Germany History – The Hitler Regime Until the Outbreak of the Second World War Part I

Through the so-called conquest of power (January 30, 1933) and the law for full powers of March 23, 1933, Hitler’s dictatorship was indeed founded, but it still needed some time to eliminate the remnants of democracy and to liquidate the allies of yesteryear, the German-nationals and the “steel helmets” and to occupy all the key positions of the state. With the bloody repression of the so-called Röhm revolt on 30 June 1934 and the death of the Reich President, Hindenburg (2 August 1934), this phase was essentially closed. Since then, there was no longer a constitutional barrier, and even the last factor of power, the Reichswehr, was now in the hands of Hitler. The years 1935-38 were dedicated to the development, internally, of the political positions reached, and to rearmament.

The ramifications of the National Socialist party grabbed and escorted every German from cradle to grave: the “Hitlerjugend”, the “Bund deutscher Mädchen”, the “Arbeitsfront”, the “Frauenschaft”, the “SA” (Sturmabteilung); the party itself with its Gau, its constituencies and its local groups, was a state within the state and controlled with its extreme offshoots, the “Blockwarte”, every single family: “Volkswohlfahrt” and “Kraft durch Freude”, promoted the social welfare and were concerned with the entertainment of the masses. To which it remained unknown that the decline in unemployment and the apparent economic prosperity were a consequence of rearmament, therefore a bill that one day would have to be paid.

The ideological basis of the regime was the theory of race, which was expressed not only internally (anti-Semitism; “Führer” principle), but also with regard to abroad (superiority of the Germanic race). The principle: “the party commands the state” justified the uncontrolled domination of a group of fanatics, adventurers and criminals.

With the escort of this false and primitive theory, the party doctrine justified the dictatorship of Hitler, “Führer and Reichskanzler”. When men like R. Vansittart say of him that he “precisely represented German caracter”, they make the National Socialist doctrine exactly their own. But no less fatal than this equation of Hitlerism and Germanism was the error, widespread abroad, that Hitler was only an instrument of others, or heavy industry, or the army or the monarchists, who had helped him to achieve the power; he, and he alone, commanded unlimitedly. Although self-taught and a man only half-educated, he knew how to deceive even men of the trade with his shrewd way of behaving. The affected simplicity of manners hid real, heavy expenses; the fund at his disposal was 150 million marks per year. The myth of Hitler, reiterated in the heads of his people, through the press, radio and cinema, is one of the two keys to understanding the German catastrophe.

The other key is terror. In the early years (1933-34), when the not yet consolidated regime was fighting for recognition in the international arena, a resolute and unanimous attitude of the ruling classes against the suffocation of the rule of law, the persecution of Jews, concentration camps and persecution of the church might perhaps have opened the eyes of the masses to the true character of the system; that such an attitude did not exist remains a grave accusation against the spiritually higher classes of the German nation. Later, taking an attitude of opposition was tantamount to self-annihilation. Not only was the freedom of the press dead, but also the freedom of expression of scientific opinion. A Benedetto Croce, in Germany, could no longer have published a line; men of science such as the historian F. Meinecke, the Romanist K. Vossler, the physicist M. Planck were condemned to passivity. The Gestapo (secret state police), subjected to the Reichsführer of the SS (Schutzstaffeln) Himmler since the end of 1934, persecuted without regard for any hint of opposition. Concentration camps offered a way, neglecting the legal ways, to make unwanted people disappear for as long as you wanted or forever. Under the pressure of so much terror, the young German generation cooperated with the Nazis. The elderly generation, that is, the one that remained in offices and professions, while making a mild and silent opposition, waited at first for the economic collapse of the system, then for foreign intervention. Both expectations remained illusory.

According to animalerts, the overcoming of the world economic crisis favored the duration of Hitler’s regime: the economic boycott measures, with which a part of the foreign country responded to the persecution against the Jews, obtained only limited results. In foreign policy Hitler achieved success after success: on January 26, 1934, Poland entered into a ten-year pact of non-aggression with which it obtained the guarantee of its western border; the unilateral abolition of the clauses of the Versailles peace treaty limiting the sovereignty of the Reich, for the revision of which the German democratic governments had fought in vain until 1932, was accepted, protesting, by the Western powers, but without serious protest reaction. England, France and Italy raised, in the declarations of Stresa (April 1935), a protest against the unilateral denunciation of the treaties, but no unity was reached either in Stresa or in the League of Nations on the effective means of guaranteeing collective security. Immediately after Hitler’s speech to the Reichstag of 21 May 1935, in which he proclaimed his peaceful intentions and offered the conclusion of bilateral pacts, England concluded the naval agreement of 18 June 1935, which granted Germany equal naval strength. 35% of the British naval forces. The reoccupation of the demilitarized Rhineland, on 7 March 1936, was branded by the Council of the League of Nations as a violation of the Locarno pact, but did not cause any sanctions. Belgium wished to distance itself, with the declaration of neutrality of 14 October 1936, from the conversations of the French and British staffs. The Franco-Russian alliance concluded by L. Barthou and the entry of Russia into the League of Nations, which Hitler had left, remained ineffective. On the contrary, the Anti-Comintern Pact signed with Japan on November 26, 1936 gave rise to the impression that Germany had now become a sought-after ally. The successes of Italy in Ethiopia and of Franco in Spain were attributed to the superiority of the authoritarian systems and raised the prestige of these also in Germany.

The Hitler Regime Until the Outbreak of the Second World War 1