Revision Notes for Class 9 History Chapter 3 Nazism and the Rise of Hitler

Nazism is also known as National Socialism, a political ideology propagated by Nazi party in Germany. It was started by Adolf Hitler in 1920s and lasted till the end of the World War II in 1945.

Birth of the Weimar Republic

  • Germany fought the First World War (1914-1918) alongside Austria and against the Allies (England, France, and Russia).
  • Germany made initial gains by occupying France and Belgium. However, the Allies, strengthened by the US entry in 1917, defeated Imperial Germany.
  • This defeat led to the abdication of the emperor from throne and presented an opportunity before parliamentary parties to recast German polity.
  • A National Assembly was convened at Weimar which established a democratic constitution with a federal structure.
  • Deputies were now elected to the German Parliament or Reichstag, based on equal and universal votes cast by all adults including women.
  • However, people did not receive well the birth of new republic due to imposition of Treaty of Versailles upon Germany by allies. As many Germans believed that new Weimar Republic was responsible for not only the defeat in the war but the disgrace at Versailles.

The Treaty of Versailles
● It is a peace agreement signed between Germany and the victorious Allied Powers in 1919 at the Palace of Versailles in Paris.
● The treaty ended the state of war that had existed between Germany and the Allies from 1914 and brought World War I to an end.

Impact of Treaty of Versailles in Germany

  • Germany lost its overseas colonies, a tenth of its population, 13 per cent of its territories, 75 per cent of its iron and 26 per cent of its coal to France, Poland, Denmark, and Lithuania.
  • Germany was demilitarised to weaken its power by the allied powers.
  • The War Guilt Clause held Germany responsible for the war and damages which the Allied countries suffered.
  • Germany was forced to pay compensation amounting to £6 billion.

The Effects of the War

  • The war had a devastating impact on the entire continent both psychologically and financially.
  • From a continent of creditors, Europe turned into one of debtors and unfortunately, the infant Weimar Republic was being made to pay for the sins of the old empire.
  • The republic carried the burden of war guilt and national humiliation. It was financially crippled by being forced to pay compensation.
  • Those who supported the Weimar Republic, mainly Socialists, Catholics, and Democrats, became easy targets of attack in the conservative nationalist circles. They were mockingly called the ‘November criminals’.
  • In public life, soldiers came to be placed above civilians. Politicians and publicists laid great stress on the need for men to be aggressive, strong, and masculine.
  • Aggressive war propaganda and national honour occupied centre stage in the public sphere, while popular support grew for conservative dictatorships.

Political Radicalism and Economic Crises

  • There was a revolutionary uprising of the Spartacist League in Germany on the pattern of the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia.
  • It opposed the Weimar republic and demanded Soviet-style governance.
  • The Weimar Republic crushed the uprising with the help of a war veterans organisation called Free Corps. The anguished Spartacists later founded the Communist Party of Germany.
  • Political radicalisation was only heightened by the economic crisis of 1923. Germany had fought the war largely on loans and had to pay war reparations in gold. This depleted gold reserves at a time resources were scarce.
  • In 1923 Germany refused to pay, and the French occupied its leading industrial area, Ruhr, to claim their coal.
  • Germany retaliated with passive resistance and printed paper currency recklessly. With too much printed money in circulation, the value of the German mark fell.
  • As the value of the mark collapsed, prices of goods soared. This crisis came to be known as hyperinflation, a situation when prices rise phenomenally high.
  • Eventually, the Americans intervened and bailed Germany out of the crisis by introducing the Dawes Plan, which reworked the terms of reparation to ease the financial burden on Germans.

The Years of Depression

  • German investments and industrial recovery were totally dependent on short-term loans, largely from the USA. This support was withdrawn when the Wall Street Exchange crashed in 1929. Fearing a fall in prices, people made frantic efforts to sell their shares.
  • This was the start of the Great Economic Depression. Over the next three years, between 1929 and 1932, the national income of the USA fell by half.
  • Factories shut down, exports fell, farmers were badly hit, and speculators withdrew their money from the market. The effects of this recession in the US economy were felt worldwide.

