Hitler's Germany

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Part of the Department of European History.

There are several discussion topics that still have yet to be addressed. Please don't sign up unless you plan on contributing to the discussion. My email address is under my user page if anyone needs to contact me. --Kfitton 8:48, 14 May 2009 (UTC)


Introduction to Hitler's Germany

Hitler's Germany, or from here on out referred to as 'The Third Reich', is a course that will familiarize the student with key themes in the current historical literature involving the subject. The course breaks down to several weeks of discussion held on the main page and a paper that each student will complete on a topic of their choosing, which will then be critiqued by the class for its merit and historical content. The student taking this class will hopefully walk away with a greater understanding of the time and exposure to an active academic environment that requires scholarly research. The instructor has taken a class exactly on this subject and will attempt to mold many of those ideas into this class, so students will be prepared to take on university level material should the opportunity arise. It should be noted that subject material in this class will be of a frank and sometimes grotesque manner, so if the student is not capable of maintaining a professional demeanor and historical objectivism, it is suggested that they not sign up for this class. This is intended to be roughly a '300' or '3rd year' or 'junior' level college class.

Suggested Reading for this Course

While using online resources are encouraged, it is suggested to pick up the following books for cheap on Amazon.com or any other used book seller. These are books from people respected in the field of study on The Third Reich.

  • The Nazi Dictatorship by Ian Kershaw, 4th ed.
  • Atlas of Nazi Germany by Michael Freeman, 2nd ed.
  • The Nazi Revolution by Allan Mitchell, 4th ed. Highly recommended!
  • Weimar and Nazi Germany by Panikos Panayi.
  • Nazi Culture by George Mosse. Highly recommended!
  • Inside Hitler's Germany by Benjamin Sax and Deiter Kuntz. Highly recommended!
  • A History of Nazi Germany by Joseph W. Bendersky, 2nd ed.

During the course, the instructor will be referencing these books, and while not necessary to have it would make for a much greater class environment and overall understanding of the topic.

Schedule and Assignments

Class Roster

Now open for signups - click on the edit and add your user here if you wish to enroll. Also, if you have in your possession, any of the suggested reading texts, please list the author(s) after your user so that the instructor can tailor discussions toward those texts.

User:Mevan have read mein kampf and have watched hitler documentaries of the bbc and downfall and rise of evil Yo Vivire The Hitler Myth by Ian Kershaw

Blackbrunettes

waronide chezzydoh

Bartdutch

PaddyC

Downey

Domiproud

Alfmaster

--Bruno Moreschi 14:08, 11 October 2006 (UTC)

Alijohnson

Noiz

Think outside the box

guglicello

HistoryBuff

tucker529

Feather - am getting the Ian Kershaw book

Nuno Santana

Wolsztyniak - have read "On Hitler's Mountain" by Irmgard A. Hunt

subatai_baadur

Somethinggood

memzy


Krishna Tadepalli - I have "Mein Kampf" by Hitler himself and "What Hitler knew" by Zachary Shore both in pdf formats.


dangell

Alyssa (The preceding unsigned comment was added by 132.79.7.15 (talkcontribs) 14:34, 9 September 2007.)

stopsignnamedcat

Sean gorter

Alexandrianphilosopher

Melissa Officinalis

Joe1973


Docta Trey

Week Schedule

  • Week 1 - What Causes a Facist Dictatorship? Post-WWI through Weimar Germany
  • Week 2 - Structure of the National Socialist Party, Political and Social Repercussions
  • Week 3 - Early forays into German Politics, German Political Spectrum
  • Week 4 - NSDAP gains control of the country, The Nazi State
  • Week 5 - Horrors and Failures of The Third Reich
  • Week 6 - Discussion for Final Paper
  • Week 7 - Critique of Final Papers and Closing Comments

Assignments Due

Keep in mind, assignments will NOT be collected, except for Week 6-7. All work is a suggestion to students in order for them to be prepared for the week topics.

