Resistance to the Nazis 1933-39 www.educationforum.co.uk Resistance – the Context • The Nazis used propaganda, terror and volksgemeinschaft to make sure the German people didn’t resist their rule • There was very little active resistance to the Nazis between 1933-39 • Economic recovery and full employment meant most accepted the new system as better than what came before • There were some small acts of resistance 33-39 but these are very difficult for the historian to assess Problems of evidence • No free elections, no free press so very difficult to gauge public opinion • Reichstag elections continued 34, 36 and 38 but only the Nazis put of candidates and the elections played out in the glare of Nazi propaganda so the 99% support for the Nazis recorded each time is not really proof of anything • Hitler instructed the Gestapo to compile regular reports on the state of public opinion which are more helpful to the historian but even these need to be treated with caution as much of them were based on the testimony of informers who may have told the Gestapo what they thought they wished to hear • The SPD in exile (SOPADE) also compiled its own reports on public opinion – their reports may tend to exaggerate the level of anti Nazi feeling in the public at larger HOWEVER all the available evidence suggests that between 33-39 there was very little active resistance to Nazi rule in Germany Political (SPD) • Within 6 months of taking power Hitler had established a one party police state within which resistance was very difficult SPD (Socialists) were completely unprepared for the new situation. They fought the March 33 election in the context of violence and suppression by the SA and then very bravely voted against the Enabling law, but once the dictatorship had been established the SPD quickly disintegrated. 1,000s were either murdered or imprisoned and most of the remaining leadership fled to Czechoslovakia where under the leadership of Ernst Schumacher they tried to coordinate the production and distribution of propaganda pamphlets A small number of underground socialist cells existed for a while in the industrial areas e.g. The Berlin red Patrol and the Hannover Socialist Front but their activities were severely restricted by the Gestapo, and few people were willing to take the risk of getting involved Political (KPD) • The Communists were brutally repressed by the Nazis from the start. KPD was the first party to be banned and have their leader Thalmann arrested • 10% of all communists had been murdered by the Nazis by the end of 1933 • KPD did manage to set up an underground network in Berlin, Hamburg and Mannheim but all of these had been destroyed by the Gestapo by 1935 • A small number of factory based communist cells remained in industrial areas but given the risks involved in joining and in the context of the ‘Nazi economic miracle’ they failed to attract significant support Trade Unions • Independent unions banned in 1933 and the link between the unions and the SPD broken • Workers organisations absorbed into DAF • DAF encouraged workers that the interests of Aryan workers and Aryan bosses were the same and drip fed them with constant Nazi propaganda • Despite this there were a small number of strikes during the Nazi period. • 1936 – 100 strikes reported by Gestapo • 1937 – 250 strikes reported by the Gestapo Mostly about long hours, low wages and high food prices – dealt with very harshly by Gestapo e.g. 4,000 strikers imprisoned in 1937 Other Forms of Worker Resistance • Absenteeism (not turning up for work) • Working slowly • Sabotage (deliberately breaking machines or halting production) All 3 three appeared in Gestapo reports 1933-39 In 1938 the Gestapo arrested 114 workers in Gleiwitz munitions factory for slow working 1938 sabotage made a criminal offence Church Resistance: Protestants • Reluctant to challenge the Nazis as the Nazis held all the power – also some Christians shared the anti communism and anti Semitism of the Nazis • Some protestant resistance in the setting up of the Confessional church in 1934 in response to the attempt to coordinate Protestantism under the Reich church • Many pastors had their salaries stopped and over 700 were arrested – most noticeably the Confessional Church’s leader Niemoller who became Hitler’s ‘personal prisoner’ at Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp Church Resistance: Catholics • Better placed to resist because they were organised internationally • At first compromised with the Nazis with the Concordat – some catholic resistance occurred as the concordat began to unravel • 1935 Cardinal Galen spoke out against the atheism of leading Nazis • 1938 Pope issued his encyclical ‘With Burning Concern’ which was smuggled into Germany and read from every catholic church and was openly critical of Nazi ideas and Hitler personally – led to sever repression of catholic youth groups and harassment of members of the clergy • Significantly the Catholic Church remained silent on issues such as the Nuremberg laws and Kristalnacht • Tended only to speak out on matters concerning their own independence or theology Resistance by Youth • In 1936 membership of the HJ was made compulsory. Up to this point most youths enjoyed HJ activities enthusiastically but after it marks the beginnings of youth resistance • HJ activities deliberately took huge chunks of teenagers time and from 1936/7 the Gestapo start to report absenteeism from compulsory activities such as gymnastics and military drill • As early as 1937 illegal youth gangs were emerging such as STAUBER, DANZIG and MEUTEN • Youth resistance was to peak in the war years but had clearly begun already by 36/7 Resistance by Elites • Many leading figures in the army and civil service had serious misgivings about Hitler from the start. Hitler was poorly educated and lower class. • Most in the army were placated by the Night of the Long Knives which got rid of most radical Nazis and ‘thugs’. • However in 1938 there was a potentially serious threat to Hitler from the army generals anxious at the speed of rearmament and the ‘rush to war’ • In 1938 General Beck plotted a detailed military coup against Hitler over the decision to invade Czechoslovakia and therefore risk world war with Britain and France. He even sent delegates to Britain to discuss his plans and seek support • However with the decision by Britain and France to ‘allow’ Hitler to take control of Czechoslovakia in the Munich Conference of 1938 the plot disintegrated Conclusion • Resistance 1933-39 was small scale, uncommon, expressed in many different ways, motivated by many different factors, disunited and generally unpolitical. • There was no organised resistance movement 1933-39 as full employment and relentless propaganda created more supporters of the regime than opponents • Resistance and opposition was to intensify from 1939-45 as the war progressed.