German Reich (1933–1945)

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German Reich
Deutsches Reich
Greater German Reich
Großdeutsches Reich
1933–1945 (official abolition in 1947)
Flag of German Reich (1933–1943) Deutsches Reich Greater German Reich (1943–1945) Großdeutsches Reich
Flag (1935-1945)
Emblem (1935-1945) of German Reich (1933–1943) Deutsches Reich Greater German Reich (1943–1945) Großdeutsches Reich
Emblem (1935-1945)
Location of German Reich (1933–1943) Deutsches Reich Greater German Reich (1943–1945) Großdeutsches Reich
Dominant mode of productionCapitalism (decaying)
GovernmentUnitary Nazi State
• Reichspräsident (1933-1934)
Paul von Hindenburg
• Führer und Reichskanzler (1934-1945)
Adolf Hitler
• Reichspräsident (1945)
Karl Dönitz
• Hitler named Chancellor
30 January 1933
• Passage of the Enabling Act
23 March 1933
• Death of Hindenburg
2 August 1934
• Beginning of the Second World War
1 September 1939
• Fall of Berlin
2 May 1945
8 May 1945
• Established
• Dissolution
1945 (official abolition in 1947)
• Census
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Weimar Republic
First Czechoslovak Republic (portion)
Second Czechoslovak Republic (portion)
Lithuania (portion)
Poland (portion)
Denmark (portion)
Norway (portion)
Luxembourg (portion)
Netherlands (portion)
Belgium (portion)
France (portion)
United Kingdom (portion)
Yugoslavia (portion)
Greece (portion)
Soviet Union (portion)
Italy (portion)
Allied occupation of Germany
Allied occupation of Austria
Poland (portion)
Third Czechoslovak Republic
Soviet Union (portion)
Yugoslavia (portion)

Nazi Germany, officially the German Reich,[a][note 1] also commonly known as the Third Reich[b] or the National Socialist State,[c] was a period of German history from 1933 to 1945 when Germany was ruled by the Nazi Party (NSDAP), a German nationalist, fascist, and antisemitic party led by Adolf Hitler. Nazi Germany was preceded by the Weimar Republic, a bourgeois democracy which effectively ended with the passage of the Enabling Act.

The period began on 30 January 1933 when Hitler was appointed Chancellor (head of government) by President (head of state) Paul von Hindenburg. Hitler's power was initially limited by the old Weimar Constitution. However, the Nazi Party had been the largest in the Reichstag (parliament) since the July 1932 election and, through mass voter suppression, imprisonment of political opponents, the passing of the Enabling Act (which gave Hitler the ability to make decisions without the approval of the Reichstag or the President), the death of President Hindenburg, and the merging of the offices of President and Chancellor, the Nazis (and Hitler in particular) established complete control over the country.

The Nazi government, over the course of its existence, aggressively expanded into neighbouring countries, ultimately culminating in the Second World War with the German invasion of Poland in September 1939. Internally, concentration camps were set up for the detention, forced labour, and extermination of millions of Jews, as well as Roma, Slavs, LGBT+ people, people with disabilities, Jehovah's Witnesses, Soviet prisoners of war, opponents of the Nazis, and other groups of people. The campaign of mass extermination of Jews is commonly referred to today as the Holocaust or the Shoah (שואה) in Hebrew. The Nazis' genocidal policies were inspired primarily by the United States' genocide of its indigenous peoples,[1] though the Nazis also drew inspiration from other settler colonial and even non-settler colonial projects.

The Nazi Party was destroyed at the end of World War II after the Soviet Red Army captured Berlin and Hitler committed suicide. The German Instrument of Surrender, signed by Chief of Staff Wilhelm Keitel on 8 May 1945, legally declared the surrender and dissolution of the Third Reich, ending the European theatre of the Second World War. The succeeding Allied occupation of Germany and the Cold War would result in the creation of separate East and West German states.

History[edit | edit source]

Rise of fascism[edit | edit source]

On January 4, 1933, bankers and industrialists held a secret backroom deal with then-Chancellor von Papen to make Hitler the nation's new Chancellor:

The negotiations took place exclusively between Hitler and Papen. […] Papen went on to say that he thought it best to form a government in which the conservative and nationalist elements that had supported him were represented together with the Nazis. He suggested that this new government should, if possible, be led by Hitler and himself together. Then Hitler made a long speech in which he said that, if he were to be elected Chancellor, Papen’s followers could participate in his (Hitler’s) Government as Ministers if they were willing to support his policy which was planning many alterations in the existing state of affairs. He outlined these alterations, including the removal of all Social Democrats, Communists and Jews from leading positions in Germany and the restoration of order in public life. Von Papen and Hitler reached agreement in principle whereby many of the disagreements between them could be removed and cooperation might be possible. It was agreed that further details could be worked out later either in Berlin or some other suitable place.

