International School History - European Schools - S6 4 hour option

S6 4hr History Last update - 09 November 2017 Official European School History S6 Syllabus: English, French, German

The NAZIS: A Warning from History
Programme (1): Helped into Power

The programme starts with an aerial view of a decaying concrete settlement near present day Poland's Eastern border with Russia - formerly German East Prussia. For three years during World War II this was the home of Adolf Hitler. It was the 'Wolf's Lair' - the H. Q. of the German war machine.
Concurrent with the visual images, the commentator gives some chilling facts about the war:
• 55 million people died in W.W.II
• Out of 5 million Russian prisoners of war, only 2 million survived.
• It was a war during which an attempt was made at 'the mechanised extermination of an entire people.'

The programme then poses a question, how could a man such as Adolf Hitler have come to power and been accepted by the German nation - a nation that purported to be cultured?
It goes on to give a number of reasons:

(1) Hitler's charisma was the reason given by leading Nazis, but the commentary suggests that the explanation is both more complicated and more alarming than this

(2) The legacy of the First World War and the shock of the armistice led to bitterness amongst the German people which left them vulnerable to myths such as that of 'the stab in the back' - that the Germans lost the first World War because they were betrayed from within, by Marxists and by Jews. Bavaria became the soil for Nazism to flourish as the Allied blockade continued until the signing of the Versailles settlement and soldiers returning to Germany were shocked by the poverty and disease experienced by their families. In this context of desperation and disillusionment, politics became polarised
• on the Left, the KPD attempted to set up Soviet style republics such as that in Berlin in January 1919 - brutally suppressed by soldiers and Freikorps and resulting in 500 dead.
• on the right, the 'realisation that Bolshevism and Judaeism were the same thing' - a view fermented by the Freikorps, right wing groups such as the German Workers' Party (the fore runner of the Nazi Party) and right wing officers in the army, resulted in scapegoatism, focusing of the Jews.

(3)The terms of the Versailles Treaty - (28 June 1919)
• the territorial losses
• the restrictions on the armed services
• the dual standards over national self determination
• the extent of reparations
all added to the German people's feeling of humiliation and anger and made them susceptible to someone who promised revenge and national revival.
• In 1919, Hitler and Rφhm both joined the German Workers' Party and Hitler discovered his power as a speaker whilst condemning the Versailles Treaty.
• By 1921, Hitler was the leader of the renamed National Socialist Party (Nazis), one of a plethora of right -wing parties in Munich all condemning the Versailles settlement and identifying the Jews as the group to blame. Hitler's charisma attracted many important right-wing leaders to the Party -
• In 1922 Hermann Gφering (the First World War, flying ace) joined the party 'because it was revolutionary, not because of any ideological nonsense'. Others, such as Heinrich Himmler, joined because of 'the interest some supporters had with the mystic relationship between German soil and German blood'. As a chicken farmer, he firmly believed that, 'cowards are born in the towns and heroes in the countryside'.

(4) Economic and social circumstances. On 8/9 November 1923 the Nazis exploited the French occupation of the Ruhr and the catastrophic hyperinflation to stage the 'Beer Hall Putsch'. Four policemen and sixteen Nazis died during the attempt to seize power but the Nazis received little popular support and it was a fiasco. What is, interesting, however, as the programme points out, is how the trial which followed illustrates the nature of the Weimar judiciary and its right-wing sympathies. As on a former occasion in which Hitler had served a one month prison service and a term of probation for disrupting a meeting, in this case his sentence was very lenient. The same judge, George Knighthag gave Hitler a nine month prison sentence. As the programme emphasises, this was for:
• incitement to murder
• attempted revolution
• the robbing of a bank by his followers.
By 1924, however, Nazism seemed irrelevant and remained so during the 'Stresemann Years' and the period of superficial economic recovery achieved by Weimar policies and the Dawes Plan.

(5) The strategies of the Nazi Party During this period, however, some Germans continued to disapprove of the so called 'Weimar decadence' and called for a return to 'simple traditional values'. Such sentiments resulted in the formation of a number of non-political societies such as the Wandervogel Movement who claimed to be 'protesters against the bourgeois world'.
• The Nazis tried to capitalise on these nationalist sentiments, and also to appeal to those who subscribed to the 'fantasy of a world Jewish conspiracy'.

