In Memory of Wladyslaw Szpilman
Nazism was a form of government that restricted
personal freedom but permitted private ownership of property. It
called for aggressive nationalism, militarism and expansion of
Germany's spheres of control through military conquest. The Nazis glorified Germany
and its people, claiming that other nationalities were
inferior. It promised to build a harmonious, orderly and prosperous
society for the Germans.
Instead it brought terrorism, war and mass
The Nazi agenda was largely based on the premises of Adolph
Hitler's book Mein Kampf. In his book, Hitler stated his
beliefs and ideas for Germany's future, which included plans to
overthrow regimes of countries he perceived to be dangerous to Germany's
security or had natural resources needed to fulfill its destiny as the
most powerful nation on earth.
Nazism did not gain wide support in Germany until the worldwide
business slump of 1929. Discontented Germans then turned to Nazism in
increasing numbers because it promised economic help, political power
and national glory.
The Nazis' organization, discipline and financial backing from
wealthy industrialists, who feared Communism, soon made them a
force with which to contend. Many upper-class Germans feared loss of power
and property would be a result of the newly formed democratic
government, which they suspected might levy taxes in
order to redistribute wealth. The farmers, middle and
laboring classes were attracted to the promise of social reform,
which they believed was badly needed after the excesses and moral lassitude
of the Roaring Twenties. Powerless people responded to their ideas
of national superiority and strength. The
military supported Hitler's ideas of discipline, order and increased
funding through rearmament.
Hitler began to assemble some of the people who would help him
rise to power. They included:
Joseph Goebbels, the chief Nazi propagandist;
"We do not want a second catastrophe along the lines of (hidden
date XXXX). We depend not on the grace of our enemy, rather on military
"He knows that we are waging this war for a better peace, that
we are fighting for the happiness of people who have so often been
oppressed by their governments."
"No power in the world will make us deny our duty, or forget
even for a moment our historical task of maintaining the freedom of our
Hermann Goering, who became second in command to Hitler;
"Of course the people don't want war. But after all, it's the
leaders of the country who determine the policy, and it's always a
simple matter to drag the people along whether it's a democracy, a
fascist dictatorship, or a parliament,
or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be
brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do
is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for
lack of patriotism, and exposing the country to greater danger."
Heinrich Himmler, the leader of the SS;
"Unconditional and highest freedom of will," Himmler
instructed his SS, "comes from obedience, from service to our world
view, obedience which is prepared to render each and every sacrifice to
pride, to external honor and to all which is dear to us personally,
obedience which never falters but unconditionally follows every order
which comes from the Fuhrer or legally from superiors..."
and Ernst Rohm, the chief of the SA;
"The people want wholesome dread. They want to fear something.
They want someone to frighten them and make them shudderingly
In the July, 1932 election for the Reichstag (parliament) the
Nazis received nearly 38% of the vote, making it the largest political
party in Germany but not the majority party. Leaders of the other
parties offered Hitler Cabinet posts in exchange for Nazi support but he
refused to accept any arrangement that did not make him chancellor
(prime minister) of Germany The majority of the people did not want
Hitler to become chancellor and had serious misgivings about him. But in
June of 1933, President von Hindenburg was persuaded by his friends to
name Hitler chancellor. Hitler, in turn, promised to act lawfully. He
promised to restore the German economy; assure education and work for
all; and lead Germany to greatness.
On February 27, a fire began that destroyed the Reichstag building. Many
historians believe that it was planned by the Nazis. Although a full
investigation was never conducted, the Nazis quickly blamed the
Communists. A pro-Communist Dutch anarchist was found at the site and
admitted that he had set it.
President von Hindenburg then signed an emergency decree that
gave the government unprecedented power. The Nazis moved to
control all police authority in Germany, including the right to arrest
and hold people without formal charging on suspicion of treason, which
served to erode German civil rights.
Hitler promised to rid Germany of Communists and other
"enemies", such as the Jews, on whom he blamed Germany's
troubles. "By defending myself against the Jews, I am doing the
Lord's work", he wrote.
On March 23, 1933, the Nazi-dominated Reichstag passed a law "for
the removal of distress from the people and the state". The law,
known as the Enabling Act, in effect suspended basic civil and human
rights in Germany. Hitler then began to destroy the Constitution through
outwardly legal means.