Impact of Great Depression on Germany

  • The German economy was the worst hit by the economic crisis.
  • By 1932, industrial production was reduced to 40 per cent of the 1929 level. Workers lost their jobs or were paid reduced wages. The number of unemployed touched an unprecedented 6 million.
  • As jobs disappeared, the unemployed youth took to criminal activities and total despair became commonplace.
  • The middle classes, especially salaried employees and pensioners saw their savings diminish when the currency lost its value.
  • Big as well as small businesses, the self-employed and retailers suffered as their businesses got ruined. Moreover, the large mass of peasantry was affected by a sharp fall in agricultural prices.

Political Situation in Germany during Great Depression

  • In years of Great Depression, the Weimar Republic was becoming politically fragile.
  • Due to proportional representation, it became near impossible task to achieve majority in parliament which led to a rule by coalitions. Within its short life, the Weimar Republic saw twenty different cabinets lasting on an average 239 days.
  • Liberal use of Article 48: The President under Article 48 had the powers to impose emergency, suspend civil rights and rule by decree.
  • People lost confidence in the democratic parliamentary system, which seemed to offer no solution.

Hitler’s Rise to Power

  • Hitler was born in 1889 in Austria. During the first world war he enrolled in the army and acted as messenger in the front. He became a corporal and earned medals for his bravery.
  • Hitler rise came in the backdrop of crisis created by signing of humiliating Treaty of Versailles after end of first world war.
  • In 1919, he joined a small group called the ‘German Workers Party’ and subsequently took over the organisation and renamed it the National Socialist German Workers’ Party. This party came to be known as the Nazi Party.
  • The Nazis could not effectively mobilize popular support till the early 1930s. It was during the great depression; Nazism became a mass movement.
  • In 1928, the Nazi Party got very less percentage of votes in the Reichstag – the German parliament and by 1932, it had become the largest party.
  • He promised to build a strong nation, undo the injustice of the Versailles Treaty, and restore the dignity of the German people.
  • Hitler devised a new style of politics. He understood the significance of rituals and spectacle in mass mobilisation. Nazis held massive rallies and public meetings to demonstrate the support for Hitler and instil a sense of unity among the people.
  • Nazi propaganda skilfully projected Hitler as a messiah, a saviour, as someone who had arrived to deliver people from their distress.

The Destruction of Democracy

  • Hitler, after having acquired Chancellorship in the Cabinet (German Parliament), set out to dismantle the structures of democratic rule.
  • A mysterious fire that broke out in the German Parliament building which facilitated his move. By using the Fire Decree of 28 February 1933, he indefinitely suspended civic rights like freedom of speech, press and assembly that had been guaranteed by the Weimar constitution.
  • Hitler in his pursuit to finish dissent prosecuted his archrivals- communists into concentration camps.
    • Concentration camp: A camp where people were isolated and detained without due process of law.
  • In March 1933, the Enabling Act was passed which established dictatorship in Germany. This act gave Hitler all powers to sideline the parliament and establish rule by decree.
  • All political parties were banned except for the Nazi Party and its affiliates. The state established complete control over the economy, media, army, and judiciary.
  • Special surveillance and security forces such as Gestapo (secret state police), the SS (the protection squads), criminal police and the Security Service (SD) were given unbridled powers.
  • People could now be detained, rounded up and sent to concentration camps, deported at will or arrested without any legal procedures.
  • This led to the destruction of democracy.

Reconstruction of Economy

  • Hitler assigned the responsibility of economic recovery to the economist Hjalmar Schacht who aimed at full production and full employment through a state-funded work-creation programme.
  • Hitler pulled out of League of Nations in 1933, reoccupied the Rhineland in 1936, and integrated Austria and Germany in 1938 under the slogan, One people, One empire, and One leader.

Expansion of Nazi Power in Europe

  • In September 1939, Germany invaded Poland. This started a war with France and England.
  • In 1940, a Tripartite Pact was signed between Germany, Italy, and Japan.
  • Puppet regimes, supportive of Nazi Germany, were installed in a large part of Europe. By the end of 1940, Hitler was at the pinnacle of his power.
  • Hitler attacked the Soviet Union in June 1941 in pursuit of achieving his long-term aim of conquering Europe. In this historic blunder Hitler exposed the German western front to British aerial bombing and the eastern front to the powerful Soviet armies.
  • The Soviet Red Army inflicted a crushing and humiliating defeat on Germany at Stalingrad.