By the mid 1920's, the party was small but radical, combining policies of anti-Semitism and violence. At this time, the Brown Shirts were an indispensable part of the party's appeal, playing a tripartite role:
• intimidating the followers of other parties
• protecting Nazi speakers at meetings
• drumming up support.
Simultaneously, party organisation evolved on the 'Fuhrerprinzip' in which Hitler's central role was crucial - a structure which would remain not only when the Nazi Party achieved power, but also when Germany was at war. The programme's commentary emphasises the incompetence of Nazi administration and of Hitler in particular (citing his lateness as an example), but stresses that his belief in natural selection and the survival of the fittest was an inspiration to the Party. His leadership encouraged the emergence of strong individuals, but those who remained personally loyal to him because their own success was intrinsically bound up with his.

(6) A national crisis - the impact of the Wall Street Crash. By the late 1920's it was clear, however, that without a national crisis the Nazi Party could not gain ground. The Nazi Party only received 2.6% of the vote in Reichstag elections and not everyone was as vulnerable to Nazi propaganda as some selected primary evidence might suggest. Such a crisis was provided by the Wall Street Crash in October 1929 and the earlier agrarian slump. Therefore, circumstances are essential in explaining Hitler's rise to power.
• economic and social deprivation resulting from the deflationary crisis
• 1931, major banks crashed and 20,000 businesses failed with a tremendous impact on the middle classes.
• the loss of confidence in the Weimar government.
• lack of unity amongst centre political parties.

(7) Nazi propaganda in the context of short-term economic and social distress. - The Nazi Party successfully took advantage of modern media and communication developments. For example, during the 1932 presidential campaign Hitler visited twenty cities and despite a lack of coherent policies established himself as a credible and mesmeric leader.
His appeal was as 'the bringer of salvation', offering order, discipline and personal devotion to the good of the country.
• Therefore, by 1932 most Germans in voting for right or left wing parties were voting for the overthrow of democracy and Hitler did not conceal from them in his speeches that a vote for the Nazis was a vote for dictatorship.
• In July 1932, 37% of the German people chose the Nazis, but in August 1932, President Hindenburg refused to appoint Hitler as chancellor because:-
a) The Nazi Party did not represent the majority of Germans
b) The values of the party such as intolerance and violence appalled him.

(8) Backstairs political intrigue and ambition - Ultimately, however, Hindenburg became susceptible to circumstances (an army report had suggested, that it would be incapable of suppressing internal political revolt and safeguarding Germany's borders at the same time) and the plotting of other right-wing politicians such as von Papen and General Schleicher. Ironically at this time the Nazi Party also had its own problems and reasons for urgency:
• the resignation of Strasser
• a drop in the Nazi vote in the November 1932 Reichstag elections
• economic difficulties
but in the end, the aristocratic von Papen's proposals for 'the taming of Hitler' were accepted on 30 January 1933. Hitler was appointed as Chancellor with two other Nazis, with von Paper as his Vice Chancellor in combination with six other right wing politicians.
• Therefore political miscalculation and personal ambition are the final ingredients to explain Hitler's rise to power.
Although a few primary sources question people's failure to anticipate what would result from Hitler's appointment, the torchlight procession through the streets of Berlin on the day of his appointment as Chancellor epitomises the feelings of many Germans. Expectations were high of what would follow, especially amongst the business community.
The programme concludes with two observations which sum up the 'warning from history' in its title:-
• that of some contemporary Germans who, with hindsight, emphasise the danger of economic and social crisis - 'out of crisis comes danger'
• Ludendorff's words in a letter to Hindenburg following Hitler's appointment as Chancellor, 'I prophesy to you solemnly' that this accursed man will take our Reich into the abyss'.

The programme considers how it was possible for a man such as Adolf Hitler to come to power in a supposedly cultured country such as post First World War Germany. It gives a number of long term and short term factors to explain the Nazi phenomenon:

1. Hitler's charisma.
2. The legacy of the First World War.
3. The terms of the Versailles Treaty.
4. Economic and social circumstances.
5. The strategies of the Nazi Party.
6. The impact of the Wall street Crash.
7. Short-term Nazi propaganda in the context of social and economic distress.
8. Back-stairs political intrigue and ambition.