  • Pre-Week 1 - Students enrolling should start by looking up various governmental systems and taking notes in preparation for discussion. In particular: Fascism, Communism, Democracy, Totalitarianism, and Monarchism/Oligarchy.
  • Week 1 - Students should compare the differences between Italian Fascism and German National Socialism, particulary in the notion of the Fuhrerprinzip. Suggested reading:Rise of Dictatorships
  • Week 2 - It was often said that Nazi support was, "a mile wide and an inch deep". Students should look into why the National Socialists gained such widespread appeal amongst certain sections of society. This is prep work for week 2 discussion.
  • Week 3 - Taking information from the Week 3 Discussion, students should map out political groups and how these groups played into Hitler/Hindenburg's control of the government. Stress should be placed upon the Enabling Bill (also known as the Reichstag Fire Decree), that will be discussed in Week 4. Suggested reading Reichstag_fire
  • Week 4 - The Volksgemeinschaft or People's Community was a core idea behind Nazi control of the state. Students should look more into a specific area (ie: education, economics, social groups, labor, etc) for examples of National Socialist Gleichschaltung in possible preparation for the final paper.
  • Week 5 - Is the Holocaust a singular event or just another genocide on an industrial scale? Considering this question is prep work for the discussion during Week 5.
  • Week 6 - Students will have a topic and potential thesis statement ready for discussion Week 6.
  • Week 7 - Final papers will be presented for class critique, papers should have a refined thesis as per commentary during Week 6, should be in the area of 2-5 pages (due to time constraints) with all proper historical writing procedures followed.

Ideas Outline

Historian's Struggle

  • Is the event known as The Third Reich (1933-1945) something unique in history? Adding to that, is The Third Reich a product of structuralism (ie: societal factors) or intentionalism (Hitler's force alone)?
    • Case for Structuralism - The system of support that the Nazi party had teamed together with widespread disenfranchisement felt by those social groups that were hit hard by the end of WWI and the Treaty of Versailles (middle class, businesses, military, nationalists).
    • Case for Intentionalism - The apparent strength of Hitler's ability to lead the German people. More often than not this was actually allowing differing groups to bicker over what Hitler's actual will was, so then it was necessary for Hitler to make a judgment, thus ensuring his control over the system.

Typically this argument tends to center around whether Hitler was a strong or weak leader...those in the strong camp tend towards Intentionalism while the latter tend to support the idea of Structuralism. Does the issue of Hitler make this a case completely unique from all other examples of fascism or does each instance require a 'leader' such as Mussolini or Franco, as in the cases of Italy and Spain respectively? Based upon the literature, and which historian you tend to follow, it would seem that the overall comparision to other fascists states is remarkably similar except for one area; the horrific eugenics/racial policies that the Nazis carried out.

Historical Objectivism

  • Being objective in history is a cornerstone of the profession, however what does this have to do with The Third Reich? Simple, it becomes a fundamental necessity when trying to separate historical fact from the crushing morality surrounding the atrocities committed. So the historian must learn that while reprehensible, the facts surrounding the time are what need to be evaluated, not judgments made based upon our opinions. Does this make historians uncaring monsters? Of course not, but in order to fairly evaluate the social, political, and economic factors that make an occurance like this happen, historians have to put their opinions aside. Often, as can be seen even in professional historiographies, bias and personal opinions can sneak in and taint work done in honest scholarship. While reading texts on the subject, historians should be actively looking for bias in any particular instance and should adjust accordingly.

Volksgemeinschaft

  • The Volksgemeinschaft (VGS) is a German word for a uniquely German ideal - the people's community. As explained higher up in this class, the thing to keep in mind is that the VGS had a very strict definition of who was considered valid and acceptable. This is the area where Aryan racial policy finds a societal defense, after all, only an Aryan can defend the Fatherland against the unstable elements, right?

Gleichschaltung

  • Also known as the co-ordination of party and state, this term compasses all of the actions by the Nazi party/state with the goal of creating the VGS in mind. Where VGS is the ideal, Gleichschaltung is the execution and the lengths to which the Nazi party will go, eventually leads to the final solution. It should be noted as a point of interest, that upon gaining control of the state, one of the first targets for gleichschaltung were education and the youth of Germany. The Hitler Youth would prove to be some of the most fanatical and loyal units throughout the whole Reich period.

