The nazi terror state




The nazi terror state


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The nazi terror state

Taking control
The Nazis aimed to win over the hearts and minds of the people by improving their way of life – they had three aims

  • A strong Germany – a strong economy and army ready for war would be popular – to made Hitler look like a good leader and meant that the army could absorb large numbers of the unemployed.
  • A racial Germany – Aryanism – Hitler said that Jews and non white people should be persecuted.
  • The Volk – Hitler promoted the idea of Germany being one people.

They had several ways of doing this

  • Dictatorship – rule by one man and everyone would obey him. He would rule in the interests of all the people and not just people with a vested interest.
  • A one party state – there would only be one political party – the Nazis. Every major institution in the state was led by a Nazi and to enter a profession such as the law or teaching you had to be member of the Nazi party.
  • Economic success – Hitler thought that if you gave people jobs, food, access to consumer goods and holidays they would be happy and would not challenge his own authority.
  • A police state – The SS and police arrested all those who did not submit to the power of the Nazis.
  • Propaganda – The government controlled what people saw and heard – this enabled them to win over peoples hearts and minds. Goebbels was a master at this.

The Nazi state.
Hitler gave out an image that he was in total control – he gave the orders and everyone obeyed. The reality was very different – he worked a chaotic schedule where he was reluctant to do paperwork and to make decisions. He left the major decisions except on military and foreign affairs to others. Each major figure in the Nazi party competed for Hitlers favour and he took advantage of this to play them off against each other. Local leaders (Gaulieters) and national leaders often carried out contradictory policies. A policy of divide and rule. The trade unions were abolished and everyone had to join the Nazi labour front. Also you needed to be a Nazi to hold a major position in the state.

The SS
The SS was originally formed as Hitler’s personal bodyguard and had only 500 members. They were supposed to be the elite men of the Nazi regime with blonde hair and blue eyes. They were ruthless and completely loyal to Adolf Hitler – they wore black shirts to make them stand out from the SA. In the Nazi state they had unlimited power of arrest and ran the concentration camps. They even formed their own fighting unit – the Waffen SS – which was seen as a rival to the army. In the concentration camps they followed a routine of terror – opponents were executed and their relatives were told that they were shot whilst trying to escape. After the war broke out in 1939 they used slave labour from these camps to make weapons. Conditions in these camps were not good but they were very different from the death camps which would be set up during the war. They were led by Heinrich Himmler – a former chicken farmer – who was brutal and ruthless. He personally sancitioned the killing of 6 million Jews during the holocaust.

The Gestapo
This was the secret police force which was run by Goering – they spied on the people and had a vast network of informers. Other informers did not know who were spies and who were not. Local leaders would also check on peoples “political reliability.” People who were considered suspect were Because of their secret nature they were the main instrument of terrorising the German people and were feared by all. The Nazis also took control of the police and the courts and used them for their own ends – the number of crimes punishable by death rose from 3 in 1933 to 46 by 1943.

Winning hearts and minds
Political opposition had been crushed by the end of 1933 but there were still ways of opposing the Nazi regime – the success of this was negligible as outlined below.

  • Organise a coup d’etat – kill Hitler and bring down the regime. People didn’t do this for the first ten years – Hitler was successful over the first few years and during the first years of the war. Why remove a popular leader. Some people only started to plot against Hitler when the war started to go wrong in 1943.
  • Underground and open opposition – there was some open opposition but not much – the Nazis did not publicise any dissent from ordinary people.
  • Passive resistance – not cooperating with the Nazis. This was quite common – simple symbolic acts such as refusing to give the Nazi salute or refusing to join the Labour Front or Hitler Youth.
  • Private grumbling – moaning and groaning. This was widespread as many hated the bully boy tactics employed by the Nazis to get their way and the intrusion into people private lives. Most of the German people were not bothered either way for or against the Nazis but they rarely grumbled in public as they were too scared.

Why did people not rise up against the Nazis?

  • Fear of the SS
  • The opposition was divided – they were divided into small cells and didn’t cooperate with each other.
  • People did not know what was being done in their name – the Nazis did not publicise what they were doing.
  • People were pleased with what the Nazis had delivered – jobs and prosperity – they had no reason to want to oppose them.
  • People had minor as opposed to major problems with what the Nazis were doing.
  • The Nazis were very clever – they dropped unpopular policies quickly or kept them quiet. For example they carried out a policy of euthanasia on disabled people – when people found out they were mass protests, Publicly they abandoned the policy but carried it out quietly without telling anyone.
  • The Nazis had used quasi legal methods to get into power – people saw them as being the legal government of the country and were reluctant to oppose them.
  • There was no organised opposition to the Nazis – they wouldn’t allow it.


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