Political, Economic, Social & Religious Policies

Domestic Policies and Impact

(Weimar & Nazi Germany book)
  • Emergency decrees (28 february) – suspended constitutional civil rights, secret police given power to hold people indefinitely
  • Law for terminating the suffering of the popel and the nation (24 march) – emergency powers given to government for 4 years, cabinet could pass decrees without president
  • Law for restoration of professional civil service (7 april) – political opponents, jews removed from administration, courts, schools and universities
  • Employment law (june) – public works schemes started
  • Law against the formation of new parties (14 july) – other parties not allowed
  • Concordat agreement between state and Vatican (20 july) – church banned from political activity
  • Reichstag dissolved (14 october)
  • Law for the reconstruction of the state (30 january) – state assemblies dissolved, governors appointed to run states

Perhaps Hitler's most important social policy could be argued to be 'Lebensraum' (literally: living space). By the start of 1935, Hitler had rearranged German life to conform with his Weltanschaung (world view) through the pursuit of Lebensraum and of course a race to find a solution to 'the Jewish question', which is addressed under a separate heading 'religious policies' below.
His quest for living space began when the citizens of Saarland voted to return to Germany (self-determination) by a plebiscite. Hitler cunningly used its return for propaganda purposes by announcing his hope for peace between Germany and France, when actually what we wanted was to buy time until he could build up his military. He believed that land could be acquired for Germany only through force.
This theme of aggression goes back to the ideals he lived by, namely Social Darwinism. He himself said: 'Politics is nothing more than the struggle of a people for its existence.' 'It is an iron principle, the weaker one falls so that the strong one gains life'. Three values determined a people's fate: 'blood-' or 'race-value', the 'value of personality', and the 'spirit of struggle' or 'self-preservation drive'. These values, embodied in the 'aryan race', were threatened by the three 'vices'- democracy, pacifism, and internationalism- that comprised the work of 'Jewish Marxism'. These two arguments were used by him to counter opposite viewpoints, such as proposed by the Western countries and the Jewish population. The impact of Social Darwinism was very visible in that it formed his foreign policy and could be argued to be one of the long-term causes of WWII.
An important part of Hitler's domestic policies addressed the role of women. Hitler supported the very traditional view of a family, with the woman staying at home and taking care of the children. In 1920, the NSDAP published a list of 25 points stating that it disapproved of women working. Hitler claimed that the emancipation of women was an idea created by Jewish intellectuals. He believed that for a German woman her "world is her husband, her family, her children and her home". Another one of Hitler's goals was to build as big of a pure Aryan race as possible and to achieve this his policies encouraged women to have as many children as possible. This policy took its most radical form in 1936 with the state-directed program known as 'Lebensborn' (Tree of Life), which prescribed that every SS member should father at least four children. However, it was never promoted aggressively and the state focused instead on marriage and family by encouraging matrimony through marriage loans, dispensed family income and increasing punishments for abortion, amongst other things. Girls were taught to comply with these measures through compulsory membership in the Nazi League of German Girls.


The photograph above is a cover of the Nazi publication on race 'New People' and portrays motherhood in an idealistic setting (April, 1936).

On the other hand, Hitler showed a lot of pragmatism when the war effort came around and he was forced to give orders for more radical measures to raise manpower for the front and the armaments industries. Whereas in 1942 he had rejected outright the conscription of women to work in the war industries, by early 1943 the labor situation had worsened to the extent that he was compelled to concede that the conscription of women could no longer be avoided. In an unpublished Fuhrer Decree of 13 January 1943, women between seventeen and fifty years old were ordered for deployment in the war effort.

Sources and useful links:
Kershaw, Ian. Hitler: A Biography. 3rd ed. 1998. New York: W.W. Norton &
Company, 2008. Print.