Kurt Baron von Schröder, [2]

In February 1933, Hitler met with the Reich's leading industrialists at Hermann Göring's home. There were representatives from IG Farben, Siemens, BMW, coal mining magnates, Thyssen AG, Friedrich Krupp AG, as well as a crowd of bankers, investors, and other bourgeois Germans. During this meeting, Hitler said that ‘Private enterprise cannot be maintained in the age of democracy.' Following the staged Reichstag fire, Hitler used Article 48 of the Weimar Constitution to centralize power under himself.

In March 1933, Nazi Germany opened its first concentration camp, Dachau. This was on 22 March, and Hitler gained even more power with the Enabling Act, passed the next day on 23 March 1933.[3]

To reduce regulation, the Chancellery sent its henchmen to every union headquarters on 2 May 1933. They beat the union leaders, sending them to prison or concentration camps, and their party expropriated the union money that the workers paid for their memberships. The unions were put under the leadership of the Chancellery's anticommunists, who helped bargain away all collective bargaining rights.[4] One Fascist economist indicated that his party indeed had a thorough plan for deregulation:

The first thing [that] German business needs is peace and quiet. It must have a feeling of absolute legal security and must know that work and its return are guaranteed. The interferences in a business which occurred at first, perhaps as a result of too much zeal, have become intolerable.

Gottfried Feder, [5]

In September 1933, the Chancellery repeatedly cut social provisions, including food rations, to the poor under the guise of combating ‘idolatry'.[6] In 1934, the Fascists outlined their plan to revitalize the Reich's economy by reprivatisation of significant industries: medicine,[7] railways, public works,[8] shipping lines,[9] construction, steel, and banking. Additionally, the Chancellery guaranteed profits for the private sector, thus many Statesian industrialists and bankers flocked to the Reich to invest.

On 20 January 1934, the Chancellery transferred its right to set minimum wages and working conditions over to the business owners, stating that the ‘leader of the enterprise makes the decisions for the employees and laborers in all matters concerning the enterprise, as far as they are regulated by this law.'[10] Hence, the employers lowered wages, increased hours,[11] eliminated other benefits, and prohibited workers from striking or engaging in other collective bargaining rights. The anticommunists eliminated reimbursements for Jewish physicians, which allowed private health insurance companies to profit.[7] The anticommunists also rounded up the homeless en-masse and interned them in concentration camps.[12]

Hitler purged many of his enemies within the party in the Night of Long Knives from 30 June to 2 July 1934.[3]

By the time that vice president Matthew Woll of the AFL visited the German Reich in 1938, he likened the life of an average German worker to that of a slave.[13]

Expansion[edit | edit source]

Germany sent troops to the Spanish Civil War in 1936 to support Franco's fascists. Later that year, Germany and Japan signed the Anti-Comintern Pact to oppose the Soviet Union. The Nazis annexed Austria in March 1938 after announcing a supposed communist uprising. In May, they concentrated their troops on the Czechoslovak border. At the Munich Conference, Britain and France divided Czechoslovakia and gave its Sudeten region to Germany. Germany annexed the rest of Czechoslovakia in March 1939 and gave a small region to Poland. Soon after, it occupied the Lithuanian territory of Klaipėda.[14]

From June to August 1939, the Nazis held secret talks with Britain and agreed not to interfere with the British Empire in exchange for Britain respecting German spheres of influence and rejecting an alliance with the Soviet Union.[15]

Second World War[edit | edit source]

Economy[edit | edit source]

Irrespective of a quite bad overall performance, an important characteristic of the economy of the Third Reich, and a big difference from a centrally planned one, was the role private ownership of firms was playing—in practice as well as in theory. The ideal Nazi economy would liberate the creativeness of a multitude of private entrepreneurs in a predominantly competitive framework gently directed by the state to achieve the highest welfare of the Germanic people.

— Christoph Buchheim and Jonas Scherner, [16]

The German Reich was the second modern nation after the Kingdom of Italy to implement a privatisation programme,[17] which affected the steel, mining, banking, and shipbuilding industries.[3] Indeed, the term ‘privatization' itself[18] was coined to refer to their economic reforms.[19] Capitalist economist Mark Thoma has conceded as much.[20] While consumer spending in the Reich's economy did decrease from 71% in 1929 to 59% in 1938,[21] income from capital and business also increased from 17.4% of the national income to 26.6%,[22] and the rate of return on capital increased in the Fascists' industry.[23]

In 1936/37 the capital of the Deutsche Bank, Commerzbank and Dresdner Bank in the possession of the German Reich was resold to private shareholders, and consequently the state representatives withdrew from the boards of these banks. Also in 1936 the Reich sold its shares of Vereinigte Stahlwerke. The war did not change anything with regard to this attitude. In 1940 the Genshagen airplane engine plant operated by Daimler-Benz was privatized; Daimler-Benz bought the majority of shares held by the Reich earlier than it wished to. But the company was urged by the Reich Aviation Ministry and was afraid that the Reich might offer the deal to another firm. Later in the war the Reich actively tried to privatize as many Montan GmbH companies as possible, but with little success.

