How far did Germany undergo a Social Revolution

The question asks whether actions in Germany concerning the Nazi Party versus the state, the army, SS terror and violence, propaganda, propaganda and culture, education and youth, women and the church contributed to Germany undergoing a social revolution.

Hitler claimed the “Nazi party has become the state”. This suggested that the church, army and civil service were all controlled by the Nazis but in reality a dual state was in existence. This meant that for every state institution, there was a Nazi equivalent. Hitler may have allowed this to happen through indecision, laziness or the fact that his interest had been diverted elsewhere by his foreign policy and anti-semitism. An alternative to this is that Hitler may have tried to strengthen his own position while the state and party institutions were busy arguing between them-“divide and rule.” But, later Hess and then Bormann took control and Nazified the civil service.

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So, the fact that the Nazi run state was efficient was just a myth as the party was only geared towards winning power and was unsure how to maintain it. Also there were too many groups with too many members within the Nazi party, therefore violence may have been needed to keep it all together.

The Nazi party versus the state can by seen as revolutionary because a dual state was different to anything that had ever occurred before.

The army was at the centre of German life and Nazis understood the need for its support. Hitler needed the army’s support and the army needed Hitler in order to gain action.

Hitler purged the army of all non German’s and made them wear the swastika. The importance of the army was underlined during operation Hummingbird however

They did not have as much influence as the SS.

As Hitler was Fuhrer, the army was bound by swearing an oath to him which General beck unsuccessfully resisted. In 1935 the rearmament of the army was revealed and its name was changed to the ‘Wehrmach’ which also incorporated the air force and the navy. Generals became alarmed at the speed at the speed of Hitler’s plans for action as they knew a war couldn’t be risked with Britain and France. In response to this Hitler dismissed various officers on the grounds of corruption. Many generals also retired following the creation of a new high command (Oberkommando) under Keitel.

In response to Hitler’s antics, beck planned to have him arrested if war came about concerning the Sudetenland, however Britain and France appeased him.

The army had some success between 1938-42 as they won all but one battle during the war. This success made resistance seem unpatriotic.

The army failed in that their indecision prevented them from seizing power following the aftermath of the July bomb plot. The army were also loyal to Hitler as they pledged an oath to him even though they were the on group that could have removed him. In addition to this they were successfully bribed and given status and equipment. Although the army wanted independence, the SS were eventually put in charge.

The army situation within Germany could be seen as revolutionary as never before had a leader had so much control over the army.

The SS (Schutzstaffel) was formed in 1925 as part of the SA. It became independent in 1930 and overtook the SA in terms of power in 1934. The SS was a unique concept headed by Heinrich Himmler. Various groups were under SS control such as the SSTV which ran the death camps and the Waffen (armed) SS, Gestapo and ordinary police (Orpo) also came under SS control.

The SS power can be underlined by looking at the “Night of the Long Knives” when Hitler used them as the main tool of terror and therefore overtook the SS in the pecking order.

The elite and racially pure “Black Order” pledged an allegiance to Hitler and implemented terror and anti-semitism.

In addition to the SS there was the Peoples court which dealt with treason and the Special court which handled political offences; both of these relied on informers.

These courts were revolutionary in that people were guilty until they could prove their innocence. The SS on a whole was revolutionary as never before had such as power block that incorporated so many divisions existed.

Aside from violence and terror, propaganda was also used to win support amongst the masses and control people’s minds. Through propaganda the Nazi worldview- “Weltanschang” was spread. This involved policies such as Volksgemeinschaft, which incorporated Winterhilfe (Winterhelp) and Eintopf which was geared toward saving food and money. Messages of fuhrerprinzip and racial purity also grew through propaganda and morale was raised in preparation for the war. The propaganda campaign was headed by Geobbles who employed techniques such as using cheap radios (“people’s receivers”) to reach the masses. Radio wardens were also employed to make sure the Nazi message was being constantly spread through public broadcast.

The Press (Eher Verlag) bought up non Nazi papers and news agencies merged into the DNB which censored news from abroad. The Editors law was introduced which made all editors answerable to Hitler for what they printed and a daily press conference from a Nazi official was held which put editors under pressure to cover it. These restrictions placed on journalism made it bland and circulation declined.

Propaganda was also present in rallies which saw simple messages and “big lies” repeated. Sport was also used to outline German superiority. Max Schmelling defeated boxer Joe Lewis but lost the title fight rematch. In the 36 Olympics Hitler refused to present a medal to black athlete Jesse Owen and Germany excelled in the games, proving their elite tendencies.

The KDF (which helped raise morale and control strength through joy) was developed, free time such as holidays and entertainment were controlled by the Nazis and public festivals were declared to celebrate Hitler’s birthday and the Munich Putsch.

Although the concept of controlling people’s minds was certainly revolutionary, it is impossible to judge whether propaganda had a revolutionary effect on Germany.

Nazi culture was a huge contrast with the new and exciting modern Weimar style.

Nazi culture was used to promote Nazi ideas and persecute the Jewish, socialist, pacifist and liberal culture. Culture was seen as a means of spreading the Nazi message.

Within the world of literature book burning was popular, particularly with books from Jewish authors such as Einstein. Chivalric novels which portrayed Nazis as heroic were popular and the country’s best selling book was “Mein Kampf.” However, just because everyone owned a copy of Hitler’s autobiography doesn’t necessarily mean they read it.

Theatre was popular, especially traditional plays such as Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice in which the villain was a Jew. Thing spiel pageants took place on regular occasions which saw citizens march whilst dressed in medieval clothes. Art was clear, direct and heroic whilst Hitler favoured classical composers with jazz strictly frowned upon.