This is an extract of a speech that Hitler gave in Nuremberg in 1933 and illustrated his political views quite adequately:

In that we deny the principle of parliamentary democracy we strike the strongest blow for the right of the nation to the self-determination of its own life. For in the parliamentary system we see no genuine expression of the nation's will--a will which cannot logically be anything else than a will to the maintenance of the nation--but we do see a distortion, if not a perversion, of that will. The will of a nation to the self-determination of its being manifests itself most clearly and is of most use when its most capable minds are brought forth. They form the representative leaders of a nation, they alone can be the pride of a nation--certainly never the parliamentary politician who is the product of the ballot box and thinks only in terms of votes. The constructive development of the future leadership of the nation through its most able men will take years; the intelligent education of the German people will take decades.

Here, one can see that Hitler counters democracy and the parliamentary system because of the lack of education that he feels that the German people have. This feeling was certainly one of the many motives behind the fact that he seized power and declared himself Fuhrer.

His political views were synthesized in National Socialism (Nazism). It was a worldview as much as a political system that advocates totalitarian control over all aspects of the state. It developed in 1918 as a counter-ideology following the Bolshevik revolution and the democratic parliamentary system (see extract of speech above, which clearly counters the second movement). Although antisemitism was not an inherent part of National Socialism, it soon became that. In addition, the party was very nationalistic (its supporters were very much so) and strongly against internationalism and the assimilation of any foreign cultures. By this, Hitler also spoke out against the Jews in the respect that he convinced others there was no space for foreigners in Germany and Germans could not accept others if it meant that their own identity would be compromised.

This view is very well illustrated by Hitler's speech in Munich delivered in 1923:

Internationalism is weakness in the life of nations. What is there that is born of internationalism? Nothing. The real values of human culture were not born of internationalism, but they were created by the whole heritage and tradition of the people [das Volkstum]. When peoples no longer possess creative power they become international. Wherever there is weakness in regard to spiritual matters in the life of nations, internationalism makes its appearance. It is no coincidence that a people, namely the Jews, which does not have any real creative ability, is the carrier of this internationalism. It is the people with the least creative power and talent. It dominates only in the field of crooked and speculative economy. ... The Jew, as a race, has a remarkable instinct of self-preservation, but as an individual he has no cultural abilities at all. He is the demon of the disintegration of nations--the symbol of continual destruction of peoples. If the first of May, therefore, is to have any meaning in the life of peoples, it can be only a glorification of the national, creative idea as against the international idea of decay.

Sources and useful links:
Rice, Earle, Jr. Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany. Greensboro, North Carolina:
Morgan Reynolds Publishing, 2006. Print.


(a cartoon depicting the banking crash of 1931: A rotten system decayed under the crash of bankers)

Hitler appointed Chancellor
6 million people unemployed
2 million people unemployed
shortage of labor

Hitler’s Main Aims, Policies and Problems:
  1. 1. Rebuild the German Economy
  2. 2. Prepare Germany for War

  • In order to achieve this aim the government spent its money in the public sector, it subsidized private firms and ordered rearmament to begin anew.
    • o However this led to several problems the biggest one of them being the deficit in the balance of payments (this can be explained by the economic recovery creating an increase demand for German goods and the rearmament caused an increased demand for raw materials combined with protectionism led to the deficit). Furthermore there was a possible consequence of inflation as the money supply was increased due to increased demand.
  • The response to these problems were provided through the new policies of the New Plan introduced in 1934 which controlled the currency and bilateral trade agreements furthermore the government controlled wages and prices.
    • o The obvious problems with this policy were the importance of the different priorities Schacht, the President of the Reichsbank and later the Economics Minister, wanted to increase exports and slow down the rearmament while Goering (as Hitler) wanted rapid rearmament.
  • The response to this was presented through the policy of the Four Year Plan, implemented in 1936. The Plan was meant to prepare for war, to increase domestic production by developing substitutes outside of Germany- in Austria and Czechoslovakia, to increase rearmament and increase government control.
    • o The problems created were the rising of prices in 1939 as raw material shortages increased.
  • Finally the policies, which prepared for war were; the success of the Blitzkreig in 1939-41 as other countries sought Germany’s resources. A Total War Economy with hopes to increase production was attempted in 1942-45.

