Adolf’s Hitler’s Nazis are one of the most terrible movements in history - but to what extent did they achieve what they wanted in their homeland? Here, Seth Eislund follows up from his first article for the site here, and considers whether the Nazis achieved what they wanted politically, economically, and socially within Germany itself.
From his election as chancellor on January 30, 1933, until his suicide on April 30, 1945, Adolf Hitler ruled over Germany and transformed the country into a fascist, authoritarian state. Hitler’s Nazi Party imposed its nationalistic, militaristic, racist, and anti-Semitic ideology on all levels of German society, with the hope of establishing the Aryan race as master of the world. More specifically, the Nazi government imposed its views and policies on the political, economic, and social spheres of Germany, vying to establish complete control over the lives of the German people. While the Nazi regime succeeded in eliminating political opposition and quelled political dissent, it was only partially successful economically and socially. The Nazi government's economic program, the Four-Year Plan, failed to achieve its long-term goals. Furthermore, Hitler failed to obtain complete social dominance over his citizens because he couldn't fully control their religious beliefs.
The Nazi Party's Political Ascendancy
The Nazi Party succeeded in achieving total political control over Germany, as it established itself as the only legal political party in the country and ruthlessly eliminated its opponents. On July 14, 1933, the Nazis passed the Law against the Founding of New Parties, which declared the Nazi Party to be the only valid political party in Germany.[i]All other political parties were banned. As a result, this law effectively established Germany as an authoritarian single-party state, nullifying any form of political opposition. A year later, the Nazis continued their political domination of Germany by carrying out the Night of the Long Knives, which purged the Sturmabteilung (also known as the SA), the Nazi Party’s former paramilitary organization. SA leader Ernst Röhm and approximately 85 members were assassinated because the Nazis feared that the SA was a threat to the army and the state, according to historian Richard J. Evans.[ii]With his opposition in and outside of the Party eliminated, Hitler could rule Germany unopposed. Thus, the Nazis were successful in cementing complete political control over Germany, using both legal and extrajudicial methods to achieve their aims.
The Nazi Regime and Economic Success
While the Nazi regime established total political control over Germany, it was only moderately successful in achieving its economic goals. On October 18, 1936, Hermann Göring, one of the highest-ranking members of the Nazi Party, initiated the Four-Year Plan in order to reform Germany’s industrial and military production.[iii]The Nazis aimed to make Germany a self-sufficient nation, capable of producing the materials necessary for later wars and expansion. While Nazi Germany did see a rise in economic activity, employment, and the creation of munitions and explosives, the Four-Year Plan caused the production of consumer goods to suffer. With a greater focus on military production, resources were directed away from consumer goods, and Germany’s economy became weakened in the long-term.[iv]Additionally, historian Richard Overy claims that Nazi Germany was unable to establish a strong war economy, which ultimately led to its defeat in 1945.[v]Furthermore, historians Jeremy Noakes and Geoffrey Pridham state that Germany was still reliant on the resources of other countries for the production of its raw materials by 1939.[vi]Therefore, while Germany was partially successful in stimulating industrial and military production, its failure to permanently establish a robust, self-sufficient economy in the military and civilian sectors ultimately led to the Nazi regime’s downfall.
The Nazi Regime and Social Control
In addition to its mixed economic success, the Nazi regime’s social goal of replacing religious devotion with devotion to Nazism was only partially realized. According to historian Richard Weikart, Adolf Hitler believed that religion had no role to play in German political and ideological life and instead wanted all Germans to believe in the Nazi Party’s ideology.[vii]The Nazi regime was successful in turning the attitudes of children in the Hitler Youth and the League of German Maidens against Catholicism and Protestantism. Historian Richard Bonney states that children in these programs broke up church youth groups and spied on Bible studies classes.[viii]While the Nazis succeeded in influencing anti-religious sentiment among children, they knew that purging religion completely from German society would be unwise. Weikart posits that while Hitler despised Christianity and organized religion in private, he dared not eliminate Catholicism and Protestantism in Germany, as doing so would turn the majority of the German people, who were Christian, against him.[ix]Thus, the Nazis were only moderately successful in achieving social control over the German people, as they required the support of religious Germans to stay in power.
Throughout its 12-year reign, the Nazi authoritarian regime attempted to achieve total control over the political, economic, and social aspects of German society with varying success. The Nazi Party was very successful in obtaining complete political control over Germany, as it legally declared itself to be the only legitimate party in the country and murdered those who opposed it. However, the Nazis only saw moderate success in controlling the economic and social spheres of Germany. While Hermann Göring’s Four-Year Plan did augment Germany’s production of industrial and military-related materials, it ultimately weakened the German economy and left the nation vulnerable to defeat in World War II. Additionally, the Nazis found some success in wielding social control over the German people by instilling anti-religious sentiment in German youth., but they didn’t eradicate religion in Germany because doing so would have resulted in a massive loss of popular support. Regardless of its economic and social shortcomings, though, the Nazi regime still held enough control over German society to incite the world’s deadliest conflict, commit a genocide that killed 11 million people, and change the course of history. Only through studying regimes such as Nazi Germany can one realize the dangers of authoritarianism, and how such systems cause horrific destruction and despair.
What do you think of the article? Let us know below.
You can read Seth’s previous article for the site, on Ancient Greek philosopher Epicurus, here.
[i]United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, "Law against the Founding of New Parties," United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, accessed August 29, 2018, https://encyclopedia.ushmm.org/content/en/article/law-against-the-founding-of-new-parties.
[ii]Richard J. Evans, The Third Reich in Power(New York: Penguin Press, 2010), 39-40.
[iii]Adam Tooze and Jamie Martin, The Cambridge History of the Second World War, ed. Michael Geyer, vol. 3 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015), 35.
[iv]"Nazi Economic, Social and Racial Policy," BBC News, November 13, 2017, accessed August 29, 2018, https://www.bbc.com/bitesize/guides/zw6s7p3/revision/1.
[v]Brian Gray et al., Oxford IB Diploma Programme: Authoritarian States Course Companion (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015), 210-228.
[vii]Richard Weikart, Hitler's Religion: The Twisted Beliefs that Drove the Third Reich (Washington, D.C.: Regnery History, 2016), 89-95.
[viii]Richard Bonney, Confronting the Nazi War on Christianity: The Kulturkampf Newsletters, 1936-1939, 139.
[ix]Weikart, Hitler's Religion, 89.