To what extent did the Nazi leadership rely on terror to maintain their authority in Germany 1933 – 1945?
At its core, the Nazi state was indeed a terror state. It is important to remember that Hitler only won so much support through propaganda. There were still those in Germany who were opposed to Hitler’s ideals, or did not conform to his own qualifications. As such, Hitler turned to Heinrich Himmler, the Chief of the German Police and head of the SS.
Already in a position of power, it was Himmler who opened the first concentration camp at Dachau. Maned with SS troops, by the end of the war in 1945, there were fifteen more such camps scattered across German occupied territory. It was to these camps that Hitler had sent a wide variety of people. Be they common criminals, political opponents, Jews or homosexuals, anyone who stood in the way of what Hitler saw would be his perfect Germany, or challenged his view, found themselves arrested and quickly transported to a concentration camp.
The concentration camps became a crucial component of Hitler’s regime. The conditions inside the camps were appalling, and the prisoners were often treated with incredible cruelty. Some 200,000 people had suffered the concentration camps by 1939. By the end of the war, some three million European Jews had died in the camps. So much so that Himmler created a separate unit of the SS known as the Order of the Death’s Head. A unit that was responsible for the running of the concentration camps, and helped facilitate the murder of millions by the end of the war.
A trip to the concentration camps more often then not was a sentence of death. Despite their attempt to hide the atrocities that went on inside the camps, some rumours did manage to leak out. Enigmatic and foreboding, Germans as well as Jews had grown to fear the camps by the end of the war. While not intentionally designed to strike fear into the population, the camps managed to achieve an infamous reputation for people going in, but never coming out.
The SS, as a whole, including its many sub groups, came to be of great value to Hitler in controlling the population. Despite technically being a police force, the SS were loyal to Hitler alone, and were placed above the law. Quick and harsh to deal out punishment to anyone unfortunate enough to step out of line, they made no attempts to cover up their actions. The more people who saw it the better, for while violence itself was a detriment to unrest, the threat of it was even more potent. As such people were often arrested in broad daylight, out on the streets. All it took was the slightest display of resistance or even hesitation, and SS troops would willingly beat the ‘criminal’ in submission.
Coupled with the SS was the SD and Gestapo. The SD was the intelligent branch of the SS, while the Gestapo was the state secret intelligence. Combined, these two organizations sifted carefully through Germany, weeding out anyone who showed any hint of dissent. They often arrested people with little or no evidence against them bar hearsay, and sentenced them without a trial. Death by firing squad or the gallows usually followed.
So intense was the level of fear in Germany that people were afraid to met in public. For while the Gestapo and SD could not possibly spy on every person in Germany, an intricate network of informants kept them apprised of any given situation. It was these informants that allowed the Gestapo and SD to keep such a close eye on the people. These informants themselves weren’t always as organised. One German citizen was quite capable of ‘exposing’ another.
Even the Nazi party itself was not safe. In the Night of the Long Knives, 21 June 1934, Hitler ordered a purge of the SA leadership, killing anyone who in anyway opposed him. This purge turned into a massacre when the Nazi’s used it as an excuse to themselves or any other opponents.
Describe Albert Speer’s rise through the ranks of the Nazi Party
When Speer began his life in the Nazi Party, his position was less then glamorous. In actuality, as a car owner, his job was to ferry party members back and forth between events. In 1930, Speer was given the task of redecorating the Nazi headquarters. Despite all his work and enthusiasm, his work was met with varying opinions. Speer’s early career in the Nazi Party is plagued with these sorts of events. In 1932 after receiving a cut to his salary due to the governments cost-cutting program, and was forced to retire.
Back in Berlin in 1932, Speer was offered the chance to decorate Joseph Goebbel’s headquarters. This is considered to be a turning point in Speer’s life, as Hitler himself visited and complimented the work. Speer’s career was filled with these tasks. He would receive a call from Berlin, at which point he would race there only to undergo some minor architectural task. His opportunity came in 1933 when he was called to Berlin by a friend of his, Karl Hanke, now a district organisation leader.
Speer happened past Hanke as he was discussing the plans for the May 1st rally to be held at Tempelhof Field when Speer suggested some alterations. Hanke handed the project over to him, challenging him to do better. Speer came up with his ‘cathedral of light’ concept, dozens of search lights pointing upwards, forming a wall around the gathering. Hitler was astounded by the works, and Speer was given the task of seeing to all of the party rallies. Rallies such as Nuremburg in July 1933 helped progress his career further. Later in 1933, under the direction of Paul Troost, Speer was given the task of refurnishing the chancellor’s residence. This brought Speer into close contact with Hitler. Hitler seemed to from a close bond with Speer, whom he considered his superior in architecture, for that was what Hitler say himself as first and foremost. From his point onwards, Speer was in constant contact with Hitler and began to work his way up the ranks from there, until he achieved his highest rank as Minister of Armaments in 1939
Evaluate Albert Speer’s success as Minister of Armaments
Overall, it can be seen as somewhat surprising that Speer experienced the success he did in this post, considering that his expertise lay in architecture, not engineering. By the end of 1944, Speer had succeeded in increasing the arms output by upwards of 300%. His accomplishments were capable primarily through what was referred to as “American methods”. During World War I, and the beginning of World War II, Germany’s armaments industry had been designed to produce weapons for a series of blitzkriegs and was ill suited to meet the demands of long-term warfare. Speer solved this problem by establishing a set of thirteen committees that would each be responsible for the mass production of a standardised weapon, be it tanks, machine guns or ammunition. Each committee was given the needed raw material, a time frame, and left to see to the work. In reference to these committees, Speer also managed to speed up production by removing military bureaucratic red tape from the whole procedure. Finally, as stated, Speer himself possessed little in the way of engineering or manufacturing ‘know-how’, but was talented in finding faults with the existing system. He overcame this by soliciting Hitler to allow him to employ many talented people who were not members of the Nazi Party. This gave Speer a wide selection of qualified people that were able to deal with the situation in a way that he could not.
Why was Speer found guilty at the Nuremberg trial?
Speer was found guilty during the 1945-46 trials for the simple matter that he admitted to them, at least in part. Speer claimed that he should take part responsibility for carrying out the orders passed down to him by Hitler, and that in such an totalitarian style government, even the subordinates must shoulder at least some of the responsibility. Straight forward, polite and never evasive, Speer soon earned the title of ‘The good Nazi’. His ready acceptance of guilt was a demonstration to the court that Speer did feel remorse for his actions during the war, and as such the judges were lenient with him.