Necessary Terms

  • Reichswehr - aka the German Army, Weimar period
  • Wehrmacht - the German Armed Forces, Third Reich
  • BlitzKrieg - lightning war, quick assaults with emphasis on mobility
  • Einsatzgruppen - security groups charged with clearing occupied zones (ie: exterminiation)
  • Fuhrerprinzip - Leadership focused on one charismatic leader at the top
  • Kraft durch Freude (KdF) - the 'Strength through Joy' Nazi recreational organization
  • Kristallnacht - 'Night of Broken Glass', first major pogrom against Jews, 9-12 November 1938
  • Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei (National Socialist German Worker's Party) - NSDAP, also known as the Nazi party
  • Lebensraum - Living space, the needed expansion into eastern Europe as seen as necessary by Hitler
  • Reichstag - German parliment, a rubber stamp during Nazi rule
  • Schutzstaffel - aka the SS, German Special Forces, included police/political/military units, along with 'Death's Head' exterminiation camp guards
  • Sturmabteilung - Stormtroopers, original political guards and terror troops from Nazi party, importance declines after Nazis take control of the state

People to Know

  • Martin Bormann- Head of the Party, private secretary to Hitler
  • Hans Frank - Governor-General of occupied Poland
  • Joseph Goebbels - Minister of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda
  • Hermann Goering - Commander of the Luftwaffe, Plenipotentiary for the Four Year Plan
  • Rudolf Hess - Early secretary to Hitler, flew to Scotland on 'peace mission'
  • Heinrich Himmler - Chief of German Police and SS, arguably the second most powerful man in the Reich
  • Paul von Hindenburg - Last president of Weimar Germany, national hero in WWI, office is taken over upon his death and seen as the fall of democracy in Germany
  • Franz von Papen - Former chancellor under Weimar Germany, negotiates putting Hitler into the chancellorship
  • Erwin Rommel - Nazi General, famous tactician, commander in North Africa and Normandy, monikered "The Desert Fox"
  • Albert Speer - Minister of Armaments and Munitions, also a favorite of Hitler for his architectural work
  • Karl Dönitz - German Naval Officer, head of the Kriegsmarine, and eventual successor to Hitler after Hitler's suicide in 1945

Discussion Record

Discussions will take place each week, with a topic opening on Sunday and discussion being closed on Saturday. Students will add their response underneath the question, please make statements fruitful and historically valid. At the end of the class, the last set of discussions will be on critique of student papers. More instructions will follow with each week.

  • Week 1 - This week's discussion will surround the issues involved in turning a somewhat modern democracy into a fascist dictatorship. What was the combination of factors during this time that allowed fascism to thrive instead of democracy/monarchism in places like Germany, Italy, Spain?

The single biggest factor in turning Germany from a somewhat modern democracy into a fascist state is the Treaty of Versailles. The treaty took from Germany valuable land, forces them to pay lots of money, and limited the German military to 100,000 men, putting the vast majority of Germanys fighting men out of a job.

The economic impact of this sent Germany into a major depression, which helped fuel the already strong force of communism. The military limitations lead to the rise of the Freikorps who spent their time fighting the communists. Together these two factions polarized Germany, and near anarchy ensued in Germany. With the right fighting the left, and even different factions of the left fighting the left. Fascism arises as a reaction to communism, and promised to restore Germany to its former glory. Also I think it is worth mentioning Germanys geographical position, surrounded on all sides and land locked. This makes war much more likely as a country would always like to have at least one friendly border.The biggest issues leading to the general rise of Fascism during the post World War I era were: Reactions to International Communism, transitions from monarchy’s to democracies, international depression, paramilitaries, and the rise of nationalism. Also of note is fascist propaganda. Fascism arose in Germany, Italy and Spain as a reaction to socialism, communism, or both. In all three countries the leftists are the first to take power from. the Monarchy’s. The new government is leftist but not communist. Both the radical left and right wing try to over throw the new government. While at the same time fighting each other. Along with the political chaos is the great depression, and lots unhappy former solders joining paramilitary organizations. Due to the wide spread paramilitary activity and former veteran sympathy for fascism the fascists were able to take power with out a majority of the population, sometimes taking a country by force. With the effective use of propaganda the fascists are able to stir up nationalistic sentiment, all three countries were declining empires, and their people wanted to see a restoration of the empire. -JDowney

