Nazism and the Rise of Hitler
Q. Write a one-page history of Germany:
a) as a schoolchild in Nazi Germany
b) as a Jewish survivor of a concentration camp
c) as a political opponent of the Nazi regime.
Answer. (a) As a Schoolchild in Nazi Germany: I have been conditioned to behave in a particular manner since I was three years old. First, was I given a flag to wave, to show my patriotism. I was told that men’s and women’s roles in life were totally different. We were told that for equal rights of men and women was a thing of the past as it destroys our society today. We boys were taught to be aggressive, while the girls were told that they had to become good mothers and rear pure-blooded Aryan children. The girls had to maintain the purity of the race, distance themselves from Jews, look after the home, and teach their children Nazi values. They had to be the bearers of the Aryan culture and race. I had to take an oath of loyalty to Hitler, proclaiming him as the saviour of the country. I have been told that after finishing school, I will join the Hitler Youth Organisation. This will be followed by military services, which is compulsory.
(b) As a Jewish Survivor of a Concentration Camp: Thanks to the Lord for saving my life. I am happy to have survived three years of torturous life in the concentration camp. Of course, I am now very weak and ill, but I am still alive. So many of my friends, relatives and even family members died before my eyes due to the bad treatment meted out to them in the camp. They were regularly beaten, left to starve and worked in very harsh conditions. Many of them were sent to the gas chambers and I was always afraid of my number coming next. Luckily I have survived to tell this tale.
(c) As a Political Opponent of the Nazi Regime: Since the Nazis have captured power, they are making life hell for all people who do not follow their doctrine. I do not understand what they will gain by trying to conquer other nations. The bombing by the British on our homes has killed many of our people. Aggression on other countries will definitely cause war with them and we will also lose men and property in war. The way the Nazis are going about increasing their power, I feel, in the long run, we will lose out, as this war will make all other nations to go against us. I hope Hitler sees sense and stops this war soon.
Q. Describe the problems faced by the Weimar Republic.
Answer. The Weimar Republic formed the German Government after the First World War, which Germany lost. The republic faced two kinds of problems
(i) Economic Crisis: The war had been very costly for all concerned. The damage and human casualties, along with post-war depletion of resources, consequent debts and war compensation led to this crisis. Hyperinflation made the German Mark valueless and caused immense hardship to the German people.
(ii) Political Crisis: Although the National Assembly framed a democratic Constitution, it was too weak. Proportional representation and Article 48 resulted in the creation of a political crisis and finally the death of the Weimar Republic.
Q. 2. Discuss why Nazism became popular in Germany by 1930.
Answer: Nazism became popular for the following reasons:
i. After defeat in the First World War, Germany was forced to sign the harsh and humiliating Treaty of Versailles, in which it was made to accept the guilt for the war. The Germans felt disgraced and humiliated. Consequently, they were made to believe, by Hitler’s oratory, that he would restore Germany to its former glory.
ii. Political parties like the Communists, Socialists, Democrats, etc were not united. There were conflicts between them and the government became weak. The Nazi Party took advantage of the situation and captured power.
iii. Democracy in Germany was relatively new and it was not strong. It did not appeal to the Germans. They wanted a party and a system that would re-establish the glory and prestige of Germany. So, they were attracted to the Nazi Party.
iv. Hitler was a great orator and with his speeches, he was able to sway the masses and win their confidence. He was able to convince them that he would undo the injustice done and bring back the glory and dignity of the German people. He promised employment for those looking for work. He won over the youth by promising them a secure future.
v. He got the support of the Army, the industrialists and the landlords because he opposed communism and socialism, which these people also opposed. Thus, Hitler and the Nazi Party were able to win the support of all sections of Germans and so become popular.
Q. 3. What are the peculiar features of Nazi thinking?
Answer: The peculiar features of Nazism were:
i. Nazis believed in the idea of one people, one empire and one leader.
ii. It did not tolerate other parties and tried to crush all other organisations and parties and wanted to remove socialism communism and democracy from Germany.
iii. According to Nazism there was no equality between people. In the Nazi view, the blue-eyed Nordic German Aryans were at the top while the Jews were located at the lowest rank.
iv.It was propagated that the Jews were responsible for the economic misery of the Germans.
v.Nazis propagated war and glorified aggression.
vi. Nazis believed in the idea of Lebensraum on living space. i.e., new areas should be acquired so that more space is available for the Germans to settle.
vii.Nazis wanted to create a separate racial community of pure German by physically eliminating all those who were seen as undesirable by them.
viii.The Nazis believed that Jews were inferior and the cause of German misery and therefore should be totally eliminated.
ix. The Nazi argument was simple. The strongest race would survive and the weak ones would perish.
x. The Aryan race was the finest. It had to retain its purity, become stronger and dominate the world.
Q. 4. Explain why Nazi propaganda was effective in creating a hatred for Jews.
Answer: Nazi propaganda was effective in creating hatred for the Jews for the following reason
i. The Jews were stereotyped as killers of Christ. They had been barred since medieval times from ownership of land.
ii.They were already hated as usurers or money-lenders. Violence against Jews, even inside their residential ghettos, was common. Hitler’s race theories fanned this hatred. He wanted all Jews to be eliminated from Germany.
Q. 5. Explain what role women had in Nazi society. Return to chapter 1 on the French Revolution. Write a paragraph comparing and contrasting the role of women in the two periods.
Answer: Role of women in Nazi society was modelled on the principles of a largely patriarchal or male-dominated society. Hitler hailed women as the most important citizens, but this was limited to only Aryan women who bred pure-blood, ‘desirable’ Aryans. Motherhood was the only goal they were taught to strive for, in addition to performing the duties of managing the household and being good wives. This was in total contrast to the role of women in the French Revolution, where women-led movements and fought for the right to education and the right to equal wages as men. They could not be forced to marry against their will. They could also train for jobs, become artists or run small businesses. Schooling was made compulsory for them.
Q. 6. In what ways did the Nazi state seek to establish total control over the people?
Answer: Hitler, after coming to power, emerged as an all-powerful dictator. He destroyed democracy in Germany.
i.The First Fire decree in 1933 suspended the civic rights like freedom of speech, press and assembly and thus controlled the German population.
ii. The Enabling Act was passed. It gave all powers to Hitler to side-line Parliament and rule by decree.
iii. All political parties except the Nazi Party were banned. All political opponents were imprisoned or assassinated.
iv. The communists were suppressed and ‘sent to concentration camps.
v. Special security forces such as Gestapo were created to control and order society in ways that the Nazis wanted. These forces were given extra-constitutional powers.
vi. In schools children were taught to be loyal and submissive, and worship Hitler.
vii.Nazi youth organisations, the like ‘Jungvolk’ and ‘Hitler Youth’ were created where the youth were taught to worship war and Hitler and hate democracy, communism and Jews.
viii. Media was used carefully to win the support for Hitler and Nazism. Nazi ideas were spread through visual images, films, radio, posters and catchy slogans and leaflets.