By August 1934 Hitler was a dictator with absolute power. In order to maintain this power he needed organisations that could control the population to ensure absolute loyalty to the Führer. After the demise of the SA on the Night of the Long Knives, there were three main interlinked organisations (in addition to the regular German police force) involved in controlling the German people through spying, intimidation and, if necessary, imprisonment:
A good mnemonic to help you remember some of the key features of this topic is:
The Nazis quickly swept away many of the freedoms that Germans had enjoyed under the Weimar constitution. The party’s control of the legal system made opposition to the regime very difficult indeed:
These changes more than halved the number of criminal offences between 1933 and 1939, whilst the number of crimes that carried the death penalty increased from three to 46. Many convicted criminals were not released at the end of their sentences but instead were moved to the growing number of concentration camps being established by the SS.
Hitler and the Nazi Party were a constant presence in the life of the German people, with:
The government department responsible for all of this was the Ministry of Enlightenment and Propaganda, headed by Dr Joseph Goebbels. It aimed to brainwash people into obeying the Nazis and idolising Hitler. Its methods included:
Loudspeakers in public places also blared out Nazi propaganda. Much of the information Germans received reinforced the message of Aryan racial superiority whilst demonising the Jews and other ‘enemies’ of the regime.
|Art||The Weimar period had seen a flourishing of German art, much of which was abstract. Hitler saw this modern art as ‘degenerate’ and over 6500 works of art were removed from display across Germany. Hitler encouraged ‘Aryan art’ instead, which showed the physical and military power of Germany and the Aryan race.|
|Architecture||Hitler was very interested in architecture and believed it could be used to project the power of the Nazi regime. The most important architect of the period was Albert Speer, who redesigned Berlin, as well as designing the stadium in Nuremberg where annual rallies were held.|
|Literature||Nazis ceremonially burned thousands of books in 1933 that were viewed as being subversive or as representing ideologies opposed to Nazism. These included books written by Jewish, pacifist, classical, liberal, anarchist, socialist, and communist authors.|
|Theatre||Works by certain playwrights were banned. Nazi-produced political plays and musicals were not very popular so the regime allowed classic plays by the likes of Shakespeare to be performed.|
|Film||To make sure that film served the goals of propaganda, the Nazi Party gradually took over film production and distribution. A state-run professional school for politically reliable film-makers was founded, and membership of an official professional organization (Reichsfilmkammer) was made compulsory for all actors and film-makers. The Nazi leaders often used film stars, like Lil Dagover, to help promote the popularity of the party in Germany.|
|Music||In classical music, works by Jewish composers like Mendelssohn and Mahler were banned and the works of the German composer Wagner were promoted, gaining huge popularity. The Nazis were strongly opposed to jazz music, which they referred to as 'Negro music' and called it 'degenerate'.|
The Nazis’ interest in and influence on all of these areas demonstrates the extent to which the party sought to control German life and win over the population to the Nazi cause.