The Impact of War on life in Nazi Germany www.educationforum.co.uk
Morale • The passage of the war certainly had a major impact on the morale of the German people, something Hitler predicted. • In 1939 the SD were instructed to produce regular reports on the morale of the people for the regime
Morale Patterns • At first the war went well for the Nazis with the rapid defeat of Poland, Norway, Denmark, Holland, Belgium 1939-40 and morale at home is high • British bombing of German cities started in Summer 1940 (something the Nazis said couldn’t happen), morale worsens • June 1941 – Hitler’s decision to invade USSR and fight a war on 2 fronts • War against Russia initially goes well – public euphoria. Victory within sight • Winter 1941/2 tide turns against Germans – Red Army pushed Germans back – rising casualties, severe strain on supply routes and munitions – morale declines • December 1941 Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour brings USA into war – more bad news for Germany • 1943 Defeat at Stalingrad – whole German 6th army surrounded and forced to surrender largely because Hitler refused to allow them to retreat – population at home starts to turn against the ‘Hitler Myth’ • Feb 1943 – Gobbel’s ‘Total war’ speech talks of real and imminent danger to Germany and for renewed effort by everyone – slight upturn in morale • 1943-45 continued military setbacks, sustained allied bombing – depressed morale and increased opposition but mainly quiet resigned acceptance of fate.
Propaganda Defeat at Stalingrad and ‘total war’ placed an additional strain on civilian population The purpose of Nazi propaganda changed to maintaining public morale and urging them on to greater efforts Gobbels concentrated on the themes of • Anti Bolshevism (anti communism) – Germany was now in a struggle for survival with Communist Russia – a deep fear and hatred of the USSR encouraged • Anti Semitism – war turned into a war against ‘international Jewry’ – also identified with USSR. From 1942 ‘Final solution of the Jewish Problem’ began • Strengthen resolve despite British air raids • Retaliation and revenge – ideas of new secret weapons like the V1 propagandised to keep hopes alive Despite Gobbels best efforts belief in the Hitler Myth decline considerably in the latter years of war – his aura of man who could do no wrong was fatally damaged following Stalingrad and Hitler largely withdrew from public life being rarely seen. He did however maintain the dedicated loyalty and respect of his own party members.
Workers: Early War • The start of war saw rapid increase in conscription to the armed forces – those workers who remained in the economy therefore had to be made to work harder, and the regime began to use ‘foreign labour’ from conquered territories both East and west • The ‘Decree on the conversion of the German Economy to a war footing’ Sept ‘39 banned overtime payments, introduced work on a Sunday and compulsory night shifts. • Large numbers of workers reacted through absenteeism – so much so that wage rates were increased and overtime payments reintroduced the following year
Workers: Total war • Invasion of Soviet union led to a massive increase in the use of foreign slave labour in German factories – 4 million such workers by 1941 • Defeat at Stalingrad ’43 put even more pressure on the workforce – all non essential production stopped in favour of arms and munitions. Non essential small businesses closed down and workers redeployed. Hours of work increased further, wages further reduced. • Total ban on holidays imposed 1944 and working week increased to 60 hours
Youth: Early War • The HJ made compulsory in 1939 and there was little change in HJ activities in the early stages of war except for necessity to help out with harvests. • HJ maintained primary task of indoctrinating boys to be soldiers and girls to be mothers • The evacuation of children from cities targeted by Allied bombers did begin from 1940 however
Youth: Total War • Age of conscription reduced from 19-18 years in 1941, then to 17 in 1943. • HJ activity more clearly focussed on actual military training with military camps for HJ set up (120 of them) supervised by the Waffen SS • From June 1943 16 and 17 year old boys directly conscripted into navy and air force as auxiliaries. • By 1945 school children were fighting in the regular army to protect Berlin from the advancing Russians
Women: Early war • Women bore most of the hardships of the home front – rationing, queuing, bringing up children alone and later on despite Nazi ideology some labour conscription. • Rationing was introduced straight away in 1930 for essential foodstuffs and fuels and allocation was based on a strict age, occupation and race basis. For most of the war basic supplies were good but later shortages of coal, soap, shoes and washing powder did cause some discontent
Women: Total War • Hitler was extremely reluctant to allow even 'labour conscription' for women until he had no other options - i.e. calling up women to work in the munitions factories - only after the start of total war in 1943/4 did Hitler relent and allow some female labour conscription - however by 1945 women did make up about 60% of workforce - largely because all the men were off fighting.A small amount of women (about half a million max.) were called up for military activities and only in the very final stages of the war were they prepared for combat • Even at the end women were largely restricted to secretarial and non combat activities in the armed forces such was the strength of Nazi Ideology
Persecution • From 1942 the planned extermination of the entire European Jewish population was mapped out at the Wannsee Conference attended by 15 leading Nazis headed by Heydrich– ‘The Final Solution of the Jewish Problem’ – Heydrich aimed to have murdered 11 million Jews – to be transported across Europe to extermination camps in the East • "Europe would be combed of Jews from east to west,“ (Heydrich) • Planned in incredible detail the plans led to the extermination of around 6 million European Jews 1942-1945
Morale 1944-45 • By the Spring of 1944 the SD were reported a depressed and downbeat mood amongst the German people as a result of further defeats and retreats in the East, massive Allied bombing of German cities, and the failure to defeat Britain. • In June 1944 the Allied landings at Normandy added to the gloom
Bombing • From 1942-45 Britain and the USA bombed German cities relentlessly day and night often with over 1,000 aircraft at a time. All Germany’s major cities and industrial areas were affected – horrific scenes of death and destruction • One tactic used by the Royal Air Force and the United States Army Air Force was the creation of firestorms. This was achieved by dropping incendiary bombs, filled with highly combustible chemicals such as magnesium, phosphorus or petroleum jelly (napalm), in clusters over a specific target. After the area caught fire, the air above the bombed area, become extremely hot and rose rapidly. Cold air then rushed in at ground level from the outside and people were sucked into the fire. • In 1945, Arthur Harris decided to create a firestorm in the medieval city of Dresden. He considered it a good target as it had not been attacked during the war and was virtually undefended by anti-aircraft guns. The population of the city was now far greater than the normal 650,000 due to the large numbers of refugees fleeing from the advancing Red Army. • On the 13th February 1945, 773 Avro Lancaster's bombed Dresden. During the next two days the USAAF sent over 527 heavy bombers to follow up the RAF attack. Dresden was nearly totally destroyed. As a result of the firestorm it was afterwards impossible to count the number of victims. Recent research suggest that 35,000 were killed but some German sources have argued that it was over 100,000
Resistance • Resistance and opposition in the latter stages of the War increased significantly • After the invasion of the USSR the KPD started to operate 89 underground cells to spread their ideas and encourage resistant and sabotage • Church Resistance increased significantly. Bishop Galen spoke out against the Euthanasia programme in 1940 and archbishop Frings spoke out against the murder of PoWs • Youth resistance increase with the emergence of the Edelweiss Pirates and the Swing youth • Student Resistance emerged with the White Rose Movement • Elite and military resistance increased peaking in the failed Stauffenberg Bomb Plot of 1944 Resistance however was still weak even at the point of the collapse of the regime as the Russians took Berlin most Germans showed little outward sign of resistance or rebellion.