Hitlers biggest aim was to save Germany from the great economic depression which was raging at the time and which also contributed to the increasing desperation amongst the people and therefore polarization. Hitler also wanted to decrease unemployment and assure that full employment once again reigned in Germany in order to achieve this the main policy that was employed was the spending of money in the public sector (or on public goods). The greatest example of this still stands today, being the Autobahn, a 7,000 km of motorway that decreased unemployment from 6 to 2.5 million in less than 18 months, the unemployed were recruited into what was called the Reich Labor Service. The expansion of heavy industries in order to provide materials for rearmament and military conscription which was reintroduced by Hitler began, these two policies combined led to the unemployed being less than 200,000 by 1939. Economic recovery was achieved through a number of many small policies such as; the destruction of independent unions, subsidies for hiring more workers in the private sector, domestic servants, a growth in jobs in government bureaucracy and the building of homes. Shacht also created the Mefo bills which were issued by the Reichsbank and used by the government to increase expenditure on rearmament as they allowed them to delay their payments.

Germany soon saw that industrial prices were rising and prices of agricultural goods were falling, so a very complex program of legislation was put into place in order to protect and preserve the German peasantry, the peasants were for a long time suspended from paying debts and high tariffs were put on imported agricultural goods. However not all policies adapted by the Germans were effective, for example a law was passed which protected small farms (Entailed Farm Law passed May 1933) and this prevented the creation of large farms which acted as stab in the back for the aims of the German economic policy of self sustainability and self reliance, as the small farms couldn't possibly produce as much as the big ones therefore the prices of many of the food products increased by 50% by 1936.The small farms made up around 35% of all farms and were by law fixed in ownership meaning that now the farmers were tied to their land and made if increasingly difficult for them to get loans form the bank it bit the Nazi ideology in the foot as although they tried to put value on small farmers and protect them this was counter productive in the longer term. It is important to notice just how in-line with the Nazi ideology this policy was, according to the Nazis the Mittelstand (small farmers) were pure 'blood and soil' of the people of Germany and thus the Nazi's wanted to protect them from the threat of big business. However these policies proved to be ineffective to a large extent as stated before they prevented Germany from becoming self sufficient as it made it increasingly difficult for big businesses to start up.

The Four Year Plan was introduced in August of 1936 which again promoted the aim of self sufficiency for Germany especially when it came to agricultural and industrial products, this was to be achieved by an increase in production or the development of substitutes. Thus the plan developed a system of controlling the prices and the distribution of raw materials. The Law for the Protection of the Retail Trade (1933) was one which ensured the safety of the trader against big businesses which was conflicting with Germany's ultimate support of big businesses as it taxed large stores and banned new ones from opening. Overall the Nazi German economy was not concise and foreign currency reserves remained low during that period as well as the persisting deficit of the balance of payments. The plan was meant to prepare Germany for war within 4 years, it had to make Germany self-sufficient and the production of industrial goods and food was done through the policy of autarky. The development of raw materials and machinery was most important for war purposes, this meant that the government intervened in the economy quote heavily by controlling labor, prices... thus it became a planned economy. The two policies of autarky and rearmament were self contradictory as the program of rearmament required a lot of raw materials which Germany could not supply therefore Germany acquired these resources by the newly gained territory through short wars and also aided Germany in acquiring Lebenstraum.

The impact of this was large, Hitler succeeded in putting most of his effort into the rearmament of Germany however the well known debate over guns or butter still rages. 61% of German Gross National Product in 1943 was dedicated to military expenditure which cost 112 RMb that year (out of 184RMb of total GNP). The economic debate of opportunity cost or the option you forego is expressed by the allocation of resources into the production of machinery and raw materials for rearmament and thus taking the resources away from supplying certain foods. Some historians argue that Hitler's regime was not all that powerful and sacrificed too much from consumer goods in order to speed up the rearmament-while others argue he supplied both guns and butter yet the supply of both slowed down the program and made Germany less prepared for war than it could have been (according to Mason, a marxist historian).
(a cartoon illustrating people trying to eat machinery and weapons, it says: Hurray, butter is everything!)