The KEY QUESTION raised by the programme focuses on the issue of lessons from the past and is encompassed by its title, 'The Nazis - a Warning from History'. In considering the Nazi era and Hitler's rise to power it becomes clear that, 'out of crisis comes danger'. This leads on to the question of whether it is possible to learn from the specific example of a society in the past and thereby to avoid succumbing to such a regime in the future.


The NAZIS : A Warning from History
Programme (2): Chaos and Consent

The theme of the programme focuses on the paradoxical nature of Germany under Nazi rule - a society obsessed by order and yet characterised by administrative inefficiency. It opens with daunting images of Nazi crowds and the comment that the Nazis were obsessed with images of order which they attempted to illustrate and promote in their careful propaganda and yet, the programme claims, it was 'an illusion of order'.

1. The Consolidation of Power
In January 1933 when Hitler became Chancellor of Germany, those who could conform to the Aryan image of the 'true German' were filled with hope. Non conformists, however, experienced a variety of tactics designed to eliminate or control them, carried out in an 'atmosphere of chaotic terror' and often 'avoiding the prescribed channels. For example:

a) Concentration Camps - Communists, socialists and many others were sent to concentration camps (Dachau was opened in March 1933) and Goering commented that 'old scores were being settled' - referring to the myth that these actions were not novel or unique, citing Britain's treatment of the Boers in the South African War.

b) Anti-Jewist Strategies - as early as April 1933 boycotts of Jewish shops were taking place and arbitrary attacks on Jews by Nazi Storm Troopers.

2. A variety of propaganda exercises actively promoted support for the regime

For example:
- public book-burning
- The Night of the Long Knives (June 30 1934) - this was partly carried out to placate the army leadership which feared the rival Brown Shirts and amongst additional reasons resulted from Himmler's specific dislike of Ernst Rφhm. Himmler suggested to Hitler that Rφhm was plotting against the Chancellor, which Hitler believed, and on this pretext, Rφhm was arrested and shot two day's later.

3. The army had to swear an oath of personal loyalty to Hitler, once he became Fuhrer, having amalgamated the positions of President and Chancellor following the death of Hindenburg in August 1934.

4. The promotion of Hitler's status as Fuhrer

Using a variety of primary sources, the programme illustrates the great contrast between Hitler's private and public image. In the complex above Bertesgaden - the Eagle's nest or Eerie - the Nazi regime was determined by Hitler, and yet on the evidence of these sources (including that of his personal adjutant - Fritz Wiedemann) he was a very indolent (lazy) man. Otto Deitrich, his Chief Press Secretary states, 'In the twelve years of his rule in Germany, Hitler produced the biggest confusion in government that has ever existed in a civilised state'.
But this was behind the scenes, the public image, carefully promoted, was very different and that of 'the all powerful, all knowing leader'. The programme emphasises the paradox between a society in which there is no collective government and yet there is a dictator that doesn't work all the time. It sees Germany at this time as experiencing 'a unique and peculiar form of government'. Hitler was surrounded by acolytes whose role was to formulate plans to fulfill Hitler's visions, which in themselves did not constitute coherent policies. What this meant in practice was, that decision making during the Nazi era was often arbitrary and dependent on how Hitler's ideas were interpreted by those who had succeeded in winning his support.

5. Economic Policies
If Hitler's plans in relation to some aspects of Nazi policy were vague, this was not the case in relation to the economy. Economic recovery in order to rearm was Hitler's priority. The programme comments that in the first year of Nazi power the Army budget was increased so much that the Army wasn't able to spend it all. It describes the Public Works schemes such as the building of the Autobahn, which were designed to solve unemployment, but explains that these were successful short-term, rather than long-term solutions to Germany's problems. In the longer-term and without the Second World War, Nazi economic strategies were inflationary and likely to have produced considerable economic difficulties.

6. Violation of the Terms of Versailles also helped to convince the German people that Germany was regaining her international status and that life was improving. Hitler reintroduced conscription and in 1936 he reoccupied the demilitarised Rhineland.