The Nazi Worldview

  • Basically, Nazi’s ideology reflects the world view of Hitler. According to this there was no equality between people, but only a racial hierarchy.
  • It perceived Nordic German Aryans at the top, while Jews were located at the lowest rung in society.
    Jews were considered to be the archenemies of the Aryans.
  • Darwin’s idea of survival of fittest was distorted by Nazi followers to justify imperial rule over conquered peoples.
    • Nazism advocated the strongest race would survive, and the weak ones would perish. The Aryan race was the finest. It had to retain its purity, become stronger and dominate the world.

Nordic German Aryans: A Branch of Aryans which lived in north European countries and had German or related origin.

Concept of Lebensraum or living space

  • This concept is related to geopolitical world view of Hitler.
  • According to this view the new territories had to be acquired for settlement which would enhance the area of the mother country, while enabling the settlers on new lands to retain an intimate link with the place of their origin.
  • It would also enhance the material resources and power of the German nation.
  • Using this concept, Hitler wanted to extend German boundaries so that all Germans geographically gets settled in one place.
  • Poland became the laboratory for this experimentation.

Establishment of the Racial State

  • After acquiring power, Nazis pursued their agenda to establish a society of ‘pure and healthy Nordic Aryans’.
  • Nordic Aryans were considered to be ‘desirable’. This meant that even those Germans who were impure or abnormal had no right to exist.
  • Jews, Gypsies, Blacks living in Germany were considered as racial ‘inferiors’ who threatened the biological purity of the ‘superior Aryan’ race. They were widely persecuted.
  • Condition of Jews:
    • Jews remained the worst sufferers in Nazi Germany. Nazi hatred of Jews had a precursor in the traditional Christian hostility towards Jews. They had been stereotyped as killers of Christ and usurers.
    • They lived in separately marked areas called ghettos. They were often persecuted through periodic organised violence, and expulsion from the land.
    • From 1933 to 1938 the Nazis terrorised, pauperised, and segregated the Jews, compelling them to leave the country. The next phase, 1939-1945, aimed at concentrating them in certain areas and eventually killing them in gas chambers in Poland.

The Racial Utopia

  • Under the shadow of war, the Nazis proceeded to realise their murderous, racial ideal. Genocide and war became two sides of the same coin. Occupied Poland was divided up.
  • Poles were forced to leave their homes and properties behind to be occupied by ethnic Germans brought in from occupied Europe.
  • Members of the Polish intelligentsia were murdered in large numbers to keep the entire people intellectually and spiritually servile. Polish children who looked like Aryans were forcibly snatched from their mothers and examined by ‘race experts’ if they were fit enough to be raised in German families.

Nazis executed Jews with these three Steps:
Exclusion (1933-1939): The Following steps were taken to exclude Jews from mainstream society.
→ Implementation of The Nuremberg Laws of citizenship of September 1935.
→ Jewish businesses were boycotted.
→ Jews were expelled from government services.
→Ø Their properties were either confiscated or compelled to sell forcibly.
Ghettoisation (1940 – 1944):
→ From September 1941, all Jews had to wear a yellow Star of David on their breasts. This identity mark was stamped on their passport, all legal documents, and houses.
→ They were kept in Jewish houses in Germany, and in ghettos like Lodz and Warsaw in the east. These became sites of extreme misery and poverty. Jews had to surrender all their wealth before they entered a ghetto.
→ The ghettos became example of hunger, starvation, and disease due to deprivation and poor hygiene.
Annihilation 1941 onwards:
→ In this phase, Jews from Jewish houses, concentration camps and ghettos from different parts of Europe were brought to death factories by goods trains.
→ Mass killings took place within minutes with scientific precision.

