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To what extent do you consider that Hitler and the Nazis had achieved their aim of social revolution and unity (Volksgemeinschaft) by 1939?
Here I will be looking at Hitler’s rule in Germany from 1933-1939 where Hitler and the Nazis took up Germany in a state of economic depression after losing World War One, their aim was to create a Volksgemeinschaft; a classless society with unprecedented social mobility and egalitarianism. The American historian Schoenbaum in his book Hitler’s social revolution (1960) argued that there where evident changes in the structures of society and in social values, which I do agree with to some extent and I can see evidence to show that Hitler’s aim was achieved in certain areas of his economy; but failed in others. To come to an overall conclusion I will be looking at each area that Hitler’s rule had major effects on to see how it helped him in creating a Volksgemeinschaft.
In order for Hitler to create his Volksgemeinschaft he would need loyal Germans who would follow the Nazi vision. To do this Hitler was focusing on the young by giving them a pro-Nazi education, which indoctrinated them with their ideology and discarded opposing views.
1. “In my great educative work….I am beginning with the young. We older ones are used up, but my magnificent youngsters…. With them I can make a new world”
Hitler’s aim for the male youth was to create a healthy and obedient class that were fit for war, this evolved their schooling being very physical and P.E took up 15% of a males timetable. The male youths would also learn about military and geography in classes, keeping information guide-lined so that the students would not study subjects that taught them things that might contradict Nazism. From this you can see evidence that Hitler was creating a very fit and military like male youth which was what he wanted for his Volksgemeinschaft
The aim for girls was very different however and their education was formed mainly around preparing them to be the perfect mothers and wives, including subjects such as Eugenics which would teach them how to look for the perfect husband-someone of the Aryan race. This also helped to create a Volksgemeinschaft because it showed girls to be mothers and discouraged work.
Nazis kept strict observations over the teachers to make sure that they were teaching correctly and had every teacher vetted. Any considered to be disloyal would be sacked, whilst their job role was reduced greatly so that they did not have much power. Even the cleaner’s wages where higher than theirs.
In schools Hitler’s views on race and purity was enforced, and children were encouraged to discriminate against the social outcasts (Volksfeind) – mainly Jews, Gypsies and homosexuals. Children would learn about how it was the Jewish spies that caused Germany’s defeat in WW1, and would have questions aimed at familiarising them with anti-Semitic views.
As the youth helped insure the survival of the Nazi’s, Hitler also made youth groups; these where large communities of out of school clubs that would participate in activities and procedures based around fitness and Nazi ideology.
The Nazi youth groups where joined after pledging an oath to the German people and Furher, showing that they where pro-Nazi. This however was not always honest and some youths joined because of the activities and fun that they could get out of it – which can be seen in the source below
2. “I was, however not thinking of the Furher, nor of serving the German people, when I raised my right hand, but of the attractive prospect of participating in … exiting activities away from school and home”
Which shows that not everyone was convinced by Hitler and truly believed In the Nazi’s, suggesting that they where not truly successful in this area; although they are keeping the youths fit.
In 1934 the youth groups where made mandatory, this rose the figures of attendance dramatically and only excluded non Germans – specifically Jews; which made them look like outcasts and enticed youths to discriminate them; which helped him in his Volksgemeinschaft as he only wanted a pure Germen society.
Among practical activities the youth groups would teach the children through lectures and song; Splitting the girls and boys – keeping the ideological Nazi role’s compulsory. The boys would be given military drills and kept in competition with each other, making them flourish to exceed and make their family proud; which seems to have hit the youths mentally as they wanted to win.
The children however where kept at the youth groups almost every night and would not have time for school work, which did stop the children’s education but may not have been to bad for the Volksgemeinschaft because he wanted them to stay fit more than intellectual
Hitler did however face some mild opposition to the Nazi youth groups with some people refusing to join (until it was made mandatory), and groups such as the “Edelweiss Pirates” Where formed, these groups did not dare openly oppose the Nazis but would mock them by copying their uniforms and traits. This opposition although very small does show that not everyone was convinced by the Nazi’s, although many historians said these groups where exaggerated.
Looking at the Hitler youth I do think that they where over-all extremely successful in creating a Volksgemeinschaft for the youth; which is partially because they where very impressionable, and did create an obedient and health youth ready for war; although their disregard for intellect suggest they may be lacking in intelligence when it comes to war.