— Christoph Buchheim and Jonas Scherner, [24]

It was possible for capitalists to fund their projects without relying on any state funds. The development of the first relay computer, for example, was funded entirely through private means,[25] and while the head of state was unimpressed with the invention they still used it for some minor operations such as calculating aircraft wing design.[26] Similarly, another business, Günther & Co., designed a board game without any government input. Although the Schutzstaffel harshly criticized its theme, going so far as to call it ‘almost punishable', it nonetheless never bothered to actually prohibit it.[27] The German Air Ministry requested prototypes from six companies (Gustloff-Werke, Mauser, Johannes Großfuß Metall- und Lackierwarenfabrik, C.G. Hänel, Rheinmetall-Borsig and Heinrich Krieghoff Waffenfabrik), only two (Krieghoff and Rheinmetall) of whom answered favorably, and an irrelevant offer from Mauser was rejected. All others denied that they could even consider it since they were already working to capacity for the Heereswaffenamt and required its approval for the request.[28] [29]

While the bourgeoisie did implement some regulations, they did this for the sake of their militarily driven economy (much like the U.K. and the U.S.A. did during wartime); their purpose was to reinforce private ownership and capitalism. Henry Spiegel noted three main characteristics of the Third Reich's economy:[30]

  1. That it was an ‘economy of scarcity', that is to say, that the exploitation of ‘men and materials was pushed to the limits'.
  2. That the state used ‘centralized planning under maintenance of some element of the price system'.
  3. That the state retained the ‘profit motive' as the primary ‘economic motor'.

There is little evidence to support the interpretation that the German Reich was a ‘planned economy'.[31] The little ‘central planning' that the bourgeoisie used was not analogous to the Soviet planning; it was more akin to strategic visions for the economy. The Wehrwirtschaft ideal held primacy in these plans, which sought to transform the economy into an ‘integrated part of the military machine', but retaining the system of private ownership.[32] For example, rather than allocating production directly according to the System of Material Balances (as the U.S.S.R. did), the Four Year Plan of 1936 merely instituted price controls, particularly to discourage consumption of goods deemed to be luxuries and to promote the ‘basic industries' that formed the Fascists' apparatus of war production.[33] Thus food prices effectively increased between the Second Reich and the Third Reich, even despite the ‘higher' wages and anticommunist attempts at price control, and some foods such as beef, white bread, cereals, and fruits only became more difficult for the proletariat to access (though pork, rye bread, and potatoes did not).[34] In the agricultural realm, the bourgeoisie did not undertake anything resembling Soviet collectivization, but rather instituted price controls through the Reichsnährstand (‘Reich Food Estate') to control cost of living.[35] The bourgeoisie would institute a new, hereditary law in 1933 that made it much more difficult for anybody to obtain a gentile's[36] farm, even through trade.[37]

Among the Reich's industries, the oil industry was perhaps the best example for how the Fascist bourgeoisie operated the Wehrwirtschaft, as the NSDAP considered it to occupy a ‘special and irreplaceable role' within the market economy and military machine;[38] thus Fascist capital's inability to steal all of the oil and steel from the U.S.S.R. would further ensure the Reich's collapse.[39] In the 1930s, Porsche quickly designed the Volkswagen Beetle because one anticommunist claimed to want a cheap and sturdy vehicle that almost everybody in the Reich would be able to drive. He lobbied for his approval, and Porsche's neoslaves soon began producing these vehicles by the thousands, to the point where they ran low on dealerships, but the project turned out to be a scam:

Since private industry could not turn out an automobile for $396, Hitler ordered the State to build it and placed the Labor Front in charge of the project. Dr. Ley’s organization promptly set out in 1938 to build at Fallersleben, near Braunschweig, “the biggest automobile factory in the world,” with a capacity for turning out a million and a half cars a year “more than Ford,” the Nazi propagandists said. The Labor Front advanced fifty million marks in capital. But that was not the main financing. Dr. Ley’s ingenious plan was that the workers themselves should furnish the capital by means of what became known as a “pay-before-you-get-it” installment plan five marks a week, or if a worker thought he could afford it, ten or fifteen marks a week. When 750 marks had been paid in, the buyer received an order number entitling him to a car as soon as it could be turned out. Alas for the worker, not a single car was ever turned out for any customer during the Third Reich. Tens of millions of marks were paid in by the German wage earners, not a pfennig of which was ever to be refunded. By the time the war started the Volkswagen factory turned to the manufacture of goods more useful to the Army.

