Weimar and Nazi Germany: What Life Was Like at That Time

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The Nazis used Hitler’s unique oratory skills combined with his strong personality and leadership skills to help win the hearts and minds of the German people. Hitler’s strong speeches, perseverance and brilliant leadership skills gained him massive support among the German population. Hitler had an extraordinary power to win people over. Goebbels' propaganda campaign was very effective and brought huge support for the Nazis by targeting specific groups of society with different slogans and policies to win their support.

Hitler was a very strong public speaker and his complete belief in his views attracted people to vote for him as they looked for a strong leader in the hard times for Germany especially after the Great Depression. Even during the Great Depression the German population needed strong leadership and were looking for a figurehead that they could trust to represent Germany to pull them out of the depression. Hitler recognised this and acted upon it. Hitler adapted his speeches to represent this type of leader that the German population were looking for. Thus making him a preferred leader.

Most importantly, Hitler, standing before a crowd delivering his powerful and moving speeches, seemed to represent a strong, decisive leadership in the great German tradition going back to Kaiser and beyond. While the Weimar Republic appeared simply to be muddling through indecisively, Hitler’s strong personality and powerful ideas seemed to be just what Germany needed.

The Great Depression was a gift to Hitler and the Nazis, it was not solely responsible for bringing Hitler to power but it helped create and environment in which he gained support. For every problem the Nazis had an explanation or a promise. Hitler’s strong leadership qualities also gained him support as he promised the German people everything they wanted; every sector of the German society seemed to hear something it wanted to hear. Workers were promised more jobs; employers were promised restored profits; farmers higher prices; shopkeepers protection against competition, there was something for everybody. This resulted in the Nazis appealing to a wide range of people. He also gave them a scapegoat to blame for all their troubles in the Jews. Hitler joined social principles for help in the ordinary man with the nationalistic belief in order and pride in ones country, this made him a clear choice for people desperately wanting change in Germany.

What was life like for women living in Nazi Germany? During the 1920s there had been significant progress for women in Weimar Germany - equal voting rights, an increase in women taking professional roles and independent leisure activities. However, the Nazis had clear ideas of what they wanted from women. They were expected to stay at home, look after the family and produce children in order to secure the future of the Aryan race. Hitler believed women’s lives should revolve round the three Ks. 'Sometimes this increase has been considered a proof of the suspicion that women favoured rather than rejected the regime and that they redirected them- selves toward 'Kinder, Kuche, Kirche' after their emancipation in the 1920s.

Nazi population planners liked to register the gradual rise of the extremely low birthrate after 1933 as 'a completely voluntary and spontaneous proof of confidence of the German people in its Reich, its Fuhrer, its future, a confession which could not be more beautiful' than in the form of 'children of confidence.

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Nazi racism and sexism concerned all women, the 'inferior' as well as the 'superior.' The 'birth achievement' demanded of acceptable women was calculated carefully according to the numbers of those who were not to give birth. And the strongest pressure on such acceptable women to procreate, to create an orderly household for husband and children, and to accept dependency on the breadwinner perhaps came not so much from the continuous positive propaganda about 'valuable motherhood,' but precisely from the opposite: the negative propaganda and policy that barred unwelcome, poor, and deviant women from pro- creation and marriage and labeled either disorderly women or single women with too many children as inferior. Thus, racism could be used, and was used, to impose sexism in the form of unwaged housework on 'superior' women.

What was life like for children and youth living in Nazi Germany? Young people were very important to the Nazis. To this end, Hitler set about influencing children both inside and outside school. His main ways of indoctrinating and controlling young people were education, youth movements, propaganda and censorship. He used perks and promises as well as threats and

Hitler spoke of his Third Reich lasting for a thousand years and to achieve this he would have to ensure German children were thoroughly indoctrinated in Nazi ideology.

In the 1920s, the Nazis had already begun to organize groups that would train young people according to their principles. By 1936, all “Aryan” children in Germany over the age of six were required to join a Nazi youth group. At ten, boys were initiated into the Jungvolk (Young People), and at 14 they were promoted to the Hitler Youth. Their sisters joined the Jungmädel (Young Girls) and were later promoted to the League of German Girls. Although membership in the Hitler Youth organizations was compulsory, many young people did not have to be forced to join. In fact, they were eager to do so, because membership in Nazi youth groups offered a feeling of excitement, belonging, and even power.  

