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10-08-2015, 16:59

THE NAZI STATE, 1933–1939

Having smashed the Weimar Republic, Hitler now turned to his larger objective, the creation of an Aryan racial state that would dominate Europe and possibly the world for generations to come. The Nazis pursued the vision of this totalitarian state in a variety of ways. Most dramatic were the mass demonstrations and spectacles employed to integrate the German nation into a collective fellowship and to mobilize it as an instrument for Hitler’s policies. In the economic sphere, the Nazis pursued the use of public works projects and “pump-priming” grants to private construction firms to foster employment and end the depression. But there is little doubt that rearmament contributed far more to solving the unemployment problem. Unemployment, which had stood at 6 million in 1932, dropped to 2.6 million in 1934 and less than 500,000 in 1937. The regime claimed full credit for solving Germany’s economic woes, although much of the success must be ascribed to decisions made at the initiative of local officials. Hitler himself had little interest in either economics or administration, and his prestige undoubtedly benefited enormously from spontaneous efforts undertaken throughout the country by his followers. For its enemies, the Nazi totalitarian state had its instruments of terror and repression. Especially important was the SS (Schutzstaffel, or “protection echelon”). Originally created as Hitler’s personal bodyguard, the SS, under the direction of Heinrich Himmler (1900 –1945), came to control all of the regular and secret police forces. Himmler and the SS functioned on the basis of two principles, ideology and terror, and would eventually play a major role in the execution squads and death camps for the extermination of the Jews. Other institutions, including the Catholic and Protestant churches, primary and secondary schools, and universities, were also brought under the control of the state. Nazi professional organizations and leagues were formed for civil servants, teachers, women, farmers, doctors, and lawyers, and youth organizations—the Hitler Jugend (Hitler Youth) and its female counterpart, the Bund Deutscher Mädel (League of German Maidens)— were given special attention. The Nazi attitude toward women was largely determined by ideological considerations. Women played a crucial role in the Aryan racial state as bearers of the children who would ensure the triumph of the Aryan race. To the Nazis, the differences between men and women were quite natural. Men were warriors and political leaders, while women were destined to be wives and mothers. Certain professions, including university teaching, medicine, and law, were considered inappropriate for women, especially married women. Instead, the Nazis encouraged women to pursue professional occupations that had direct practical application, such as social work and nursing. In addition to restrictive legislation against females, the Nazi regime pushed its campaign against working women with such poster slogans as “Get hold of pots and pans and broom and you’ll sooner find a groom!” From the beginning, the Nazi Party reflected the strong anti-Semitic beliefs of Adolf Hitler. Many of the early attacks on Jews, however, were essentially spontaneous in character. The regime quickly took note, and in September 1935, the Nazis announced new racial laws at the annual party rally in Nuremberg. These Nuremberg laws excluded German Jews from German citizenship and forbade marriages and extramarital relations between Jews and German citizens. But a more violent phase of anti-Jewish activity was initiated on November 9–10, 1938, the infamous Kristallnacht, or night of shattered glass. The assassination of a German diplomat in Paris became the excuse for a Nazi-led destructive rampage against the Jews, in which synagogues were burned, seven thousand Jewish businesses were destroyed, and at least one hundred Jews were killed. Moreover, twenty thousand Jewish males were rounded up and sent to concentration camps. Jews were now barred from all public buildings and prohibited from owning, managing, or working in any retail store. Finally, under the direction of the SS, Jews were encouraged to “emigrate from Germany.” After the outbreak of World War II, the policy of emigration was replaced by a more gruesome one.