Women where important to Hitler in his Volksgemeinschaft because they insured the growth of the population in preparation for war, he wanted all women to fit in the society as mothers and wives of the Aryan race who had many children.
To try and encourage German woman to have more children, Hitler made the birth grants and marriage loans higher so that women would have more money to have larger families. He also introduced the mothers cross (Mutterkreuz), this was a series of medals awarded to women the more children they had, with the highest gold medal granted for eight children. This however was not largely successful which can be seen from the evidence that the average amount of children per household dropped from 3.6 in 1933 to 3.3 in 1939, showing women where having less children although the actual population had risen by nearly half a million, suggesting that more women where having children.
In universities only 10% of the students were allowed to be female which lowered their education and forced some of them to stay in the house
To try and discourage women from disobeying the Nazi views, their where punishments such as higher taxes for women who did not have children, which is evidence that the Nazi’s couldn’t do much to control women as punishing them physically could have led to an up-roar.
Hitler used propaganda to show women the ideal German woman; this would include pictures that would show women and the family together, this would show women to have a fuller figure with blonde hair and blue eyes (being a true Aryan) and married to an Aryan German.
Here he was also promoting the Aryan families and discouraged marriages to non-Germans, which were eventually banned although there is evidence of unlawful marriages taking place; showing that some women disregarded the Nazi’s and is evidence towards the Nazi’s having a pure German society.
To ensure that women had many children and stayed at home, women at work were discouraged and their wages where made much lower. However, the amount of women in work had risen from11.48 million in 1933 to 12.7 million in 1939, this is because of Germany preparing for war and they had to have women doing the jobs that the men couldn’t do whilst they where away. This shows that the Nazi’s contradicted themselves and the birth rate would have been affected by this.
Looking at women in the Volksgemeinschaft I do not think that Hitler was successful although he did force the Nazi views on many women, this can be seen in education and taxes being changed in the women’s favour, making a clear incentive for women. Although you can see that many women ignored the Nazi’s efforts and women actually had fewer children, suggesting the women where showing some slight opposition by ignoring the Nazi’s. As well as the Nazis flaw in trying to stop women from going to work where they had to if the country was preparing for war.
Hitler saw Christianity and faith as an obstacle for his Volksgemeinschaft and was trying to ultimately remove it, this can be seen in the quote below – this shows he only wanted the Nazi’ worshipped.
3 “You are ever Christian or a German, you can’t be both”
One of Hitler’s first attempts was the creation of a state supported Reich church in 1933, which was the joining of many protestant churches to create a new religion of Nazi ideas, creating a “positive Christianity”; which was a term used by Nazi leaders to refer to a modal of Christianity consistent with Nazism.
Hitler enforced members of the SA to attend the church meeting and they wanted to restructure Protestantism into a racially based brand of Christianity, including some extremist’s who would follow with Nazi uniforms and Nazi salutes trying to convince people to this new religion.
The new Reich church was not liked by everyone however. This can be seen in September 1933, when over 100 pastors broke from the Reich church and formed their own confessional church because they said that religion could not be based on blood and race. Showing clear opposition
Hitler had made Ludwig Muller the bishop of the Reich church, but he became very extreme and tried to make pastors take an oath of loyalty to Hitler, which proceeded to him arresting two protestant bishops causing a public outcry, this embarrassed Hitler who distanced himself from him; showing that the public threatened the Nazi’s
Hitler did not like the Catholic Church as they had power from many parts of the world, which is why he signed a treaty with the catholic pope- Stating that the Catholic Church could not interfere in politics where in return the Catholic Church would not be interfered with by the state. This temporarily removed them as opposition
There was some opposition from the people to Hitler’s anti-church activities, this can be seen by in Bavaria people continuing to use the traditional greeting of “gruss grot” (god greet you) rather than the approved “heil Hitler”
Hitler did have some effects on people and religion, one of these was by making Hitler youth groups mandatory by 1936 which would teach the children “positive Christianity” and Nazi beliefs, abandoning the catholic groups. This would have had an effect on them because they where young and had to do it.
Hitler also changed religious education in schools, even removing all crucifixes. Parents where pressured to send their children to state schools and not catholic ones, which did work as in 1935 65% of children attended church schools which dropped to 5% by 1939. This shows many children where forced into this religion
Overall I think that Hitler failed to achieve his aims with Christianity. The evidence that some people chose to ignore Hitler’s greetings and that the confessional church broke form the Reich however, is clear evidence of opposition even if it is small scale. But he could not change the minds of people (especially mature).