— William Shirer, [40]

Siemens in particular was probably the most important and prolific business in the German Reich, and consequently lost most of its factories during WWII. The business was responsible for the rail infrastructure, communications, power generation, factories (including in Auschwitz and Buchenwald), firearms, execution chambers, and more, throughout the Reich, and survivors later demanded reparations from this business.[41] [42] Other businesses such as the Holtzbrinck Publishing Group and Bertelsmann distributed a wide range of propaganda to the Wehrmacht and other anticommunists in the forms of books and magazines. Although somebody did jail a few senior Bertelsmann employees for alleged black-market paper trading in 1944, the Reich Minister of Propaganda pardoned them anyway.[43]

Under the banner of ‘rearmament and autarky', the Fascist bourgeoisie began to use its Four Year Plans to encourage sectors like construction, oil, chemicals, and engineering over others, such as coal and agriculture.[44] Under the Plans, the bourgeois state took control over marketing, but corporate leaders remained in charge of the industry as a whole, indicating that the NSDAP was uninterested in either nationalization or direct government management.[45]

Available sources make perfectly clear that the Nazi regime did not want at all a German economy with public ownership of many or all enterprises. Therefore it generally had no intention whatsoever of nationalizing private firms or creating state firms. On the contrary the reprivatization of enterprises was furthered wherever possible.

— Christoph Buchheim and Jonas Scherner, [46]

On the rare occasions when they were forced to make use of state-owned factories, they included a contract option allowing private owners to purchase it. In addition, they avoided the creation of state-owned enterprises whenever possible, favoring private investment:

State-owned plants were to be avoided wherever possible. Nevertheless, sometimes they were necessary when private industry was not prepared to realize a war-related investment on its own. In these cases, the Reich often insisted on the inclusion in the contract of an option clause according to which the private firm operating the plant was entitled to purchase it. Even the establishment of Reichswerke Hermann Goring in 1937 is no contradiction to the rule that the Reich principally did not want public ownership of enterprises. The Reich in fact tried hard to win the German industry over to engage in the project.

— Christoph Buchheim and Jonas Scherner, [24]

In 1938 for example, the Reich forced Jewish businessman Julius Fromm to vend his condom business to Baroness Elisabeth von Epenstein (Hermann Göring's godmother) at 116,000ℛℳ, a fraction of its real value. In return for this, she gave Göring two castles (those being Mauterndorf and Veldenstein).[47]

In terms of worker's rights, the Fascist bourgeoisie immediately began to crack down on illegal groups (socialists and social democrats): first, ensuring that these groups were destroyed by force, and second, granting ‘extraordinary powers' to employers to minimize the ability of workers to organize.[48]

The anticommunists established the German Labour Front (Deutsche Arbeitsfront, DAF) by destroying non-DAF trade unions and seizing their funds.[49] Propaganda suggested that the DAF was intended to mediate conflicts between businessowners and workers. In practice, the anticommunists used the DAF to decrease workers' power and to trap them in their current place of employment.[50] After the so-called German Labor Front absorbed the unions, wages fell for front-line workers, working hours increased by 15%, industrial accidents became more common, and capitalists could blacklist workers for complaining about the working conditions.[51] The anticommunists introduced the large ‘Strength Through Joy' (Kraft Durch Freude) vacation program to sell the working class on Fascism and to boost the Reich's tourism, but contrary to what the propaganda suggested, it was heavily involved in regimenting the leisure time of workers towards Fascist goals rather than allowing the proletariat more freedoms:

Tied down by so many controls at wages little above the subsistence level, the German workers, like the Roman proletariat, were provided with circuses by their rulers to divert attention from their miserable state. “We had to divert the attention of the masses from material to moral values,” Dr. Ley once explained. “It is more important to feed the souls of men than their stomachs.”

So he came up with an organization called Kraft durch Freude (“Strength through Joy”). This provided what can only be called regimented leisure. […] [I]t [was] deemed necessary to control not only the working hours but the leisure hours of the individual. This was what “Strength through Joy” did. In pre-Nazi days Germany had tens of thousands of clubs devoted to everything from chess and soccer to bird watching. Under the Nazis no organized social, sport or recreational group was allowed to function except under the control and direction of Kraft durch Freude.