Film was also geared towards spreading propaganda through epics such as “Triumph of the Will” and although this was Goebbels enthusiasm, the growing audience preferred the limited America choice. This lead to many talented German actors such as Marlen Dietrich leaving the country in favour of Hollywood.

As with propaganda, the impact of culture in Germany was difficult to judge although the intent was certainly revolutionary.

In order for the “1000 year Reich” to survive, Hitler believed that a fanatical Nazi youth was required. Benhard Rust, an ex teacher with suspicions of child abuse, was placed in charge of the Nazi education board. It was hoped that a Nazified education system would encourage Gleichschaltung, reduce resistance and train future military and political leaders. Teachers were forced to join the National Socialist teacher’s league and all text books were written with a pro Nazi slant with particular emphasis placed on history, German, biology (race science) and P.E. R.E was eventually eliminated.

Special institutions were created to groom the elite into future political and military leaders with 40 Napolas, 10 Adolf Hitler schools and 4 Ordensburgen being set-up.

However teachers resented the restrictions that were placed upon them and didn’t like being controlled. Standards also declined and women were eventually excluded from education altogether. In addition to this, the education system was in constant conflict with the youth movements that were headed by Von Schriach.

Between the ages of 6-8 boys were expected to join the Pimpfen (little fellows) before progressing to the Jungvolk, (10-14) and eventually the Hitler Youth. All these movements comprised of activities such as drill, team sports and camping that were designed to mould the boys into soldiers. Up until the age of 10-14 girls stayed at home before joining the Jungmadel (young maidens),the German girl’s league (14-18) and finally Faith and Beauty (18-21.) These societies taught the girls the principle of ‘Kinder, Kuche, Kirche’ and prepared them for marriage and childbirth.

Nazi youth movements were successful in that children were healthy and obesity was unheard of. Class barriers were broken down with the very poorest children taking part in activities with the rich.

However, some children developed nervous disorders as a result of being forced to mix en mass. Some children were even subject to abuse by the people in charge of the movements and many youngsters resented having every aspect of their life controlled. Many parents were against their children being indoctrinated and kept them away from youth movement despite the financial penalties.

In some the concept of Nazi education and youth was not revolutionary. Hitler’s schools were traditional, right-winged and reactionary, as were Weimar’s. The intent of controlling and manipulating children through youth movements was certainly revolutionary although the impact may not have been due to the resentment, abuse and children being kept away by their parents.

It was believed that too many women were in work and therefore taking jobs from the men and having a negative impact on the unemployment statistics. In addition to this the birth rate was decreasing as a result of women’s independence and this made the lebensraum argument difficult to justify. In order to solve these problems it was decided that professional women should lose their jobs except for those involved in the Women’s movement which was lead by Gertrude Scholtz.

The Nazis expected women to excel in homemaking and childbearing and to dress naturally with natural hair, no make-up, flat shoes and be opposed to smoking, drinking and dieting.

Several measures were taken to encourage childbirth. Firstly, cash incentives were introduced to persuade women to give up work and have children and in contrast to this, penalties were forced upon those not willing to have babies such as the single and the gay. Better maternity services were introduced and abortion was greatly discouraged whilst contraception was difficult to get hold of. Motherhood was glorified by way of the “mother’s cross” which saw those bearing 4 or more children rewarded with either a bronze, silver or gold medal. Hitler’s “lebensborn” enabled single mums to become pregnant and ensured racial purity. Support was also provided to take care of the baby once it was born.

However despite these measures, during the war whilst men were away fighting labour was short forcing women to go back to work and therefore contradicting policy.

Hitler’s dealings with women can be seen as revolutionary in that he succeeded in raising the population, however this may have been down to improvements in the economy rather than Nazi policy. These Nazi policies could perhaps be seen as anti-family as they encourage the men to work and women and children to join the movements leaving little time to be spent together.

Hitler was hostile towards the Christianity because Nazi and Christian values were incompatible. Nazism stood for the survival of the strongest, violence and excluding the inferior whereas Christianity represented the exact opposite. Hitler also believed that Christianity was effeminate, boring and the product of an inferior race.

In 1933 the Concordat with the Pope was broken when the Catholic Youth League (rival to the Hitler Youth) was dissolved and schools and Catholic charities were later attacked. In 1937 the Pope retaliated with a letter (“with burning concern”) which condemned the breaking of the Concordat. Nazis responded by accusing Catholic priests of cases of corruption such as child abuse. There was little protest from the Catholics apart from the Bishop of Munster who successfully got the policy of Euthanasia dropped.

Within the Lutheran church Martin Neimoller was opposed to Hitler’s control so formed the rival Bekennende Kirche (confessional church) in 1934. Dietrich Bonhoeffer was also opposed to Hitler and labelled him the anti-Christ. The Nazi “German Faith movement,” which involved no Christian ethics or ceremonies was introduced although few joined it.

Many high profile figures from the Church were sent to concentration camps and fear of state persecution of independence along with communism meant little opposition to the Nazis. However there was some resistance in that the Roman Catholics and Lutherans remained united and the Nazis dared not inflict outright repression upon the church as they feared this would alienate their support.

The Nazi persecution of the Roman Catholic Church could be described as revolutionary in that the intent was certainly revolutionary, as was the degree of control.

However, there was opposition and the Nazis did not crush the Church completely as they feared loss of support so despite the attack the church remained strong. The attack was not a revolutionary concept in that Bismark had previously targeted and persecuted the Catholic Church.

In conclusion, to a certain extent Germany did undergo a social revolution as in all situations the intent of the Nazi party was revolutionary however the impact may have been difficult to judge and other factors may have contributed to social change.

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