7. Anti-Jewish Policies
Many public pagents, designed to encourage feelings of unity amongst the German people, took place throughout the Nazi era. One rather amusing example illustrated by the programme was the Night of the Amazons, involving a procession of floats through the streets of Berlin, carrying naked women in a variety of poses! BUT, such pageants could only be participated in by Aryans. For Jews, life in Nazi Germany was very different. Jewish synagogues were destroyed and Jews were systematically excluded from everyday life. Policies such as the 1935 Nuremburg Laws were justified by the belief that 'the Jews had gone too far', but no one asked why it was that the Jews were confined to such professions as the legal profession and the theatre, in order to realise that it was because they had been banned from other professions for hundreds of years. Systematic discrimination and anti semitism was carried out by the Gestapo, resulting in widespread Jewish emigration from Germany before the outbreak of the Second World War. What the programme makes clear, however, (supported by those such as Robert Gellately and Daniel Goldhagen), is that given the small number of secret police in any one region, the public co-operation and enforcement of anti Jewish policies must have been extensive. In fact, the Gestapo's job was to 'sort out the denunciations' as Resi Kraus puts it. Therefore a fundamental question to ask about this period must be, to what extent the German people needed 'manipulation from above'? Most recent evidence, alarmingly suggests, extensive, willing and positive capitulation from below.
To reach Hitler, it was essential to be seen to endorse his views - anti semitism was one of these routes. In this way, Geobbels was able to exploit the murder of a German diplomat in Paris by a Jew, to carry out Kristallnacht on 8/9 November 1938. Symbolically, this was the anniversary of the 1923 Munich Putsch - 800 lives were lost and 1000 synagogues destroyed. Primary reminiscences of the event suggest public shock, but why then was there no denunciation of Nazi policy or sympathy shown to Jews by non-Jews? The programme suggests that as Hitler personally never spoke out about Kristallnacht in public, people could believe that he was not personally responsible and carry on supporting him.

8. The Policy of Dualism
In 1938 a new Chancellory was built in Berlin to symbolise strength and order, but behind the scenes 'dualism' and administrative chaos persisted. For example, five offices managed Hitler's personal life alone. Some historians have suggested that such duplication of administrative role was deliberately organised by Hitler to achieve 'calculated in fighting' and to allow Hitler ultimate authority. The evidence in this programme, such as that from the diplomat Gunter Louse would not support this view, describing a regime characterised by administrative inefficiency.

9. The mentally ill or subnormal
One of the most frightening aspects of the programme concerns Nazi policy towards the mentally ill and it illustrates how Hitler himself could be manipulated. During the Nazi era, many personal appeals were made to Hitler by letter, attempting to achieve ingratiation. One such letter resulted in the development of Nazi policy into one in which mentally subnormal babies and then children were systematically murdered. The programme cites the example of Aplerbeck a hospital regime which was completely unfettered. Killing such as those illustrated by the case study of Manfred Bernhart were disguised as death resulting from minor infections such as measles.
The programme states that, 'The catalyst for his death was a chance letter directed by an ambitious Nazi; and it concludes (as the Warning from History), that any idea in this system, in combination with a leader who spoke in visions and a population, anxious to please, grew to radical extremes.


The programme illustrates the paradoxical nature of public and private Germany and explores different ways in which the Nazis consolidated power in the pre-war era. It identifies eight examples of Nazi policy and illustrates each one:
1. Tactics against non Aryans
2. Propaganda
3. The Army oath of loyalty to Hitler
4. The promotion of Hitler's status as Fuhrer
5. Economic policies
6. The violation of the 1919 Treaty of Versailles
7. Anti Jewish policies
8. Policies towards the mentally ill or subnormal.

Key Questions raised by the programme focus on a number of issues:
1. The paradox of German society - a society promoting order and yet characterised by chaos.
2. The role of Hitler in the Nazi state and the coherence of his policies.
3. The extent of public complicity and support for Nazi antisemitism.


The NAZIS: A Warning from History
Programme (3) The Wrong War

The programme starts, with Hitler in his retreat in southern Bavaria, watching feature films about the British Empire - supposedly, these offered proof of the superiority of the Aryan Race! In 1941 he said 'Let's learn from the English - what India was to the English, let Russian territories be to us'. The programme then asks the question - How did Hitler end up fighting the wrong war? - a war against both the English and the Russians.
It gives a number of reasons:

(1) To fulfil the promises made when he became Chancellor - that he would achieve a new, dynamic foreign policy.
(2) To achieve VOLKSGEMEINSCHAFT and to subdue the German people by demanding supreme obedience to his will, something formalised in the Army oath of personal loyalty to the Fuhrer.
(3) Preparations for war and specifically rearmament, solved a number of short term problems:

• it achieved an end to unemployment
• appeased the army
• overcame the humiliation of the surrender in World War One.

