The German Economy

The Nazis managed to eliminate unemployment in Germany. Partly they did this by rearming (even though this meant breaking the Versailles Treaty). In 1935 Hitler announced that Germany had an air force. He also introduced conscription. In 1936 German troops entered the Demilitarised zone of the Rhineland. Britain and France did nothing.

Hitler also built roads called autobahns across Germany and he built great public buildings such as the Olympic Stadium for the 1936 Berlin Olympics. All this helped to reduce unemployment. Although there was full employment workers were paid low wages (to keep the German industrialists happy). They also worked long hours. In the 1930s they worked an average of 49 hours a week. During the Second World War this was increased to 60 hours a week or more. To try and keep the workers happy an organisation was formed called (Strength Through Joy). Some workers went on cheap holidays to places like Norway and Italy. However, more often they organised cheap concerts and trips to the theatre. Hitler’s attitude to women was simple. They were to be mothers and housewives. Their role was summed up in the phrase kinder, kuche and kirche (children, kitchen and church). In Nazi Germany married women were encouraged to give up their jobs and they were encouraged to have children. Women who had four children were given a bronze medal. Women who had six were given a silver medal and women who had eight were given a gold medal. During the SecondWorld War other nations conscripted women to work in industry but Hitler refused to do that.


Hitler hated Jews. In April 1933 he ordered a boycott of Jewish shops. Also in 1933 a law called ‘The Law for the Restoration of the Professional Civil Service’ banned Jews from working in government jobs. Then in 1935 Hitler passed the Nuremberg laws. The Law for the Protection of German Blood and Honour made it illegal for Jews to marry ‘Aryans’ (people of Germanic descent) or even to have sexual intercourse with them. The Reich Citizenship Law stated that Jews could not be German citizens. Worse was to come. On 7 November 1938 a Polish Jew called Herschel Grynzpan shot a German official called Ernst Von Rath at the German embassy in Paris. In response the Germans attacked Jews and Jewish property on 9 November 1938. Jewish homes and shops were attacked and so many windows were broken it was called Kristallnacht (crystal night). Thousands of Jews were sent to concentration camps. The Nazis also decided that the rest of the Jews must pay a fine of 1,000 million marks and they were not eligible for insurance payments. The Nazis also detested Gypsies. In 1935 they were forbidden to marry ‘Aryans’. From 1939 onwards German Gypsies were deported to Poland. Later, like the Jews they were murdered in concentration camps.

Nazi Propaganda

In 1933 Josef Goebbels was made head of the ‘Reich Ministry of Popular Enlightenment and Propaganda’. Afterwards newspapers and books were strictly controlled. Nothing critical of the Nazis could be published. The Nazis also arranged for cheap radios to be made so as many people as possible could afford one. The Nazis realised that radio was an effective medium for propaganda. The Nazis also used the cinema. Many Nazi propaganda films were made. The Nazis attacked modern art, which they called degenerate. They also banned music by Jewish composers. The Nazis also disliked jazz music, which they regarded as decadent. In 1933 the Nazis organised a book burning. They seized books in libraries they disapproved of and burned them on bonfires. Furthermore many writers, artists, film directors and musicians fled from Nazi Germany. The Nazis also controlled education. Children were indoctrinated with Nazi ideas at school. The Nazi version of history was taught and children were taught Nazi racial theories. To further influence young people the Nazis created the Hitler-Jugend (Hitler Youth), which was an organisation boys could join at the age of 14. They went camping and hiking but also learned Nazi ideas. In 1936 membership was effectively made compulsory. For girls the Nazis created the Bund Deutscher Madel (League of German Girls). However not all German youth conformed to Nazi ideas. By the late 1930s groups called Edelweiss Pirates emerged in western Germany (so called because they wore an edelweiss flower). They often beat up members of the Hitler Youth. There were also the Swing-Jugend (Swing Youth). They liked jazz music (which the Nazis disapproved of).

The Second World War

On 1 September 1939 the German Army invaded Poland. On 3 September Britain and France declared war on Germany. However Poland was soon overrun.On 17 September the Russians invaded Poland from the east and by early October Polish resistance was crushed. Then in April 1940 the Germans occupied Denmark and they invaded Norway. They captured Norway in early June. Meanwhile in May 1940 Germany invaded the Netherlands, Belgium and France. The German army was astonishingly successful and France capitulated in late June. However Britain fought on. In 1941 German troops were sent to fight the British in North Africa. Meanwhile the Germany army conquered Yugoslavia, Greece and Crete. However in June 1941 Hitler in 1941 Hitler invaded Russia, a very stupid move. Worse on 11 December 1941 he declared war on the USA. At first the war had little impact on German civilians. Hitler was convinced that a collapse of morale at home had cost Germany the First World War and he was determined to prevent the same thing happening again. So in 1940-1941 German civilians still had quite a high standard of living. However in 1942 food rations were reduced. Then at the end of 1942 the British won the battle of El Alamein in Egypt. In November 1942 the Russian army surrounded the Germans at Stalingrad. Part of the German army there surrendered on 31 January 1943. The remaining part surrendered on 2 February. After this disaster Germany was losing the war. Also British and American bombing began to destroy German cities and industry. The German troops in North Africa surrendered in May 1943. In July 1943 the allies invaded Sicily and in September they invaded Italy. On 6 June 1944 the allies invaded Normandy and opened a second front. That spelt Germany’s doom. By the autumn of 1944 they had liberated France and Belgium. The Germans counterattacked in December 1944 but failed. By January 1945 the Russians were poised to invade Germany. They had suffered terribly at the hands of the Germans and they wanted revenge. Civilians from East Prussia fled in terror. Then as the Russians entered Germany they committed terrible atrocities. Finally on 2 May 1945 the Russians captured Berlin. Meanwhile in late March the British and Americans crossed the Rhine. Hitler committed suicide on 30 April 1945. His tyranny did not long outlast him Germany surrendered unconditionally at 11.01 pm on 8 May 1945. The Nazis brought Germany to ruins, its cities reduced to rubble, its industry mostly destroyed. Furthermore Hitler’s was cost millions of German lives. This was the legacy of Nazism. The Nazis were, of course, responsible for murdering millions of innocent people. From 1940 Polish Jews were confined in ghettoes. When the Germans invaded Russia in 1941 the mass murder of Jews in the east began. At first they were shot. Then at the Wannsee Conference in January 1942 Nazi leaders decided to exterminate all Jews. So they were rounded up and deported to death camps. When they arrived some were selected for work (and worked to death), while others were gassed. Afterwards the bodies were burned. By the end of World War II some 6 million Jews had been murdered.