— William Shirer, [52]

Whereas the Weimar Republic created collective wage agreements across industries in hopes of preventing intense competition for labor, the Third Reich's official wage rates were far lower than Weimar wage rates, could be overruled (allowing lower pay) for individual companies by the DAF's ‘labor trustees', and disallowed the possibility of collective bargaining by the workers.[53] Unemployment was approximately 34% in early 1933, and official statistics reduced this rate to 0.9% for 1939.[54] This was likely in part because the official statistics did not take conscriptions, enemies of the bourgeois state, or women into account.[55] Neoslavery would expand and contribute to the Reich's economy recovery.[56]

Abroad, the German Reich frequently engaged in what came to be termed ‘fascist imperialism' by historian Maurice Dobb.[57] Dobb pointed out that, while earlier imperialist ventures targeted unindustrialized and undeveloped nations, Fascist imperialism annexed countries that had “already reached a high level of industrial development” and incorporated them as colonies of the Reich.[58] For example, as the Reich's debt accumulated dramatically,[59] and the annexation of Austria did little to improve the economy,[60] the German anticommunists would invade Western Poland in 1939 and devastate many of the industries there. Once the bourgeois state successfully subordinated a country, it embarked upon the “unprecedented” task of “de-industrializing” it so that it could produce food and raw materials for the Fascist economy, while maintaining a “monopoly of industrial production” in the German heartland itself.[58] When de-industrialization was complete, the bourgeois state granted Fascist firms “extensive privileges” to develop raw material production in the occupied territories, and established “obligatory delivery quotas” of such materials to the Fascists.[61]

Many Nordic capitalists proved quite useful to the Reich. As early as 1940, 54% of Finnish exports went to the Reich.[62] Despite the Finnish's anti-German sentiment that the Reich's policy during the Winter War generated, the Fascists knew that Finnish demands were much easier to meet than those of the Soviets, and the Finnish bourgeoisie willingly vended 60% of Petsamo's nickel to the Reich during 1940, much to the Soviets' displeasure. By August 1940 the Reich was quietly supplying the Finnish state with arms through private commercial channels, and the Finnish and German bourgeoisies signed a significant arms delivery by October 1940 and a supplementary troop transit by November 1940, further worrying the Soviets.[63]

The Nazi regime favored economic concentration and passed laws to promote cartels. It raised taxes on workers but not on businesses.[3]

The “economic miracle”[edit | edit source]

The one credited for the Third Reich's “economic miracle” is Hjalmar Schacht, a freemason banker and an old establishment figure who was the president of the Reichsbank under the Weimar Republic during the 1920s, whom Hitler appointed as Minister of Economics in 1934 — since Fascists were mostly economically illiterate romanticists who were more concerned about racial identity politics than developing a coherent economic model that would truly be an alternative to capitalism. Under the centrist Schacht, the new “national socialist” economy underwent massive privatization. The economically left-leaning faction of the NSDAP that had hoped for ‘real socialism' with German characteristics was knifed in the same year that Schacht was put in charge.

Hjalmar Schacht brought a cartel economy that was dominated by monopolies like Siemens, Gutehoffnungshütte, Krupp, and Rheinmetall. In the 1930s Germany became one of the most privatized countries in the world, at a time where the world was trying to find its way out of the depression either through experimenting with socialism or Keynesian economics. The Third Reich, instead of breaking up monopolies, was strengthening them. Big business conglomerates were preferred to smaller ones because political intervention and lobbying would be easier. The plan was to make politics involved in business through mutual cooperation, also known as corporatism. Schacht, although being a center-rightist, did support the plan of achieving full employment through public work, yet even this wasn't devised by the Nazis either — the attempt to alleviate unemployment through work brigades constructing the autobahn was a continuation of policies that had been instituted in the late Weimar Republic with the support of the last chancellor, Kurt von Schleicher, who alongside leftists was purged as well during the the Night of the Long Knives.

Since massive public work programs and stimulating the economy required deficit spending, Schacht introduced a scheme that could massively increase government spending without the appearance of it — this was achieved by setting up a private dummy company called Metallurgische Forschungsgesellschaft, or MEFO for short, which was a joint-venture effort by the four biggest industrial players — Siemens, Gutehoffnungshütte, Krupp, and Rheinmetall. The only purpose of this company was issuing so-called "MEFO bills". The plan was that when the government would order a new batch of tanks, it would not pay directly with Reichsmarks. The payment to the armament producer would instead be deferred with a MEFO bill given out by MEFO, which operated as a ‘private company', with a guarantee of MEFO paying the producer in the period of six months, and the government relying on the Reichsbank's ‘unofficial' promise to buy these contracts right before the pay date.

Due to Schacht's scheme, the German economy actually recovered, but there were two problems here: since these MEFO bills had a 4% annual interest rate and they could be traded between the armament producers, they were used like money in trade deals between different German companies. They were even preferred over actual money. The armament producers did not want these contracts to end and so they extended them further and further beyond the initial six-month pay date. They became a pseudo-currency in themselves. Secondly, a big portion of these contracts were given to arms producers and not civilian construction of peace economics. It became clear that the MEFO scheme was primarily to achieve rearmament, bypassing the Versailles Treaty by avoiding making new public debt in the official books. Consumption actually stagnated and at this point the ‘happy well-fed German family driving a Volkswagen' trope was becoming a myth. Military spending went from constituting 1% of the national budget to 10% in a few years between 1933 and 1936. Schacht desperately tried to warn Hitler that he was going to get the country bankrupt at this rate of military spending.