Autarky- signifies economic self reliance, meaning that a country can sustain itself using its own goods and means. Hitler's main aim in this was to increase the production of iron and food and to develop substitute products for example replacing rubber with a fake rubber done from acetylene. Obviously, barely any country can be 100% self reliant thus Germany still was to some extent dependent upon other countries.

Evaluation: Was the Nazi domestic economic policy successful?
The Nazi economic policy was successful in the sense that it completely defeated unemployment and thus was seen by many as entirely successful. However although this made Hitler largely popular amongst the people of Nazi Germany it is important to remember that his policy of rearmament may have hindered development (for example if it were to be combined with a continued development of consumer and export markets). Also complete autarky was never achieved and the rearmament policy was chaotic until Speer put alterations into the system, the Nazi policy did not achieve growth levels as those before 1914 and was ultimately focused on rearmament and war signifying its failure rather than success.

R. Overy, Modern History Review, 1996, p. 11
"Hiter's vision of a powerful militarized economy clearly failed the test of war. Recovery from the Slump had been real enough. But at the point where that recovery might have been used to improve living standards and expand trade...Hitler chose to divert economic development towards massive militarization in a short term gamble that he could create a new political and economic order out of the one which had failed in 1929. In 1946 Germany was once again plunged into poverty and economic stagnation- where Hitler found it in 1933."

(Below is a 4minute video illustrating the Nazi policy of saving Germany from the economic depression, reducing unemployment and the story of the construction of the Autobahn including a speech from Hitler.)

(above is a cartoon portraying a gorilla representing nazi germany, nailing the nazi symbol onto the cross representing the church)

Timeline of Key Events: Nazism & Churches
1933 - New government and the Catholic Church sign an agreement in which it is indicated that each will respect the other's role
-The government is supportive of the creation of the Reich Church
1934 -Confessional Church breaks away from Reich Church
-2 Protestant Bishops arrested but shortly released
1925 -700 Prussian Protestant pastors are arrested as they condemned the Nazi neo-paganism
1936 -The National Socialist Teachers League asks members not to teach religion.
-Bishop of Munster thanks Hitler for remilitarizing the Rhineland.
-Hundreds of Confessional pastors are sent to concentration camps for criticising the Nazi ideology.
1937 -Crucifixes are banned from classrooms no more.
-Pope criticizes Nazism and its racist nature.
1939 -Faulhaber has a special service to celebrate Hitler surviving an assassination attempt.
1941 -Churches welcome German attack of USSR.

Hitler's Main Aims Regarding the Church:
Hitler himself was born a Catholic and Christianity and Naziism shared values which they both deemed as important (such as family life and their common hatred of communism). However Hitler realized that the Church may become an obstacle for his greater vision he wanted to replace the Christian church with a different and new Aryan faith which would reflect the values of an inferior race. He knew however that this cannot be done overnight and therefore begun with the need of a 'positive Christianity', in which he would gain some control through the people in power at the Church to increase his influence upon the Church.

Table illustrating the main Religious organisations in Nazi Germany


Catholic Church
Reich Church
German Christians
Faith Movement
Description of the Religious Organisations during Nazi Rule
The Reich Church- This was a part of the Protestant Church, Hitler hoped the German Christians would dominate the Reich Church. However efforts of uniting and creating a state controlled church brought the division of the Confessional Church which broke away.
German Christians- This was a movement which wanted to restructure the Protestantism into a new radical version of Christianity, they wore Nazi-styled uniforms and their slogan was: "The swastika on our breasts and the cross in our hearts." In 1933 they wanted to cleanse out the non-German elements especially the "scapegoat and inferiority theology of Rabbi Paul".
Confessional Church- This church broke away from the Reich Church in 1934, it wanted to defend the Protestant Church against the interference of the state and the false theology of German Christians.
German Faith Movement- This movement wanted to replace Christianity with a pagan Nazi faith, this movement encouraged Germans abandon Christianity and follow their many small rituals. This is a good prediction of what would have happened if Nazi's won WW2.

(another cartoon from 1933 by John Heartfield, it says: "On the foundings of the state Church':The cross wasn't heavy enough yet.")

