Weimar and Nazi Germany
THE ORGANISATION OF THE NAZI PARTY AND THE IMPORTANCE OF HITLER
1. Hitler’s Role
a. Note the sources p.112 for an idea of Hitler’s skills as orator.
b. Note his charismatic leadership –
belief in his own importance in Germany’s future
speeches – timing
identification with the people in their emotions and expectation
his importance in holding the Party together
c. He virtually re-founded the Party in 1925, based upon the Führerprinzip. Cohesion and discipline was important in preventing the break up of the Party 1932-1933.
d. He personally designed the flag.
e. He recognised the importance of propaganda and was prepared to use every modern means available to spread the message during election campaigns.
2. Party Organisation
a. The country was divided into Gaus (areas), each headed by a Gauleiter, appointed by Hitler and subordinate to him but with considerable local freedom.
b. Associated organisations were set up for women, young people, students, lawyers, factory workers. Especially important was the “Nazi Welfare Organisation” which ran soup kitchens for people in distress.
c. Central propaganda machine under Goebbels.
d. Stress on local contacts. Nazis targeted key individuals in local communities, hoping they would influence others. (Note the example of Northeim)
e. Growing membership allowed for door-to-door campaigning and leafleting. Distribution of posters was widespread.
f. Considerable effort was made to train speakers. Over 6,000 had been trained by 1933. Speakers were licensed by the Party to ensure quality and were provided with booklets on policies and techniques. (Note the sources on p.115 SHP)
g. Use of a variety of strategies and modern technology:
mass rallies; marches in uniform; music; lighting; disciplined enthusiasm; loudspeakers; film; slides; plans. Once in power they had access to radio and films. Their newspaper was the “Völkischer Beobachter”.
h. They had a powerful message:
- an end to economic ills
- Germany first
- strong leadership
- smash Communism and Jewish interests
- end Versailles
- secure lebensraum
i. An alliance with Alfred Hugenberg (DNVP) over opposition to the 1929 Young Plan, gave Hitler access to Hugenberg’s vast media empire and to funds, enabling the Party to compete more effectively in elections. Through this, Hitler won apparent respectability, campaigning side by side with an established political party on a popular issue.
j. Most Party funds came from ordinary members and charges made for attending meetings. Some industrialists provided money, notably Thyssen, but this was not a major factor in success. Efficient cash collections made the Nazis better off than less well organised parties of the right.
k. The Nazis organised special sections to appeal to particular interest groups – students, lawyers, doctors, teachers, self-employed craftsmen and small businessmen. They also made a concerted effort to win farming votes. Walther Darré drew up an agrarian programme in 1930. The Nazis told the farmers what they wanted to hear: that their way of life was morally superior to urban life and should be preserved. The Nazi Party was therefore quick to take advantage of local grievances and to respond to national and regional issues.
3. The Role of the SA
Formed as the Sportabteilung 1920 (sports department) intended primarily to protect Nazi speakers, it was re-named Sturm-Abteilung 1921. By 1933, membership was 500,000. Brown shirts came from cheap, surplus German army tropical shirts, which were used after 1924.
- Röhm led them
“Since I am an immature and wicked man, war and unrest appeal to me more than good bourgeois order.”
· over half came from the working class
· many were ruffians and bullies
· distributed pamphlets
· protected meetings
· used violence against Communists
· Brüning banned them in 1932. (They paraded instead without shirts)
· Papen allowed them back in an attempt to win Nazis support in June 1932
· many died as a result in street battles, nearly 100 in July1932 alone
· the SA focused attention on Hitler’s determination to ban Communism: it appeared that he at least was doing something about it
· the SA created the impression of discipline and firm government
· fear of the SA persuaded some in power to bring Hitler into government, so that he would control the SA
Nazi success at the polls lay in combination of charismatic leadership; detailed Party organisation at a local level; impressive displays of unity and discipline; their powerful message of future national unity and pride, and terror tactics employed to intimidate the opposition and to coerce support. The example of Northeim gives a good indication of how these different factors could be employed. It must be remembered, however, that only 37% of Germans ever voted for Hitler. Many remained unpersuaded. Hitler’s appeal was not universal nor was it inevitable that the tide of public support would bring him to power, as he later claimed.