairdressing were also banned. In August 1943 manufacture of civilian clothing was stopped. To raise morale Goebbels ordered the commissioning of a film about German resistance to Napoleon in 1807 – it cost 8 500 000 Reichsmarks to make. Women were now ordered to work in the factories and foreign slave labourers were shipped in from the occupied territories – Germans had to be careful as they could be thrown in prison or executed for being to nice to slave labourers. Air raids had been common on German cities since 1940 but they became more frequent and deadly after 1943. Many people left the towns and went to live in the countryside.

In 1944 and 45 the country limped on towards defeat and people got more desparate – all theatres and cinemas were closed and all old and young men not already at the front were formed into a home guard. In early 1945 the great air raids began on major cities – in two night of bombing on Dresden 150 000 people were killed. By the end of the war more Germans had died on the home front that had been killed on the battlefield. As the Russians closed in from the east and the British and Americans closed in from the west people began to flee towards the west – they feared the Russians more than the western allies.


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Life in Nazi Germany notes and summary study guide