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To what Extent did Hitler and the Nazis Create a Classless Society?

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    When Hitler became Chancellor of Germany in 1933, Germany had been ravaged by the Great Depression.

    About a third of the population was unemployed. The elite which had dominated German society, the government, the armed forces and landed estates were still in a position of power. The German people were demoralised and lacked faith in their government to change things for the better. In short, almost everyone was susceptible to someone who could promise a better way of life.

    Hitler and the National Socialist party aimed to overcome the rigidity and sterility of the old class structure, which harked back to the Kaiser and the pre-unified Germany. He aimed to create the people’s community, the ‘Volksgemeinschaft’. Although this may have been seen as including all Germans, in fact it was only those of Aryan background who were able to be part of it. Using a skilled propaganda programme masterminded by Josef Goebbels, Hitler was able to persuade the Germans that they were living in a society where everyone was equal.

    In theory everyone was given access to things that had only previously been affordable to the middle and upper classes. Emerging from a depression, ordinary Germans didn’t expect they could ever hope to own such formerly luxury items as a car or a radio. Under the Nationalist Socialists such symbolically cheap items as the Volkswagen, the people’s car and the Volksempfanger, the people’s radio receiver, were developed and were things everyone could aspire to, even if in the event, they never actually got one.On the surface Hitler did not acknowledge Germany’s elite but in reality it dominated the army, business and landed estates.

    Landed estates were not broken up, the elite were still part of the ruling classes.Another of Hitler’s devices to inspire national pride was the campaign to regain German lands which had been previously lost as a result of the Treaty of Versailles. These included the Sudetenland, the Saar, reuniting with Austria, Germany’s traditional ally and reoccupying the Polish Corridor and the strategic port of Danzig. This policy required Germany to rearm and in turn created jobs for the people urgently in need of work doing everything from making guns, tanks and aeroplanes to building autobahns.

    This was in conflict with the policy of Nazis’ policy of Blut und Boden, (blood and soil), which glorified the peasantry and promised a revival of that way of life. The hereditary land law determined that only people of Aryan race qualified under the law and so others were being excluded. The Reich Entailed Farm Law of 1933 was intended to protect small farms, which made up more than a third of all German farms. The law said they could only be passed onto one person and couldn’t be sold or mortgaged.

    In principle, this made sense and made farmers appear protected but reality was that it was unsuccessful.Kraft durch Freude (strength through joy) was a policy which set out to create unity and equality among those who qualified. The idea behind was that people could qualify for amazing holidays at very cheap prices. For example they could go on cruises and to films, exhibitions and concerts.

    There were morale building activities such as sports which helped build a feeling of national pride and a gratitude towards the state which provided it and there is no question that many Germans welcomed the “feel good factor” of national pride. Everyone likes to be part of apparent prosperity success, particularly when the past has been so disappointing.Other values were imposed such as Kinder, Kuche und Kirche (children, kitchen and church) which encouraged young German women to see their role as the Hausfrau which revolved around the home and was a breeding ground of the pure German race. At the same time policies were being developed to eliminate what were seen as non-German people, a policy of eugenics.

    Abortion was abolished and large families were encouraged through financial incentives, tax benefits, maternity benefits and transport concessions.The State became increasingly strong and sought to impose its will on the people by force. For example, a ‘voluntary’ amount was deducted from everyone’s wages towards a welfare scheme ‘Winterhilfe’ which supported people during the hardship of winter. Voluntary giving was in fact compulsory.

    Throughout an effective propaganda programme was presenting that everyone was involved and everyone was benefiting and work was created for the unemployed The plans had already been created in the Weimar Republic. The reality was different. The benefits looked good on the surface, for example people building autobahns had jobs but they were paid very low wages, had awful working conditions and were prevented from leaving their jobs by the threat of having their jobs taken away.A major aspect of the state’s control was its use of terror.

    For example in factories terror was used to keep production high. Terror also played a part in ensuring that everyone conformed to state policy.Did Hitler succeed in creating a classless society? There is no doubt that his policies set out to make people feel they were more equal, although in reality the elite continued in part to be powerful. The propaganda preached that people were in an equal position to achieve equal goals.

    It would appear that people felt more of a part of a ‘national community’ but the reality was that the basic class structure remained relatively unchanged. Under the Nazis there were successes in the fields of foreign policy, increased economic prosperity and political stability and the Nazis manipulated these through propaganda and terror to create a society that either actively supported the regime, or was too afraid to openly resist it. Although the Weimar Republic had been insecure and unstable, many Germans welcomed the strong leadership, the feeling of national unity and the feeling of normality that replaced it and for many this justified the violence and injustice of the Nazi regime.In conclusion it appeared on the surface that Hitler did create a classless society but in reality this was not the case.

    Although the population was bonded in a common unity of national pride and common purpose, everything of significance was united under Hitler’s control apparently for the greater good but class boundaries still existed and racial boundaries were reinforced. It was a society that made people conform strongly and to expose anyone who didn’t.

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