Nazi Germany 1933-45 Essay

7 (a) Source D is written by a modern German historian, approximately fifty years after the events described. The source talks about the active resistance in Nazi Germany between 1933 and 1945. There were various coercive powers that were loyal to Hitler and inhibited all the political resistance he could possibly face. One of these powers being the Gestapo, as mentioned in this source. The Gestapo were a secret police force, set up by Goering in the first months of Hitler’s take over. They were a small group who kept strict records and files on Nazi citizens.

They closely watched the public and encouraged denunciation amongst citizens, as this was the best way to find out who was being disloyal to the Fuhrer. There was not much active resistance in Germany as people feared these ‘coercive powers” ability to effectively silence any opposition, public as well as private. As the source states, this use of terror against political antagonists was enough to freeze up even the most courageous resistant groups and we know it did exactly that. There were also the SA and SS troops who were used by Hitler to enforce total control by means of explicit, brute, physical force.

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The Gestapo on the other hand, did not get so physically involved. In the early stages they were legally allowed to take citizens who were hostile to the Nazi regime, into ‘protective custody’ and deal with them. As time went on, the protective custody myth was forgotten and the Gestapo began openly working outside the law; killing and torturing citizens who showed resistance towards the regime. They are a central piece of evidence in showing the brutality of Hitler’s rule, and the fear created throughout his regime.

Germans feared the Gestapo most, as they worked discreetly and had an air of mystery about them (‘secret’ police). As the source states; the Gestapo terror was in a league of its own and their mention alone, could silence all political resistance. All though the masses were frequently silenced, many people took to active and extreme methods of expressing their views, presenting themselves as courageous and often stupid, as they were heavily outnumbered by Hitler’s supporters and their protests remained ineffective.

Hitler’s popularity was increasing over the years, and Goebbel’s propaganda reinforced the terror system. We know there were many people opposed to Hitler’s regime, like the churches, military (Abwehr) and communists; but because there was no legitimate way for them to protest, discontent had to be expressed through actions such as sabotages, strikes and so on. When planning an effective sabotage you need a large group of people, and due to the Gestapo terror, it was very difficult to form this large group, as they were often infiltrated by the Gestapo police.

Thus the Gestapo were responsible for the disorientation of the protestors, as their groups survival depended on secrecy of their plans; which was impossible in these inter-war years. b) Source B is a Gestapo report on the activities and methods of two of the central, left wing opposition groups; the Communist KPD and Socialist SPD. This source is factual and is quite objectively written. As it is a report, the facts need to be clear and informative, so we can trust the content, plus as it ties in with our own knowledge of these groups.

The source states that the KPD distributed pamphlets to begin with, and then spread their Anti-Nazi propaganda by word of mouth, concentrating on factories and the lower class, as these were the groups who were facing hardships due to Hitler’s rule, but they were also the ones who feared communism most. The source talks about how the communists ‘tried’ to expand their party in the first few years, but it doesn’t talk about why they did not succeed, and were left ‘trying’.

This adds a biased twist to the Gestapo’s account, as they do not talk of the ban on the KPD which made it very difficult for them to openly resist. The Gestapo has a rather detailed and more incriminating account of what went on in the SPD. The source tells us that Anti-Nazi propaganda was also spread by word of mouth, and reports exposing Nazi brutality were illegally published abroad, and then circulated back to Germany. The Gestapo report says that the illegal activity of both the KPD and SPD were quite alike, and seems to be grouping them together.

Although the source admits the resistance groups’ activities were not vastly illegal, there is some insinuation of other illegal activities going on. However concrete proof of these activities, would be difficult to find, making it harder to convict these resistance groups. From what we know, this was the extent of public resistance expressed by these Anti-Nazi political parties. Source C is a memoir written by a member of the Socialist SPD, in Di??sseldorf- in 1954, after the abolition of the Third Reich. Linnert recalls his party’s effort to defy Hitler’s regime.