Hjalmar Schacht maintained that the MEFO scheme was not a permanent solution, but a short, temporary measure to get the economy going again. When unemployment sufficiently lowered and Germany rearmed, he and price commissioner Dr. Carl Friedrich Goerdeler both tried to persuade Hitler that the German Reich was now a defiant military power again and it was the perfect time to change gears from military to civilian-oriented production and develop new trade deals in the world market. For Schacht and Goerdler, further military expenditure at the expense of civilian economic growth was insane and made no sense form a rational point of view. With military expenditures quickly growing far larger than the civilian work-creation programs, Schacht realized that the Chancellery's imperialist ambitions of achieving Lebenraum through violent irredentism surpassed that of securing the economic gains and social stability of the last four years.

The economic miracle credited to Schacht declined when the Chancellery decided to replace him with the economically illiterate and trigger-happy Goering in 1937. With Schacht gone, the ongoing massive military expenditure was creating a debt with which the national civilian economy could not cope anymore. The overblown Fascist military-industrial complex was not devised to built refrigerators and hydroelectric power plants; it could nonetheless plunder and pillage neighboring states. Hitler and Goering expected that upcoming territorial expansion would provide the means of repaying the soaring national debt, by using the wealth and manpower of conquered nations. Their targets were, however, largely poverty-stricken. In the last years of the Third Reich, 25% of the labour force was made up of forced labourers, mostly Poles and Jews, many of them working at in the Auschwitz labor camps for IG Farben's rubber plants fueling the war effort. Perhaps the most disturbing moment that Hitler had was when he traded Schacht's developed economic theories for the idea that a sustainable economy could be run on forced labour and looting in the heart of Europe in the 20th century.

Infrastructure[edit | edit source]

Health[edit | edit source]

The German Reich experienced significant mortality and nutritional crises during peacetime (a remarkably rare occurrence in a developed nation):

Germany experienced a substantial increase in mortality rates in most age groups in the mid-1930s, even relative to those of 1932, the worst year of the Great Depression. Moreover, children’s heights—an indicator of the quality of nutrition and health—were generally stagnating between 1933 and 1938, but had increased significantly during the 1920s. Persecution, by itself, does not explain such an adverse development in biological welfare; the non-persecuted segments of the German population were affected as well.

— Andrea Wagner & Jörg Baten, [64]

These problems were the direct result of their capitalist policy:

The reason for this adverse development was caused by the fact that military expenditures increased at the expense of public health measures. In addition, food imports were curtailed, and prices of many agricultural products were controlled. There is ample evidence that this set of economic policies had an adverse effect on the health and nutritional status of the population.

— Andrea Wagner & Jörg Baten, [64]

By 1939, living standards were even lower than those of other anticommunist regimes, such as the U.K. and the U.S.A. The Nazi regime only gave health insurance to ethnic Germans and discriminated against others.[3]

Ideology[edit | edit source]

It is […] entirely appropriate to register the point that, despite the Nazi–Soviet pact, and indeed other instances of his opportunistic use of anti-Bolshevism to achieve short-term goals, Hitler remained committed from the early 1920s until his downfall in 1945 to the pursuit and destruction of Bolshevism. Even if he may have toyed fleetingly with the idea of accommodating the Soviet Union as a partner in Ribbentrop’s proposed Kontinentalblock in the hope of finally ending his war with Britain, […] the fact remains that the struggle against Bolshevism constituted a fixed principle, the ‘lodestar’, as Ian Kershaw has put it, of his foreign policy. Indeed, given the intensity of Hitler’s views on the Jewish question, it could hardly have been otherwise from the moment in the early 1920s when he accepted that Bolshevism was an invention and instrument of the Jews, who wished to use it to impose their own tyranny across the globe.

— Lorna L. Waddington, [65]

The Reich's eugenics programme was consciously inspired by the USA's own eugenics programmes[66] from the 1920s and earlier. The Führer himself once wrote Madison Grant an appreciative letter implying that The Passing of the Great Race was one of his favorittations, and Fascists regularly communicated with eugenicists from New York to California, who were eager to assist with the Reich's programme.[67] Physically and mentally challenged people thus became early victims of the Third Reich's violence. Nevertheless, the Fascists made some exceptions for capitalists deemed too useful for disposal, such Artur Adolf Konradi, who was paralysed from the waist below, and Max Hahn, who lost one of his arms in WWI. Some physicians have also speculated that the Chancellor himself was suffering from Parkinson's disease at the time of his death.

