To what extent did Fascist governments rely on fear to stay in power 1933 – 1939?
On January 30th 1933, Hitler was appointed chancellor of Germany. By the mid 1930’s he was almost in complete control of Germany and had created a one-party state. The Nazis maintained power from 1933-1939 not only because of fear but because of a combination of reasons. Their consolidation of power played a vital role as did their large lack of opposition and also their popular policies that appealed to a wide band of Germans. After being appointed chancellor of Germany, Hitler found himself in a very weak position.
Out of the twelve ministers in the cabinet only two were members of the Nazis. Also, the Nazis did not control a majority of the Reichstag; they had only gained 33% in the November 1932 elections. And finally, President Hindenburg who had appointed Hitler as Chancellor could dismiss him at any time. The Nazis relied on terror considerably to maintain their regime. The Gestapo were the official secret police of Germany; they were in charge of denunciations. They taught German citizens to spy on their neighbours and report anything that seemed “unusual”.
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The Gestapo would act even if there was no valid evidence. They could arrest anyone they wished and even send them to concentration camps. This made many Germans fear the Gestapo. The SS were a protective squadron for the Nazis. They were able to keep “special prisoners” under “protective custody”. Thousands of Germans were sent to concentration camps. The SS also acted as prison officers at concentration camps, effectively running them. The SS were used to take charge of the programme of genocide against the Jews.
Throughout Germany, many people were afraid that the persecution of the Jews would happen to them. Jewish shops were boycotted, Jews were barred from teaching and following the Nuremburg Laws in 1935, Jews were no longer counted as German citizens. The public now knew how Nazis dealt with “problems”. Overall, the Nazis created a large atmosphere of fear throughout Germany; this helped them to stay in power as Germans stuck to the rules through fear of punishment and also fear of the general public spying on them.
However, there were other reasons for the control of Germans, one of which was the establishment of a Dictatorship. From the very beginning of the regime the Nazis consolidated their power. Less than a month after Hitler’s appointment the Reichstag fire took place. On the 27th February 1933, the Reichstag head quarters were burnt down. A Dutch communist called Marinus Van Der Lubbe was given the blame. Hitler exploited this event, claiming it was a communist conspiracy against the state and it was the start of the communist revolution.
After this the Decree for the Protection of the People and the State was passed. President Hindenburg believed Hitler’s claims of the communist revolution beginning and signed the decree. There were four main terms, the first was to arrest the enemies of the state, the second was to suspend the rights of free speech and assembly, the third was censorship and the final term was the right of the Chancellors to take over the powers of the state in emergencies. The March election of 1933 was neither fair nor free and was also illegal by the standards of parliamentary democracy.
The Nazis gained 43. 9% and won 233 seats, this was mainly because the SPD and KPD were banned from participating. Also in March of 1933 the Enabling Act was passed. This gave Hitler the right to act without reference to the Reichstag. Hitler proposed he should be allowed to govern alone for 4 years. This was the first step to Hitler becoming a dictator. In July 1933, Hitler passed a law creating a one party state with the Nazis as the only party in the Reichstag. Ernst Rohm, the leader of the SA was seen as a large threat to Hitler as he had plans to unite the SA and the German army.
However, Hitler wanted to keep the army loyal to him and was fearful that Rohm would overthrow him if his plan went ahead. Thus he decided to purge the SA this was called the Night of the Long Knives. The SS shot approximately 400 people, yet only admitted to 77. One of those murdered was Ernst Rohm. This further consolidated Hitler’s power and kept the army on his side. In August 1934, President Hindenburg died. Hitler declined the role of President, claiming it would always be associated with the Great War hero Hindenburg.
Hitler decided to be known as Fuhrer. By doing this, Hitler avoided limitations on his power by a constitution. Thus, almost two years after being appointed chancellor, Hitler was now Fuhrer of a one-party state, with virtually unlimited political power. This consolidation of power contributed largely to the Nazis staying in power as Hitler was now seen a strong leader, this gained a lot of support. After becoming Fuhrer, Hitler took control of all state and national institutions. This process was known as the Gleichschaltung (Co-ordination).
In May 1933, trade unions were banned and replaced by the Nazi Labour Front. In addition, they banned strikes and if anybody opposed they would be dealt with. The Nazis purged the Civil Service and the Police of any opposition; everyone was replaced with loyal Nazis. Furthermore, The German courts were now under political control and had no independence. The Education and Youth organisations provided by the Nazis were regarded as critical. The Hitler youth was created as Hitler wanted the children to continue his supposed 1000 year Reich.
All anti-Nazis were fired and all remaining teachers had to join the Nazi teachers’ league. Finally, the Catholic Church signed a “concordat” with the Nazis in June 1933. They agreed that the church would recognise the Nazi regime and the Nazis would not interfere with the churches beliefs and teachings. Overall, the process of Gleichschaltung further consolidated Hitler’s power over Germany because he now controlled all of the organisations and institutions. This contributed towards the Nazis staying in power and shows that fear was not the only reason.
The Nazis regime existed and was maintained not solely through dictatorship and terror. Many of the Nazis’ policies were popular throughout Germany and the regime had a large amount of genuine support from many German people. …. WRITE SOMETHING HERE!! Hitler faced no real opposition, this was due to many different reasons. Organised opposition to the Nazis became almost impossible after the one-party state was created. Many Germans were happy to accept Hitler’s rule and so there did not oppose as they provided a strong government.
Nazi propaganda was extremely effective, the Nazis created the cult of Hitler, this emphasised the superiority of the Germans over other races. Finally, the protestant and catholic churches did not oppose the Nazis mainly because the Nazis had crushed the communists and they did not want to suffer the same fate. Almost all opposition had been demolished; this helped the Nazis stay in power as it prevented anyone from opposing and gave them no rivalry. There is no denying that fear played a central role in Hitler’s maintain of power.
The consolidation of power and the nazification process created a state which eliminated all possible opposition. The period of 1933-1939 was seen as a success for most Germans; Hitler was seen as responsible for restoring Germany’s pride and had dealt with problems holding Germany down. By 1939, Hitler’s popularity had increased and most Germans eagerly accepted Hitler, this was mainly due to fear but also due to the way Hitler had restored Germany and brought back respect.
- Select and explain the most important factors that led to Hitler’s rise to power in 1933
- ‘Nazi Consolidation of Power in 1933 Was Primarily Due to the Use of Terror and Violence.’ How Far Do You Agree with This Judgement?
- To what extent was the international situation in January 1933 conducive to Hitler achieving his foreign policy aims?
- How and Why the Nazis Rose to Power