This source is subjective and is written in emotive and engaging language, “forced… warn… aroused”, as if they were really trying to do good for the German citizens, and has an implication message of self-glorification This source is much more personal than source B, which has no mention of the groups’ motivation, or their reasons for rebellion. Source C asserts that the SPD distributed illegal leaflets and used graffiti to voice their aversion towards the Nazis. However, it says nothing about the circulation of leaflets/reports published abroad, as mentioned in Source B.

This source also talks about (what seems to have been a regular practice of the SPD), the SPD making leaflets and scattering them from the back of a motorcycle in industrial areas, just before the working day began. The SPD member goes on to explain the groups motives for opposing the regime, which they felt inhibited freedom, justice and the happy future the German’s craved. Source C says that the intention was to ‘warn people’, but we are not told from what or whom. This source tells us nothing of what their leaflets or slogans said; whilst Source B says that they were criticisms of the government.

Both these sources are different, in the way they are phrased, structured and in intent. Both these sources are about the industrial, urban areas of Berlin, and not of the surrounding areas in Berlin, or the rest of Germany, so they do not provide us with an overview of the oppositions’ methods and tactics in Germany. On the other hand the content is relatively similar, so it would be helpful in concluding the methods and tactics these left wing groups used in their Anti-Nazi propaganda.

If we were to consider the evidence from either source alone, then it is less believable as opinion in a state with totalitarian ambitions is likely to be manufactured and inaccurate. However, we have two different viewpoints to consider, and they both are by enlarge the same, so we can say that the evidence is rather sound. c) When studying the success of Hitler’s regime, the question we must ask is whether it had to do with the weakness of the opposition, or the strength of the regime? Or whether it was a hybrid of both theories – the weakness of the opposition strengthened the regime?

Source A clearly believes that the weakness of the opposition was, in fact the strength of the regime. It is an internal report by an SPD member in exile, who is now likely to be bitter and resentful about the prospect of overthrowing Hitler’s rule. The source is true in saying that majority of the citizens were very capable of grumbling and complaining, but were incapable of fighting against the regime, as they were afraid, did not know what they wanted, and had no clear goals. We know that much of the opposition was generated within the lower/working class, over the economic state of the country.

As this source is by a member of the SPD, he is concentrating on the weakness of the lower class, the people who support his party. The Mittelstand (lower middle class) were angry about their wages and living conditions, and each person was living in their particular state of poverty that they wanted changed for themselves. As this source correctly states, even amongst this group of economically motivated people, unity and strength in numbers was difficult to achieve, so how could everyone unite against Hitler, when their reasons for opposition was so varied.

This was a major weakness in the resistant groups, and they wasted time actively disliking each other, for example the SPD and KPD. The Church was against Hitler’s regime, as well as communism, and again their reasons were purely selfish and in the interest of the church. Whereas the opposition by armed forces was motivated by fear of Hitler’s foreign policy, and the growing possibility of war with Britain, France or Russia. Source B gives a factual account of the activities of two of the major left wing parties in Germany, SPD and KPD.

It does not say anything about the strength or weakness of these parties, but as the Gestapo has found out their methods of circulating Anti-Nazi messages through areas of Berlin, means that they did so successfully. However, the source says nothing about the resistance in the rural areas of Berlin, let alone about the rest of Germany. This could be because there was not resistance everywhere, which indicates they were weak and decentralised. Although one must take into account, that the disorientation of the opposing political parties was not entirely their fault.

There were many bans and restrictions put on these groups, and they were all outlawed within the first year of Hitler’s rule-1933. When Hitler came into power, the first people carted off to concentration camps in Dachau were these two parties, the Communists and Socialists, under the pretence that it was a ‘correction centre’. Hitler also passed the law against the Establishment of Parties in July of this year, so creating effective opposition was made incredibly difficult. Hitler was bent on destroying communism, and when things went wrong, the first people blamed were the communists (Reichstag Fire Decree).