Generally, the Third Reich held people of color in contempt, with some government officials holding a less intolerant attitude towards certain Asian men, although the Reich nevertheless opportunistically accepted the assistance of many volunteers of color such as the Free Arabian Legion, and despite their own aggressive colonialism, the Fascists frequently exploited the anticolonial sentiments of Arabs[68] and Indians,[69] probably as a means of pitting their enemies against each other. After the conclusion of the Anti-Comintern Pact of 1936, the Fascists' white supremacy made an exception for Japanese people, and relaxed attitudes further after the Tripartite Pact of 1940, but some complications remained even after these pacts. For example, intermarriages between Germans and Japanese, while technically legal, remained discouraged, and the few interracial couples in the Reich faced harassment. There were also some European Fascist politicians who never completely trusted the Empire of Japan either, a feeling which the Imperialists held toward them in turn.[70] Despite the wavering attitudes and the want of consensus, Japanese men were the people of color for whom the Fascists had the most tolerance. There were likely about five hundred Japanese people living in Berlin during the early 1940s, a number comparable to that of the Germans living in the Empire of Japan, and many Japanese in the Reich worked as diplomats, military officers, students, and trading company employees.[71]

Anti-Semitism[edit | edit source]

One crucial part of German Fascism was antisemitism; only a tiny minority of German Fascists (e.g. Karl Plagge, Oskar Schindler) secretly dissented from this view. Traditionally, antisemitism in German society referenced Jewish culture as its basis, but capitalists such as Henry Ford[72][73][74][75] introduced a more ‘racial' justification for this phenomenon, claiming that Jews were innately rather than just socially or religiously inferior.[76] In reality, however, the Fascists were committing antisemitism as a means of preserving most of the petite-bourgeoisie: concentrating capitalism's horrible economic pressure on only a minor segment of the class rather than its entirety.[77]

Violence against Jews was common in Third Reich during the 1930s, but massacres were comparatively rare until the 1940s. Suicide, normally considered an act of cowardice (though preferable to surrender) in the German Reich,[78] was destigmatized for Jews. The Jewish suicide rate increased significantly with the beginning of the Third Reich, largely owing to its racial policies, and sometimes the Fascists explicitly encouraged Jews to commit suicide. For example, after a Jewish shopkeeper and his family took their own lives in Vienna, storm troopers plastered his shop windows with placards saying ‘Please imitate'. Even so, the Fascists officially denied any responsibility for Jewish suicides.[79] From 1941 onward, Fascists no longer intentionally encourage the practice, and the SS castigated suicide attempts, probably because they were expressions of self-determination, but suicide among Jews remained substantial regardless.[80]

As well, Fascist antisemitism sometimes spread to regions where it had previously been very rare. For the 1920s and most of the 1930s, Italian Fascists tolerated Jews, and sometimes even complained that German Fascism was too antisemitic, but by 1938 the Kingdom of Italy officially adopted antisemitism due to the overwhelming popularity of the German Reich.[69] Antisemitism had been nonexistent in East Asia due to the sheer rarity of Jews there, but as a consequence of the German Reich's popularity in the Empire of Japan during the 1930s, a minority of Imperialists adopted the antisemitism of their European partners, and in the 1940s the Imperialists implemented some antisemitic policies as part of the inter-Axis Indian Ocean cooperation. At the request of the Western Axis, the Imperialists arrested and incarcerated hundreds of Jews throughout Southeast Asia, and Imperial propagandists would sometimes campaign against ‘Jewish world control' during 1943 in an attempt to distract local Muslims. Imperial authorities also forcibly relocated 20,000 Shanghai Jews into a ghetto, though they did ignore several thousand other Jews there, mainly ones of either Middle Eastern or Soviet origin.[81] The majority of the Empire of Japan still found antisemitism incomprehensible, however, and applied actions such as these only sporadically. Fascist antisemitism also contaminated the Arab world, made the anti-Jewish sentiment there much more aggressive, and influenced Arab ultranationalist discourse, even decades after 1945.[68]

Military[edit | edit source]

Nazi Germany maintained one of the largest militaries in human history, with most historians estimating that 17 million Germans (as well as over a million non-Germans) served in the Wehrmacht between the years 1935 and 1945. This number peaked in 1943 with 10 million troops[82]. Contrary to the popularly-held notion that the Soviet Union only survived the Nazi invasion through numbers, Axis forces (consisting of the Romanian, Italian, Hungarian, Finnish, Slovak, and German militaries) invaded the USSR with over 3.8 million personnel—over a million more than the 2.6-2.9 million Soviet personnel on the defence[83].

The leadership of the military, much like that of the Party apparatus, was heavily class-based. 15 of the 26 Generalfeldmarschälle (field marshals) who served under Hitler, or 57%, were provably members of, directly descended from, or married to noble families[Note 1], with all the rest coming from upper middle-class backgrounds. One Generalfeldmarschall, Albert Kesselring, claims in his memoirs that he was descended from a Ritter in the 12th Century named Ouscalus Chezelrinch[84]; although it should be noted that there is over a 700-year time gap between his birth and that of Chezelrinch's, and the lineage appears to be untraceable.

