When looking at society you need to consider the main factors that make up a society. The question of what was it like to live in Nazi Germany has plagued many historians. The National Socialists aimed to promote the growth and wellbeing of those considered ‘desirable’ in society, such as the Aryan race or Germanic people, at the expense of degrading those deemed ‘undesirable’.
Germany became a one-party state, that which heralded the Nazi Party. Other political parties were banned and were unable to challenge the Nazi regime. The Communists were the first to go after the Reichstag fire (1933) which justified the ban on Communists, and soon no other party could stand. Political activists and those who challenged the regime were in turn imprisoned or escaped the regime, though this many did repel the Nazi regime and it’s policies.
It is worth questioning why German citizens welcomed a one-party state, and to answer this you need to look at the history of Germany. Germany was new to democracy, after the end of the First World War, and during it’s brief existence, it was wrought with troubles. The economic crashes and instability, as shown in the political infighting aided by proportional representation, meant democracy did not manage to convince some it would work. It would have been easy to look back at the Kaiser who made all decisions effectively and decisively – though that is not to suggest all decisions were accepted!
The economy of Nazi Germany was fixated on supporting the Reich and it’s population, as well as preparing for war, including the re-armament which provided jobs and increased industries. The German nation was rich with resources and people, which meant it had an effective bargaining tool.
Gender stereotypes reinforced Nazi ideals, namely the woman as the homemaker and man as the worker. This meant women were not expected to work, and instead manage the home and child-rearing. In contrast, men were expected to play their duty through work, namely when war arose, as soldiers.
Ideology played an important part in Nazi society and racism was a crucial component of National Socialist ideology from its inception. Its centrality to both domestic and foreign policy was perhaps most clearly articulated in the second volume of Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf (1926). Hitler set out the four cornerstones of his ‘world view’:
- There was a hierarchical race, the Ayran, who were seen as ‘culture-creating’ and therefore superior. There were other races, like Chinese and Japanese, who were ‘culture bearing’. Blacks and Slavs were of a lesser value. The Jews were defined as a race and not a religion, and were the lowest race.
- Racial Purity was paramount, and mixing between races undermined their superiority and survival.
- There existed a struggle between races, and Germany needed to prepare for a race war to expand its territory, or Lebensraum (living space), for the German race.
- Bolshevism was a Jewish plot, and so both Bolsheviks and Jews needed to be eradicated.
How far do you think Hitler intended to enforce certain policies or plan for certain eventualities? Intentionalists argue there was such a plan, as shown in Mein Kampf, while functionalists argue Hitler took opportunities. The downplay of anti-Semitism during the elections highlights their concessions to amass support, while anti-Semitism was not unique to the Nazis.