Alright, looks like we have a discussion on our hands! Just for notice, because of the mix up..I'm giving an extra week to this first topic so that people can find the link if needed. Anyway.. I think you have a good start, however there are a few holes I would like for you to clear up with me. First, while the treaty is a huge portion of the unrest taking place in Weimar Germany, the government was making their payments with help of loans from the west. It wasn't until the great depression, that the loans dried up and put Germany on the spot - when the hyperinflation really takes off. Second, at that time, Germany was not landlocked; they did have some ports on the north coast near Denmark..however you are correct in that they were surrounded by a lot of countries that didn't really like them (excepting austria and what we now know as the Checz Republic). Your assessment of the military is accurate. Political polarization was not exactly left vs right however, as we will be covering later, the German political spectrum consisted mainly of (from left to right): KPD (communists), SPD (socialists), zentrum (Catholic center party), nationalists (we would call them neo-conservatives in today's climate), and NSDAP (nazis). During Weimar, the SPD was the main force in the government and everything was swinging around that axis. The working classes either supported the SPD or joined the KPD, while business interests and nationalists joined the right leaning parties. The zentrum (center) party was mostly concerned about religious issues and tried to ride the fence in order to protect those religious freedoms. However, once the depression breaks out, political tensions start to spike and you see the existence of the NSDAP take shape. This dynamic and agressive, nationalistic group that believes that communists and jews have forced Germany into this position of weakness and that getting rid of the unstable elements in society will make Germany better off in the long run. The vast majority of supporters in the early period are war veterans and middle class (shopkeepers, burecrats, etc) people that are tired of seeing 'their' country wasting away. Also keep in mind that most of the business interests and the military tended to side with the nationalist parties (of which Paul von Hindenburg was a part of). This is the climate where the paramilitary groups start to thrive as a means for out of work men to do something they consider meaningful. Street wars would start to take place and almost every political group had to have some sort of bodyguards around in order to stop harassment from other factions. It should be noted that so far in the history of time, the two greatest propagandists were the NSDAP and the Communist Party. Taking a look at the posters of the time, these two groups did fantastic work when it came to shifting opinions, even to the point of the Nazis just using a black poster with Hitler's name and face on it - nothing else. It was the poster that said everything and nothing, something quite powerful during it's time. --Kfitton 15:43, 2 September 2006 (UTC)

So then the factors turning Germany from a democracy to a dictatorship are: The Treaty of Versailles, class warfare and the rise of international communism, widespread paramilitary groups, the war guilt clause, and a general propensity towards a strong national government and the command economy. Another factor that I’m unsure of is the role of Catholicism, both in Germany and in other fascist regimes. The only proof that this is a factor is in that; first Catholicism is still fairly powerful in all 3 countries. It’s a political issue in all three countries; Catholicism is known to have been sympathetic to fascism. It seems the churches like the capitalists saw fascism as a better alternative to communism, and something they could control. Maybe it is better to say that the declining power of the Catholic Church is a factor in the rise of fascism and communism. For its declining influence among the masses of poor leads to the rise of communism not just in Germany but also in the entire world. Communism is usually atheistic and hence a danger to the church. The church seeing that its power is fading fast finds an ally in the fascists. They might have seen the fascists as a modern evolution of the monarchies, which they ruled as a sort of Theocratic-Oligarchy over the kings of Europe for centauries. JDowney

For the most part, you're correct...the Catholic center party (Zentrum) tended to play the fence by backing whoever was in power as long as they didn't mess with religious rights. They tended to look at the long term survival instead of 'wedge' issues of the day. During Weimar, they backed the SPD who was in control at the time...as the SPD lost power to the Nazis, the Zentrum started to shift in order to try and save their institutions from the chop. --Kfitton 23:04, 5 September 2006 (UTC)

In researching it occured to me that modern Russia shares many of the same conditions as the prefascist states of pre-WWII europe. I found a few websites that support this theory, what do you think? Downey 05:02, 6 September 2006 (UTC)

Well, economically there are some similarities..but I'm not seeing the global preconditions nor the massive internal political divisions that existed in Germany during the Weimar period. I could be wrong as Russian history is not one of my areas of study, but without firm evidence I couldn't support a hypothesis that modern Russia is like Weimar Germany. --Kfitton 11:33, 7 September 2006 (UTC)

  • Week 2 - This week the discussion is surrounded by the curiosity of why the Nazi party was so effective, what is it about the inherit structures of the party that allows such a well-coordinated response to the internal pressures of politics and the external pressures of communism and democracy?