For Hitler to change society he needed to make it self sufficient and ready for war, when Hitler rose into power he removed the treaty of Versile which gave him a lot of respect from Germans because it left their country defenceless and in economic depression.
For a social-revolution Hitler started with the unemployment rate and was very successful, he gave the unemployed jobs needed to re-build the country (building roads); figures show the number of unemployed was 5,575,500 in 1933 to 302,000 in 1939 – this shows he was extremely successful in recovering the economy. The pay and condition however where disliked and although people where grateful to be in work they had no trade union to complain too.
To prepare Hitler for war he needed to become self-sufficient (Autarky); although Germany still imported 33% of its raw materials, and the government was in debt of 40-billion by 1939. This shows that they where not successful.
The Nazi cultural policy had views on art and preceded with Hitler’s preference, Hitler thought that art should be realistic, showing pictures linked to Germany and even used as propaganda. To show what he liked Hitler made the exhibit of “great-German-art” and of “degenerate” art, although this was meant to be disliked, statistics show 2 million Germans attended the degenerate exhibition were only 600,000 that attended the “German-art”. This suggests that the people liked the modern art more and did not agree with the Nazi culture
When Hitler rose to power he also created the strength-through-joy (KDF), this was an organisation for leisure in Germany. This imposed cheap holidays that where envied by other countries, sold tickets to concerts and made gyms used by 3 million Germans by 1935, these where very popular and gave Germany a good image. However the cruise-holidays where often used by the Germans to party; which is not what the Nazi’s intended
As part of Hitler’s Volksgemeinschaft he wanted to create a master-German race and excluded certain members of society from this (mainly Jews, gypsies and homosexuals) – known as the Volksfeind; with no impurities.
The Nazi’s blamed the Jews for losing WW1 and used this justify their actions, the Nazi’s used propaganda to raise hatred against the Jews, they removed Jewish rights whilst banning them from schools and businesses- even banning marriages between Jews and non-Jews. As more extreme measures began to commence the Jews where stripped of their citizenship from the “Reich-citizenship-law”; even made to where the Star of David badge, with homosexuals wearing a pink triangle. All of this and other discrimination acts show that the Nazi’s where extremely effective in excluding the Volksfeind and did create their intended social Volksgemeinschaft.
To remove all impurity from Germany Hitler also sought to rid Germany of all mentally disabled and infertile, and tried to justify it to the German people. He used propaganda in education to familiarise people with this:
4 “The construction of a lunatic asylum costs 6-million RM. How many houses at 15,000 RM each could have been built for that amount?”
This quote shows how the maths questions were intimidating Germans to see the mentally ill as Volksfeind, suggesting they where successful.
I think that the exclusion of the Volksfeind was the most successful part of the Volksgemeinschaft and Hitler was successful in removing them, which can be seen from him killing the mentally ill and removing the Jews citizenship.
Overall, looking at Hitler’s attempts at creating a Volksgemeinschaft, I do not think that he was ultimately successful; although I can see evident examples in society where the Nazis had a dramatic impact
An example of this was in the social aspect, I think that Hitler was extremely successful in excluding the “Volksfeind” from society, this was because many Germans where appreciative to him because he had brought them out of an economic depression caused by WW1- getting them jobs, whilst he did keep a very strict lookout over them with his SA helping him to achieve a Volksgemeinschaft. This made many Germans reluctant to oppose him, where the biggest opposition he had came from the “Edelweiss pirates” and the Confessional Church; plus statistical suggestions that the women where revolting against him by having fewer children.
In creating a revolution however, I do not think that he was successful but could have been in the future, this is because he had a very strong impact on youths lives and succeeded in creating very militant youths that where only taught Nazi policies; although the adults could not be convinced in this way and he had little effect on them.
Hitler however did have huge failures in the areas of women and religion, this is because the roles he choose for women could not be practised; as they needed women to work in war, and not many people agreed with the Reich Church; having very little effect.
Overall, I do not think that he created a Volksgemeinschaft although he could have done if they had time and the community was all born into Nazi rule.
1 Herman Rauschnig, Hitler Speaks (1939)
2 Marianne Gartner, a German girl in one of Hitler’s youth groups
3 Hitler in a private conversation in 1933, in “Hitler Speaks” by Hermann Rauschnig
4 Tests from German maths text books