Re-armament was financed by loans engineered by Schacht and illustrates very well Hitler's lack of specific policies. At first Schacht was given a very free hand in his policy making and only when his cautious economic strategies failed to produce rapid re-armament was he replaced by Goering.
Hitler's approach to the appointment of ministers is a reflection of his much more fundamental beliefs about nations and mankind expounded in Mein Kampf. In Darwinian terms, Hitler believed in the survival of the fittest and therefore approved of individual initiative and assertiveness. On a macro level he believed that the entire world was locked into a permanent struggle for survival and in this sense national frontiers were both restrictive and unnatural because they inhibited man's natural inclinations. In looking to Russia and the bordering states for expansion he believed that Germany was fulfilling her destiny. Lebensraum was necessary for a nation whose territory was too small for her expanding population.

(4) To right the wrongs of the Versailles Treaty. In particular, Hitler sought to regain lost German people, lost territory and to achieve the right to national self determination and unity which had been denied to the Germans at Versailles.

(5) The desire for a Gross Deutschland - was of particular appeal to young Germans and it was a policy OPENLY stated by Hitler at public rallies.
Hitler and Goering hoped that England could be made part of Nazi plans and in the 1930's, many English people did support the idea of revising, what were now considered, the harsh terms of Versailles. Certainly there was the view that there was a need to 'accommodate the Germans'.

The programme goes on to describe the ways in which the Germans attempted a rapprochement with the British in the 1930's, looking in particular at the role of Ribbentrop.
In 1935, the Anglo-German Naval Agreement allowed Germany to break the terms of the Versailles Settlement by increasing the size of her navy.
In 1936, following this success, Ribbentrop was sent to England to organise a formal Anglo-German alliance. Ribbentrop, however, was unpopular both in England and abroad and his uncouthness contributed to Britain's refusal to sign such an alliance.
In England, Ribbentrop was not considered 'a gentleman' and this snobbery is reinforced by Goebbels' observation that, 'He had bought his title'. Mussolini is reputed to have said about Ribbentrop, 'You only have to look at his head to see that he has a small brain.'! Interestingly, however, Hitler supported Ribbentrop and the commentary explains this by suggesting that he knew how to win Hitler's acclaim. Hitler admired initiative and Ribbentrop was always willing to offer radical solutions to Hitler's problems, even if they were turned down. In Schacht's case, however, his warning that, 'The economy was overheating' led to his being sidelined and in 1936 Goering became Economics Minister. His appointment resulted in an escalation in Germany's re-armament and preparations for war, but the programme makes clear that by 1938 Germany's inflationary economic policies caused many people to believe that the regime was likely to face severe economic crisis in the future.

But, what did Hitler really want in his foreign policy?

In 1936. the German re-occupation of the demilitarised Rhineland, made clear his intention to re-claim territory lost at Versailles.

In 1937, at a secret meeting with army generals, recorded in the 'Hossbach Memorandum', Hitler explained his desire for territorial expansion. Interestingly his aims were not greeted with broad enthusiasm and following the meeting, half-hearted generals were dismissed on trumped up charges, or marginalised. Hitler appointed himself as Commander in Chief of the Army and claimed that his great ideas came to him in the Berghof in Bertesgaden. Primary sources suggest that he was a 'dreamer' and that in his isolated retreat he indulged himself by designing the cities he would build in Germany and by watching two feature films every evening - Goebbels always guaranteed him escapist entertainment!
In the Spring of 1938, Hitler decided to capitalise on the domestic problems in Austria to embark on his dream to re-unite all German speaking people. After guaranteeing the non-intervention of the other powers, German troops entered Austria on 15 April 1938, where they were welcomed by the majority of Austrians who had suffered as a result of the Versailles settlement, - the programme sinisterly shows swastikas being thrown as confetti over the German troops as they marched through the streets of Vienna.