By mid-July 1933, the Gestapo (secret state police) was hunting down
enemies and opponents of the government. People were jailed or shot on
The Nazis used the press, radio and films to flood Germany with
propaganda praising the 'New Order', Hitler's term for his reordering of
German society and for his plans to reorder the rest of Europe. Germans
citizens were kept in a constant state of fear that their country might
be attacked by its enemies. Complete faith in the judgment of the Nazi
leaders was the measuring stick of devotion to one's country and
national pride was the noblest of virtues.
Initially, the rest of the world and the German intelligensia regarded
Hitler alternately as a bully or a buffoon. However, Hitler had the
common touch. His popularity within Germany grew, despite the flagging
economy, especially after the Reichstag fire. More and more, the German
people trusted in him implicitly to protect Germany and lead it to
The citizens of Germany were encouraged to turn to God and prayer for
comfort and strength during these troubling times.
"... a general moral instruction without a religious foundation
is built on air; consequently, all character training and religion must
be derived from faith. From our point of view as representatives of the
state, we need believing people. A dark cloud threatens from Poland. We
have need of soldiers, believing solders. Believing solders are the most
valuable ones. They give their all."
- Adolf Hitler, The German Churches Under Hitler: Background,
Struggle, and Epilogue by Ernst Helmreich, page 121.
Hitler also felt he had a personal relationship with God and saw God as
his aid in ruling the German Reich:
"Except the Lord built the house they labour in vain....
The truth of that text was proved if one looks at the house of which
the foundations were laid in 1918 and which since then has been in
building.... The world will not help, the people must help itself.
Its own strength is the source of life. That strength the Almighty
has given us to use; that in it and through it we may wage the
battle of our life.... The others in the past years have not had the
blessing of the Almighty -- of Him Who in the last resort, whatever
man may do, holds in His hands the final decision. Lord God, let us
never hesitate or play the coward, let us never forget the duty
which we have taken upon us.... We are all proud that through God's
powerful aid we have become once more true Germans."
-Adolf Hitler, March, 1933
The Nazis used racial profiling to target the Jews. Thousands were sent
to prison camps along with other political suspects. A network of spies
kept watch on the German people and maintained an atmosphere of terror.
Judges and courts continued to function but most of the judges either
had been appointed by Nazis or were subservient to them.
The regime applauded military training and armament. The German military
forces were to be supported without question as the defenders of
Germany's safety and greatness. Those who protested were accused of
a lack of patriotism. In 1933, Germany withdrew from the League of
Nations because the League would not change the arms
limitations imposed upon Germany at the end of World War I.
After 1933, Hitler prepared Germany for war with little or no
opposition from the members of the Reichstag. The Nazis' goal was to
establish Germany as the world's leading power. No nation acted to stop
him so his plans became ever bolder. First he invaded Austria, then in
1939, he invaded the German-speaking areas of Czechoslovakia in
disregard of the protestations of other European countries. After each
success, he planned a new take-over.
On September 1, 1939, Hitler stated that, "The Polish State has
refused the peaceful settlement of relations which I desired, and has
appealed to arms. Germans in Poland are persecuted with bloody terror
and driven from their houses. A series of violations of the frontier,
intolerable to a great Power, prove that Poland is no longer willing to
respect the frontier of the Reich. In order to put an end to this
lunacy, I have no other choice than to meet force with force from now
on. The German Army will fight the battle for the honour and the vital
rights of reborn Germany with hard determination. I expect that every
soldier, mindful of the great traditions of eternal German soldiery,
will ever remain conscious that he is a representative of the
National-Socialist Greater Germany. Long live our people and our
Without provocation, Germany then invaded Poland, a sovereign country
that could not defend itself and was no threat whatsoever to German
national security, overrunning it just a few weeks. Thousands
upon thousands of Polish soldiers were killed in the
defense of their homeland. Millions of Polish civilians also met their
deaths as a result of the German invasion.
"It also gives us a very
special, secret pleasure to see how unaware the people around us are of
what is really happening to them."
-- Adolf Hitler
Manis firstname.lastname@example.org is
the daughter of a WWII veteran, the widow of a Viet Nam veteran and the
mother of a Navy Reservist. She was a plaintiff in the anti-war lawsuit
against President Bush and is a member of Military Families Speak Out.