Nazi Policies & Their Effect
The Nazi policies towards the Church can be divided into three stages. The first stage was the Control stage where the Nazi's wanted to gain as much control over the Church as possible therefore the policies put to use were: The creation of a unified Protestant Reich Church this failed wince the Confessional Church broke away from this movement (as previously mentioned). And the second policy which was to guarantee the Nazi's maximum control was the Concordat agreement with the Pope, its effect at first seemed successful as it granted peaceful relations however later the state infringed the Concordat. The second stage can be called that of Dissolution, the dissolution of the continuity with traditional Christianity. The policies which were to guarantee its success were to firstly make Protestantism more Nazi-like through the use of German Christians, the effect of this policy provoked an increased support for Confessional Church. The second policy was to undermine and reduce the influence of the Catholic Church however this led to large public hostility. The third and final stage was the stage of Substitution, the substitution of Christianity with the 'true Nazi supporting religion'. This was to be achieved through the policy of replacing Christianity with the German Faith Movement, however this stage was never really achieved and was postponed until after the war.

Hitler first attempted to control and induce naziism into the Protestant Church, for example in August 1933 2/3 attending the Prussian synod wore Nazi uniforms. Hitler had hopes of using the German Christians to coordinate the Protestant Churches however the opposition executed a break away movement which created the Confessional Church (not 'anti-Nazi' but pro conservation of of Protestantism from political control). Since Hitler's attempt to create a more Nazi-like unified Protestant Church failed this led to the emergence of three new groups within Protestantism: The Reich Church, the German Christians and the Confessional Church. Since Hitler knew it would be difficult to control the Catholic Church he looked for an agreement policy, therefore in July 1933 the Vatican signed a Concordat with the government promising that it wouldn't intervene with the Nazi policy. From that point on Hitler tried to reduce the influence of the Church in everyday life of the German Volk. The Young were recognized by Hitler as a valuable group to get on the 'nazi side' he encouraged them to join the Hitler Youth and not other Catholic groups, also less stress was put on religion as a subject in schools, the Nazi's also tried to remove the cross from the classroom however failed. In 1935 65% of children attended church school in 1937 only 5% did. An important event to remember is the Church Secession Campaign launched in the 1930's by the Nazi which was to encourage Germans to leave the Church, this had moderate success as in 1937 over 100,000 Christians left the church and in 1939 3.5 million Germans were a part of the pagan movement.

Evaluation of the resistance or collaboration of the Church with Nazi's
According to some historians the church was the only institution which could hold a view different from that of the Nazi's and Hitler and this is why the Nazi's saw the church as their main obstacle. While others may argue that the Church hierarchy wanted to avoid conflict with the regime without the approval of all its policies. The Christian church is said to be unprepared to tolerate and cooperate alongside the Nazi regime even though the church proved its loyalty to Hitler multiple times. Hitler did acknowledge the role of Christianity publicly yet in private he wanted to eliminate it. Then again Naziism and Christianity shared some values like its hatred of communism and importance of family life therefore some Christians supported Naziism. The churches proved to go through a large compromise just to survive the Nazi regime.

Policies regarding Jews
Hitler's hatred of the Jews was central to his ideology and was continuous to a long German history of anti-Semitism. Nazi's believed that the Jews should be excluded from social and political positions of influence, Jewish activity in stockbroking and banking was untouched till 1937. The policies adapted were the Nuremberg Laws and the National Law of Citizenship which outlawed marital and sexual contact between Jews and Aryans. From that point on only Aryan blood entitled one to be a member of the German state. The Nazi policy removed Jews from the country and economy the Decree on Eliminating Jews from General Economic Life made it illegal for them to work in sales or management.

(Above is a 8 minute video documentary on Religion under the Nazi's done by BBC)

Works Cited

Hite, John, and Chris Hinton. Weimar & Nazi Germany. Ed. Ian Dawson. London: Hodder Education, 2000. Print.
Morris, Terry, and Derrick Murphy. Europe 1870-1991. 2nd ed. London: HarperCollinsPublishers Ltd, 2000. Print.