Terror and Persuasion

Terror and Persuasion

Tools of Terror

  • The Gestapo (Geheime Staatspolizei) was Nazi Germany’s secret police, feared by the populace.
  • Concentration camps first set up in 1933 providing forced labour, intimidation and death for enemies of the state.
  • The SS (Schutzstaffel) originally Hitler’s personal bodyguards, developed into a major paramilitary organization directly accountable to Hitler.
  • The SA (Sturmabteilung or ‘Storm Troopers’) were used to intimidate rivals and break up opposition political meetings.

Propaganda and Persuasion

  • Joseph Goebbels was appointed Minister of Propaganda in 1933 and utilised newspapers, radio, film, books, arts and culture to promote Nazi ideology.
  • The Reich Chamber of Culture was established to control all aspects of Germany’s cultural life and ensure it promoted Nazi messages.
  • Introduction of regular mass rallies such as Nuremberg and Hitler’s Birthday enhanced Hitler’s ‘cult of personality’.

Control and Conformity

  • The Nuremberg Laws established in 1935 stripped Jewish citizens of their civil rights, isolating them socially and economically.
  • Policies of Gleichschaltung (‘synchronisation’) brought all sectors of German life under Nazi control.
  • The Hitler Youth and the League of German Girls was made compulsory in 1936, providing indoctrination and promoting loyalty to Hitler and Nazism from a young age.

Impact and Consequences of Nazi Policies

  • Nazi policies resulted in a climate of fear. Opposition to Nazi rule was suppressed and individuals were scared into conforming.
  • Many Germans did not oppose the Nazis due to the perceived economic improvement under Nazi rule. Unemployment dropped while living standards and infrastructure improved.
  • Despite outward unity, there were still groups who resisted Nazi rule, including the Swing Youth, White Rose, and Edelweiss Pirates.
  • Nazi policies had severely detrimental and devastating effects on the Jewish community and other minority groups deemed ‘undesirable’ by the Nazi regime.
  • Nazi policies led to the loss of democratic freedoms and the consolidation of a totalitarian state under Hitler’s rule.

Influence of Nazi Ideology

  • Nazi propaganda contained messages of German racial superiority. This excluded many groups such as Jews, Romani people, disabled individuals, and others deemed racially or biologically inferior.
  • The Aryan race concept was promoted as Nordic peoples’ superiority, which influenced policies ranging from eugenics to foreign policy.
  • The doctrine of Lebensraum (‘living space’) legitimised German aggression and territorial expansion. This policy was later used to justify the invasions of Poland and the Soviet Union.