Culture[edit | edit source]

The Fascists coined the locution ‘cultural Bolshevism' to disparage cultural phenomena that they deemed worthy of purging, such as jazz. The Fascist state subjected abstractionist artwork to ridicule and favored genres that were less unrealistic. In 1941, the bourgeois state prohibited Fraktur under the official excuse that it consisted of ‘Jewish characters'.[85] The Fascists also paid special attention to children, marketing to them explicitly anti-Semitic books such as Trust No Fox on his Green Heath and No Jew on his Oath, and also marketed playthings that glorified the military, such as tanks and Fascist figurines, but ceased production of certain ones if they were based on somebody that the bourgeois state just executed. They once marketed an expensive bridge playset, but it sold poorly in part because it wasn't a militarily specific piece.[86]

Religion[edit | edit source]

The Fascists invented a culturally specific variant of Christianity called Positive Christianity, which sought to unify the local Catholic and Protestant churches. It taught that Jesus Christ was an Aryan rather than a Jew, and was himself fighting against the Jews.[87] This variant had little in common with mainstream Christianity, received the condemnation of Christian authorities elsewhere in the world, and was abandoned by the end of the Reich.

Gun control[edit | edit source]

The Weimar Republic passed very stringent gun laws that essentially banned all gun ownership in an attempt to stabilize the country and comply with the Treaty of Versailles, with a law in 1928 undoing some of this by creating a permit system. Most men and many women still owned weapons from during or before the first World War though and this new law was applied quite rarely, mostly when newly-bought weapons became registered. The Fascists used these records to confiscate guns from their enemies, but because they only covered a few of the weapons in circulation, many Jewish people and others managed to stash away weapons into the late 1930s. In 1938 the Fascists adopted the German Weapons Act, which reduced gun restrictions to just handguns, extended permits from one year to three, and lowered the legal age of purchase from 20 years to 18. Many categories of people were further no longer subject to gun ownership restrictions, such as holders of annual hunting permits, government workers, and NSDAP members. On 11 November of that same year though, the Regulations Against Jews' Possession of Weapons was issued, banning all Jews in the Reich from owning any kind of weapon. Jewish homes were already being raided by the Fascists however, and as the Anti-Defamation League explained in 2013, the small amount of Jews could in no way have stopped the power of the Fascist state.

In current gun control discussions a reference to the disarmament of the Fascists' victims is often made as an argument for loose firearm regulations, in spite of the facts of the actual situation, with the 1943 Warsaw Ghetto Uprising also being brought up. As for that case, 7,000 Jews died and 50,000 were sent to concentration camps whereas German losses as estimated to be from under 20 to several hundred — at any rate an overwhelming defeat for the armed civilians, who lacked tremendous amounts of almost every aspect that actually took the Allies to defeat the Third Reich.[88]

Linguistics[edit | edit source]

In May 17th, 1935, Bernhard Rust issued a decree to dissuade institutional education of international auxiliary languages[89] to defend ultranationalism for the given reason that the use of such languages would have lead to "weakening of the essential values of national character”.

The cultivation of artificial world auxiliary languages such as Esperanto has no place in the National Socialist state. Their use leads to a weakening of the essential values of the national heritage. Thus we should avoid all promotion of the teaching of such languages; instructional classrooms should not be made available for this purpose.

— Bernhard Rust, Deutsche Wissenschaft, Erziehung und Volksbildung 1 (1935), 10 (20 May), official part, p. 228., According to Walther, denunciations of GEA by NDEB led to this decree: circular of 23 December 1935.

In June 6 1936, Heinrich Himmler issued a decree to ban all activities relating to international auxiliary languages by organizations in Germany.[90] The prohibition on international auxiliary languages went in effect in July 15.

Esperanto[edit | edit source]

Esperanto was oppressed as a consequence of reactionary ultranationalism; antisemitism due to the Jewish creator of the language, L. L. Zamenhof; and anti-communism as large amount of Esperanto speakers in Germany were socialist or communist.

In 1933, German police forcibly shutdown the German Workers Esperanto Association, Internation of Proletarian Esperantists, and Society of Esperanto Friends (previously named the Socialist Esperanto Association).

In June 6 1936, Heinrich Himmler issued a decree to liquidate internal Esperantist associations, specifically the German Esperanto Association; prohibit activity by international Esperantist organizations; and ban all international auxiliary languages, after July 15.

See also[edit | edit source]

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Notes[edit | edit source]

  1. Officially the Greater German Reich (German: Großdeutsches Reich) from 1943 to 1945.

Language notes[edit | edit source]

  1. German: Deutsches Reich
  2. German: Drittes Reich
  3. German: Nationalsozialistischer Staat; NS-Staat

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