Even in the early years of the Nazi Party, when leading the nation was a distant dream, Hitler placed great emphasis on the importance of children. Unlike other political leaders, Hitler did not disregard young people or underestimate their political value. His vision of an enduring Third Reich was based not just on the loyalty and obedience of adults but also their offspring. Hitler wanted the National Socialist movement to appeal to all levels of society, including the young. He wanted to provide children in Nazi Germany with a sense of purpose, achievement and community, something conspicuously absent during his own listless childhood.

Why and how did the Nazis carry out the Holocaust? The Holocaust was the Nazis' assault on the Jews between 1933 and 1945. It culminated in what the Nazis called the 'Final Solution of the Jewish Question in Europe', in which six million Jews were murdered. The ideas and emotions that lay behind the Holocaust were not new, nor were they uniquely German. The Nazis were the heirs of a centuries-old tradition of Jew-hatred, rooted in religious rivalry and found in all European countries. When the Nazis came to carry out their genocidal programme, they found collaborators in all the countries they dominated, including governments that enjoyed considerable public support. Soon after they took power, the Nazis began their persecutions with a barrage of anti-Jewish laws, including the infamous Nuremberg Laws, which defined Jews according to 'racial' criteria and stripped them of citizenship. Not yet securely in power, however, the Nazis at first refrained from major acts of violence.

Organised killing began with the outbreak of war in September 1939, but the first victims were not Jews. The Nazis set about killing people with physical and mental disabilities, whom they regarded as a burden on the state and a threat to the nation's 'racial hygiene'. About 170,000 people were eventually killed under this so-called Euthanasia programme, which also pioneered techniques and employed many of the people later used to kill Jews.

With the invasion of the Soviet Union on June 22 1941, the Nazis launched a crusade against 'Judaeo-Bolshevism', the supposed Jewish-Communist conspiracy. Behind the front lines, four police battalions called Einsatzgruppen (operations groups) moved from town to town in the newly occupied Soviet territories, rounding up Jewish men and suspected Soviet collaborators and shooting them. In subsequent sweeps, making heavy use of local volunteers, the Einsatzgruppen targeted Jewish women and children as well.

In conclusion, while these massacres were happening, the Nazis elsewhere were laying plans for an overall 'solution to the Jewish question'. Death camp operations began in December 1941 at Semlin in Serbia and Chelmno in Poland, where people were killed by exhaust fumes in specially modified vans, which were then driven to nearby sites where the bodies were plundered and burnt. Women were expected to emulate traditional German peasant fashions - plain peasant costumes, hair in plaits or buns and flat shoes. They were not expected to wear make-up or trousers, dye their hair or smoke in public. They were discouraged from staying slim, because it was thought that thin women had trouble giving birth. Overall, Nazism was thus an unscrupulous and warlike ideology, which always had the potential for genocide. But it took some time for an organised killing programme to evolve.

Bibliography

  • The Holocaust : A History of the Jews of Europe During the Second World War by Martin Gilbert (Henry Holt, 1987)
  • Final Solution : Origins and Implementation edited by David Cesarani (Routledge, 1997)
  • The Nazis: A Warning from History by Laurence Rees (New Press, 1999)
  • 'Hitler's Bitterest Foe': Samuel Untermyer and the Boycott of Nazi Germany, 1933-1938
  • Samuel Untermyer, 'No Pasaran ' (They Shall Not Pass): Religion Answers the Nazi Challenge: Address of Samuel Untermyer Before the Temple and Synagogue Brotherhoods at Baltimore, Sunday, December 19, 1937 (New York, 1938), 1-32.
  • History. (2019). Nazi Germany: Politics, Society, and Key Events - History. [online] Available at: https://www.historyonthenet.com/nazi-germany-politics-society-third-reich
  • Lewis, B. (1992). Hitler and Nazi Germany. London: CollinsEducational.
  • Laver, J., 1995. Hitler (personalities & Powers). Hodder Arnold H&s.
  • Procktor, R., 1970. Nazi Germany (a Bodley Head Contemporary History). The Bodley Head Ltd.
  • Garibaldi, L., 2014. Adolf Hitler: Evolution Of A Dictator. White Star Publishers.
  • White, A., 1990. Germany, 1918-49 (world History). Harpercollins Pub Ltd.
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