Youth in Nazi Germany

  • Hitler felt that a strong Nazi society could be established only by teaching children Nazi ideology. This required a control over the child both inside and outside school.
  • All schools were ‘cleansed’ and ‘purified’. This meant that teachers who were Jews or seen as ‘politically unreliable’ were dismissed.
  • Segregation of Children into Germans and Jews was done. They could not sit together or play together.
  • Subsequently, ‘undesirable children’ – Jews, the physically handicapped, Gypsies – were thrown out of schools.
  • Good German’ children were subjected to a process of Nazi schooling, a prolonged period of ideological training. School textbooks were rewritten. Racial science was introduced to justify Nazi ideas of race.
  • Children were taught to be loyal and submissive, hate Jews, and worship Hitler.
  • Youth organisations were made responsible for educating German youth in the ‘the spirit of National Socialism’. Ten-year-olds had to enter Jungvolk.
  • It was made mandatory for all boys to join the Nazi youth organisation “Hitler Youth”, where they learnt to worship war, glorify aggression and violence, condemn democracy, and hate Jews, communists.

Jungvolk: Nazi youth groups for children below 14 years of age.

The Nazi Cult of Motherhood

  • Nazi ideology glorified woman as mothers, it propagated the view that women were radically different from men.
  • In Nazi Germany, Women who bore racially undesirable children were punished and those who produced racially desirable children were awarded.
    • For example: They were given favoured treatment in hospitals and were also entitled to concessions in shops and on theatre tickets and railway fares.
  • To encourage women to produce many children, Honour Crosses were awarded. A bronze cross was given for four children, silver for six and gold for eight or more.
  • · All ‘Aryan’ women who deviated from the prescribed code of conduct were publicly condemned, and severely punished. Those who maintained contact with Jews, Poles and Russians were paraded through the town with shaved heads.

The Art of Propaganda

  • To disseminate and win support to the Nazi ideology, the Nazi regime used media with great effect.
  • Nazi ideas were spread through visual images, films, radio, posters, catchy slogans, and leaflets. In posters, groups identified as the ‘enemies’ of Germans were stereotyped, mocked, abused and described as evil.
  • Socialists and liberals were labelled as malicious foreign agents.
  • Creating Stereotype for Jews:
    • To spread hatred against Jews movies were made. For Example, the Eternal Jew.
    • Jews were shown with flowing beards wearing kaftans, whereas in reality it was difficult to distinguish German Jews by their outward appearance because they were a highly assimilated community.
    • They were referred to as vermin, rats, and pests.

Ordinary People and the Crimes Against Humanity

  • Ordinary People were indoctrinated through Nazi propaganda, they thought that Nazism would bring prosperity to Germans. They felt that hatred towards Jews, but not every German was Nazi.
  • Many organised active resistance to Nazism, braving police repression and death. Most Germans, however, were passive onlookers and apathetic witnesses.
  • Charlotte Beradt wrote an account of Jews condition in book ‘In the Third Reich of Dreams’.
    • She describes the agony which Jews faced due to stereotyping done by Nazi Press in her book.

Knowledge about the Holocaust

  • The world remained in oblivion about the atrocities committed on Jews till the end of world war. Nazi killed Jews at large scale often known as – Holocaust.
  • Nazi leadership left no stone unturned to ensure that all incriminating evidence never catch the attention of world community. They distributed Petrol to their functionaries to burn the documents, diary accounts recovered from inhabitants of camps.

Yet the history and the memory of the Holocaust live on in memoirs, fiction, documentaries, poetry, memorials, and museums in many parts of the world today. These are a tribute to those who resisted it, an embarrassing reminder to those who collaborated, and a warning to those who watched in silence.

Some Important Dates

  • August 1, 1914: First World War begins.
  • November 9, 1918: Germany capitulates, ending the war.
  • November 9, 1918: Proclamation of the Weimar Republic.
  • June 28, 1919: Treaty of Versailles.
  • January 30, 1933: Hitler becomes Chancellor of Germany.
  • September 1, 1939: Germany invades Poland. Beginning of the Second World War.
  • June 22, 1941: Germany invades the USSR.
  • June 23,1941: Mass murder of the Jews begins.
  • December 8, 1941: The United States joins Second World War.
  • January 27, 1945: Soviet troops liberate Auschwitz.
  • May 8, 1945: Allied victory in Europe.

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