Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Why did the Germans support Hitler?

One of the great mysteries of life is why the Germans gave strong support for Hitler.
(For people who want a quick but accurate read of this period try Ian Kershaw, Robert Gellately, Robert Overy for a start.)
 When Hitler became Chancellor he did what he said he was gong to do. He got rid of a lot of people he thought was detrimental to Germany's future. Neither these executions at the start of his 'reign' nor the night of the long knives caused any problems for most Germans indeed his popularity rose after the night of the long knives!
Most historians measure Hitler's popularity by examining Gestapo reports in tandem with Sopade papers.
( here is a useful guide to opposition to the Nazis). One historian Adam Tooze puts the Gestapo as the equal of the Gallup organization in the USA in knowing the national German mood!)

We must first put Germany into context

  • There was a lot of violence in Germany between the wars. Communist and the SA fought each other frequently and deaths were very common. the newspapers of the time put all the blame on the communists hence most Germans blamed them for the deaths
  • Concentration camps were not new when the Nazis introduced them for political prisoners.  They had been used to such effect in both 1919 and during the period of hyper-inflation. On both occasions they were temporary
  • The Nazis only targeted those 'enemies' which were problems for the state. The vast majority of people were not affected. Most of those targeted people  changed their views after being in concentrations camps. This was so successful it  was recommended all the concentration camps (most of which were temporary) be disbanded in 1934.
  • After Hitler was elected therefore people simply wanted piece and quiet after all the violence. Summary executions of detained people was something they were wiling to exchange for this.
  • Both unemployment and crime fell dramatically as Hitler was in power ( the Nazis invented the broken window theory before anyone knew of it!) . This made Hitler rather than the Nazi party very popular. The sopade papers were full of exasperation that most  Germans were willing to overlook terror invoked on some people because of improved economic conditions.
  • This article shows how the Nazis made use of social capital to destroy democracy.
I could go on but you get the picture. One thing I never knew was that the Nazis supported the creation of a Jewish state in Palestine!  Strange but not strange.

However if one reads The-Wages-of-Destruction-The-Making-and-Breaking-of-the-Nazi-Economy then one comes to the conclusion Germany was always going to lose the war and perhaps a better strategy would have been to appease them and then let Germany and the Soviet Union fight a war of attrition where both lost and the Allies could have allowed both nations to then grow as most nations do!!