There are I'm sure many reasons why the Nazis were so effective, despite initially weak support at the polls. First there is the romantic nationalism and the Völkisch movement. The German people were simply put, depressed. The Volkisch movement gives them some pride in the selves back and gives them some other people to blame their plight upon. Second is the structure of the party which was much like a military hierarchy. I’m not sure if this is new for a political organization. However in Germany it allows for some unique things to happen, best known being the holocaust. Like a military hierarchy everyone answers to someone higher up and follows any orders given to them from higher ups. Very important to their ability to provide a well coordinated response to internal political pressure and the external pressure of communism and democracy is that an inferior should have no guilt for following orders given by a superior. Perhaps it could be said that the Nazis mastered the art of passing the buck, which allowed ordinary people to do extraordinary and sometime terrible things with out the misgivings and guilt that normally occurs. That many party members were ex-military/current paramilitary men surely encouraged this quasi-military political structure and helped it succeed so well. Downey 01:05, 14 September 2006 (UTC)

An accurate analysis..the only part you're missing is the exceptional use of propaganda. Part of the structure of the Nazi party was a key link to producing propaganda that the public couldn't get enough of. It said everything and nothing all in the same stroke...and the disenfranchised seized upon anyone willing to be a leader in the storm. --Kfitton 23:25, 15 September 2006

What was it about the Nazi propaganda that was so powerful? Downey 07:33, 16 September 2006 (UTC)

In the history of the world, the two best propagandists were probably the Nazis and the Soviets. The range and scope to which they were willing to go in order to produce materials to influence also borders on the deranged/obsessive. This will explain a bit more: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Propaganda#Nazi_Germany --Kfitton 14:28, 16 September 2006 (UTC)

In one sense, there was nothing unusual about the Nazi regime. it was the same reversion to barbarism, muderousness, mass deception and mass barbarism which has occurred throught human history. However what made it different was that it was the only case of mass concerted genocide to occur towards an entire group within a national society (as opposed to expulsion from within, or of genocide per se, but towards foreign indigenous peoples) in at least the last 150 years of modern European history. --Sm8900 22:06, 13 November 2006 (UTC)

Well..just thinking off the top of my head, there is the Armenian genocide, the event in Cambodia, and the ethnic killing during Kosovo and the breakdown of Yugoslavia. Expanding further, there is the current events taking place in Africa. So taking that into account, I don't think I would have made the same claim that you have proposed, additionally, I'm a bit perplexed as your paragraph doesn't really make sense in this portion of the discussion - the effectiveness of the Nazi party. --Kfitton 00:40, 15 November 2006 (UTC)

Practically it was a combination of harnassing the German people (Gleichschaltung) together with an efficient propoganda machine. Also contributing factors are, as shown by other authors, the after effects of the treaty of Versailles, adverse economic situation. These added factors breed extremism as shown throughout history and even in our world todate. Bart 21:41, 8 January 2007 (UTC)

One thing that hasn't been touched on deeply is the role of the brownshirts. This paramilitary arm of a political party is quite divorced from modern democratic politics, where politics is seen as an intellectual rather then a physcial sport. I'm wondering if this might not have had impact on how citizens percieved the Nazi Party. Historybuff 03:40, 15 January 2007 (UTC)

The brownshirts, also known as the SA (Sturmabeiltung or Stormtroopers), originally were the bodyguards for important members and ran security for all the meetings. The closer time got to Hitler taking power, the SA turned into a terrorizing force. They would actively search out rival meetings, newspapers, and members to weaken the other political and social groups. There has to be a reminder that during this time in Germany there is economic turmoil, vast unemployment, and political pressure. Being a member of a political party was also being part of a social group. So to Germans at the time - it doesn't seem so strange that the Nazis have the SA as part of their organization, after all most of the other groups had similar (albeit usually less organized) 'soldiers' as well. --Kfitton 07:14, 15 January 2007 (UTC)

  • Week 3 - Hitler's earlier attempts to gain control of the government are much more radical than the successful political one later on. Explain to me how the Beer Hall Putsch of 1923, Mein Kampf, and the eventual political rise of the Nazis are all related? As part of that, explain how Hitler used the Nationalist factions and Hindenburg to wean down the SPD during Weimar.
  • Week 4 - Explain the pattern of legalized revolution that the Nazi party adopts as the method of gaining control of the government. Once control was established, the Nazi party starts to assimilate all forms of social interaction and government institutions, why is it that there is a dual structure involved (both the party AND the state)? Are there any particular cases of groups susceptiable or resistant to this movement?
  • Week 5 - Make an argument as to whether or not the Holocaust was a singular event or just another genocide. If the argument is made for being a singular event, then describe what was inherit to the Nazi system that allowed such an event to occur. If not, then describe how it relates to other genocides throughout the world. Regardless of case, does the Holocaust as an event change the nature of the Nazi regime and how does that change history?