Nazi Germany was a period of time where the Nazi Party ruled Germany from 1933 until 1945. Many aspects of life changed for ordinary Germans – including education, what you could buy and what you could do in your spare time.
Most aspects of German culture were controlled by the Ministry of Propaganda, which was lead by Joseph Goebbels. The government tightly controlled what newspapers, radio stations, cinemas and magazines could put out.
Presenting Adolf Hitler
One of the main aims of Nazi propaganda was to make Hitler seem a god-like figure, who should be loved by all German people.
The first major German propaganda film, Triumph of the Will, was released in 1935 and showed Adolf Hitler as a powerful leader with many people shown turning up outside his hotel to see him.
The Volksempfänger, or The People’s Radio, was a mass-produced radio designed and manufactured by the government. The radio set was designed to be affordable for most German citizens so they could have at least one in their home.
These radios were also fitted into public places, such as cafes and pubs, so that everyone could listen to various German radio stations.
A lot of the education that children and young adults received in Nazi Germany was promoting Nazi values. These including hatred towards what the Nazis saw as racially inferior groups, such as black people and those who were Jewish. This also included hating disabled and sick people because they claimed that couldn’t contribute to society and, according to the Nazis, needed to be exterminated.
Before the Nazi Party rose to power, there were hundreds of youth groups in Germany – including many local scout groups and Catholic Church youth groups. One of these groups was the Hitler Youth, the youth branch of the Nazi Party.
The Hitler Youth, as it was later known, was established in 1922 under the newly-formed Nazi Party. The youth group aimed to promote Nazi ideas in young boys. When it was originally established, it only had 1,500 members. Over the next several years, it was shut down by the government and forced to go underground multiple times because of it’s links to violent events.
Boys in the Hitler Youth would be taught Nazi values, do a large amount of physical exercise and go on camping and hiking trips – something many children weren’t able to do before.
One young boy thought that the Hitler Youth was exhausting:
We hardly had any free time. Everything was done in a totally military way, from first parade, raising the flag, morning sport and ablutions [a religious ceremony] through breakfast to the ‘scouting games’, lunch and so on to the evening. Several participants left the camp because the whole slog was too stupid for them.One Hitler Youth member on a camping trip
League of German Girls
The League of German Girls was originally founded in the early 1920s, although it didn’t become the woman’s branch of the Hitler Youth until 1931. The aim of the group was to make young girls become good housewives for their husbands. They did this by, like the Hitler Youth, doing lots of physical exercise so they would give birth to lots of fit and healthy babies. They were also taught Nazi values as well as how to run a household.
In World War 2, the League of German Girls were taught how to fight and defend themselves against enemy soldiers. Young children were even given actual weapons to use!
One League of Girls member described how she felt when she met Adolf Hitler.
My knees began to shake and I had butterflies in my stomach as I watched Hitler slowly make his way towards me. Girls cried and reached out to him and some had brought flowers especially for him.
From that day on, I looked upon Hitler as a personal saviour – like how modern girls look up to their favourite pop stars. Many of us became infatuated after meeting him, and we were in a way in love with him.Helga Bassler on meeting Adolf Hitler as a League of German Girls member
As with the Hitler Youth, in order to join the league, you had to meet all of the following requirements:
- You must be racially and ethnically German.
- You must be a German citizen.
- You must not have any genetic diseases.
The Nazis wanted a strong military so that they could invade countries that they thought were rightfully theirs, such as Austria and the west of Czechslovakia (now the Czech Republic.)
The SS was the “political soldier” part of the Nazi party. It dealt with it’s enemies, such as those that didn’t agree with what the Nazis said. The Ministry of Propaganda wanted Germans to think that the SS were everywhere – that they were always watching what you said. Before the Nazi Party gained power, the SS mainly acted as bodyguards for Hitler and senior Nazi officials. It was led by Heinrich Himmler from 1929 to 1945.
The SA, also known as the brownshirts, were set up in the 1920s and helped Hitler gain power. They did this by protecting Nazi rallies and disrupting rival party meetings. The SA also intimidated people the Nazis didn’t like, such as Jewish people and trade unionists.
Once Hitler had gained power in 1933, the SA leaders wanted more power. They suggested that the SA be merged with the German army. Hitler didn’t like this idea, because the SA were generally thug-like. This was fine when he was trying to gain power, but he feared that now he was the Chancellor, it would reflect badly on him.
In 1934, the Night of the Long Knives took place and the SA’s responsibilities were taken over by the SS after the SA leaders were killed.
Once Hitler had become Chancellor in 1933, he started the process of removing opposition to the Nazi Party and it’s views.
The Night of the Long Knives
The Night of the Long Knives happened in 1934. It was a plot to kill the SA leaders who were causing too much trouble for Hitler.
The Nazi Party wanted everyone to be employed. They wanted Germany to be a modern country – with lots of new infrastructure such as motorways and a larger military.
Strength through Joy
The Strength through Joy program was created by the Nazi government and aimed to give working-class people access to experiences they couldn’t usually afford. These included holidays, concerts, plays, sports and clubs.
This program was a success since by 1939, more than 25 million people had done at least one of these activities funded by the program.
Volkswagen (“The People’s Car”)
The Volkswagen, or the People’s Car, was a government programme that aimed to give all Germans an affordable car. Those who wanted one would pay in small parts each month and would be given stamps until their stamp book was full, where they would then get the car.
Because of the declaration of World War 2, the car factories changed to make Jeeps for the war effort. As a result, no-one who ordered and paid for a Volkswagen actually got one. Despite this, the company Volkswagen gave discounts after the war to those that had paid for the car.