Plus the communists could not react to Hitler’s rule violently because of the Nazi-Soviet pact between communist Russia, and Germany. With all these limitations in mind, it is unfair to say that all the opposition was weak, thus creating the strength of the regime. If Hitler had not come in strong, he would have been unable to restrict the opposition. Source C is written by a member of the SPD and is about the methods of Anti-Nazi propaganda used by the party. We see it is similar to Source B in content, and although it has a heroic sound to it, the fact remains that the SPD did not take much serious, active action against the regime.

The source does not speak of any organised protests or rallies, but rather of the distribution of leaflets and propaganda spread by word of mouth. This may well be because the SPD were weak (as Source A says), but why they were weak? It could be through their lack or coordination or because the strength of the regime was, in fact the weakness of the opposition? This source does not mention any of the opposition the SPD faced from Hitler’s supporters, who were incredibly powerful, and also had the added bonus of their brutality appearing legal.

Instead the source concentrates on the SPD’s efforts to ‘save’ the people from what was looking like a bleak future, full of corruption and poverty. From both source B and C, one could conclude that the opposition was weak as the KPD and SPD were unable to take matters into their own hands, and really express their discontent with the Nazi regime. Source D is written by a modern historian who is discussing the aspects of opposition to the regime. Like the other sources has either implied or stated, this source is correct in saying that ‘active resistance’ to the regime was a rarity and involved a great deal of courage and sacrifice.

Source D is the only one that mentions the extreme use of terror in Hitler’s regime, and the consequences it had on the citizen’s lives. We know that Hitler has three major forces to combat any resistance, and these forces were feared greatly. For the first time in these sources we see that the failure of the opposition was not only a result of their weakness, but also of the strength of the Nazi regime. German citizens lived in fear of the SA, SS and Gestapo, and knew there would be dire consequences if the objected to the Nazi regime.

Hitler established these coercive powers early on in his rule, and created this barrier between the public and himself at the very start. These powers had many weapons and were very ruthless, if anyone opposed the rule they would often be tortured and killed immediately. The source talks about the Gestapo terror which worked outside of the law, and silenced all political opposition. This is a reliable source as it is a mere overview of the relationship between those who opposed, and supported Hitler. I do not think it is entirely fair to say that the weakness of the opposition is the strength of the regime.

The statement makes sense, but does not apply to this Nazi regime. Hitler’s regime was very organised and strong, with some powerful minds behind it. These minds worked at depoliticising the society by producing; police forces which kept the masses under control, the propaganda machine which kept up moral and support for Hitler, the abolition of local governments, trade unions; and all the other activities which established Hitler’s power and status as a powerful leader. Hitler portrayed himself as a man who wanted to work for a better Germany, but never specified what this better Germany would be like.

He got the people to support and idolise him before he even came into power, and once in power he eliminated all current and potential resistance. When there is the almighty Hitler and his empire on one hand, and small groups of ‘illegal’ opposition on the other, there is no way the small groups can overthrow Hitler. This is not because they are naturally weak, but because they were made weak. The opposition groups were stripped of all weapons, voice and finally status; during the very first year of Hitler’s rule.

However, he still remained popular up until 1941, because he was helping the German economy and was restoring the pride, through the Anchluss and re-militarization of the Rhineland. Hitler also used a great deal of propaganda to turn people against the KPD, SPD etc, and to increase his own popularity amongst the citizens. The public (especially the youth) and the army (who were potentially the most effective resistance group) were thoroughly indoctrinated in Nazi ideology, and the army officers were also made to swear an oath of personal allegiance to the Fuhrer.

The regime also deceived the people greatly by organising rigged plebiscites and controlling all aspects of the media, giving an impression of the great popularity of the regime; which suppressed any prospective opposition. There were certain elements of weakness and flaws in the opposition groups, such as their inability to work collectively, their selfishness in only working towards changes that would benefit them and their lack of knowledge of how to make Germany a better place, and who would be a good successor to Hitler.

Although the opposition was unhappy, they knew no better and were not willing to take risks. Many people feared unemployment as well as death if they defied Hitler, and they were too weak to fight for themselves. I think that Hitler started of with a strong regime, instantly crippling the opposition, and he was the able to strengthen his regime even further working on the weakness of his opposition.


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