Many Germans too, supported the occupation as the fulfilment of a great dream - the reversal of six hundred years of history and Austrian rule of German speaking people. The programme includes very interesting contemporary evidence from Germans who explained that they believed that German expansion was her destiny. It also describes Heinrich Himmler's influence in Austria and his ideas about the future role of the SS. Like knights of the Round Table, he saw them playing a crucial role in a greater Germanic empire, an empire that would be larger than any other which had preceded it. As evidence from those such as Walter Kammerling makes clear, Himmler was responsible for the fact that in Austria, German rule was one of 'intolerance and cruelty'. Jews were made scapegoats and given tasks designed to humiliate them. This resulted in a mass exodus of Jews from Austria, 'after the SS had robbed them of most of their money'.

Following the German invasion of Austria, Hitler returned to Germany to a tumultuous welcome - Germany now comprised 80 million people.

Hitler's attention then turned to Czechoslovakia and at this point some Germans such as General Beck foresaw war and secretly communicated their fears to the British, asking for support against Hitler from Britain and France. Primary evidence, such as that from Sir Frank Roberts a diplomat at the Foreign Office 1930-1968, makes clear that Britain's response was to reply, 'You do something'. As Hitler became increasingly successful, however, such internal plotting seemed more and more unlikely.
On September 1938, Chamberlain, the British Prime Minister, went to Munich to sort out the Czech problem and in a final act of appeasement signed the Munich Agreement. This allowed Hitler to have the German speaking Sudetenland. Roberts suggests that in making the agreement, Chamberlain was responding to public opinion and the view that people in Britain and the Dominions would not be willing to fight to stop the reunification of German speaking people. Following the Munich meeting, Hitler is reputed to have said, 'They have cheated me of my war'. A contemporary home movie from the period shows extensive support for the German occupation from Sudeten Germans and amongst the German army. The army had reason to be pleased as they now controlled the Czech border defences and the rest of Czechoslovakia was 'naked' before the German army.
In March 1939, Hitler met the Czech President for talks - humiliating him by keeping him waiting while he ironically watched a film called 'A Hopeless Case'. When Hitler informed Hacha that he was about to invade the rest of Czechoslovakia, Hacha had to capitulate. Therefore in March 1938 when Hitler invaded the rest of Czechoslovakia he finally violated the Versailles Treaty without being able to claim that he was uniting German speaking people. This time the invading army was watched by a silent crowd and Hitler was finally confirmed to both Germans and the rest of Europe as an imperialist.
Following the German occupation of Czechoslovakia it was clear that Poland would be the next target and Chamberlain pledged to resist this.
In May 1939 Hitler demanded the return of the German speaking city of Danzig, but when in response Britain signed a Grand Alliance with Poland, Hitler's hopes of an understanding with Britain were gone. Facing the probability of war with Britain and France, Hitler then embarked on an alternative radical solution and sent Ribbentrop to the USSR, (so what happened to the anti-Bolshevik sentiments expressed so vehemently in Mein Kampf?)
On 29 August 1939 the Germans signed a non aggression pact with the USSR. Against the background of an awesome and momentous sky at Bertesgaden, Hitler was now allied to his ideological enemy.
On 1 September 1939 Germany invaded Poland.
On 3 September 1939 Britain and France declared war on Germany -
The Second World War had begun.


The programme explores the build up in the 1930's to the Second World War. It considers some of the reasons for Hitler's foreign policy:
1. To fulfil the promise for a new and dynamic foreign policy made when he became Chancellor.
2. As a means of achieving VOLKSGEMEINSCHAFT.
3. As a solution to Germany's short term economic and social problems.
4. To right the wrongs of the Versailles Treaty.
5. To achieve a GROSS Deutschland and to unite German speaking people.
6. To achieve Lebensraum for the German people.
7. To fulfil his imperialist aims for a German empire.

It goes on to explore Hitler's personal aims in foreign policy and describes the links between his aims and his ideological beliefs such as in Social Darwinism. It concludes with a chronological outline of the steps towards the Second World War, which illustrate Hitler's violation of the 1919 Treaty of Versailles.
• The introduction of conscription and Germany's rearmament.
• 1935: Anglo German Naval Agreement
• 1936: Re occupation of the demilitarised Rhineland.
• April 1938: Occupation of Austria.
• September 1938: Occupation of the Sudetenland
• March 1939: Occupation of the rest of Czechoslovakia.
• May 1939: German demands on the city of Danzig.
• August 1939: Nazi Soviet Pact.
• September 1 1939: German invasion of Poland.
• September 3 1939: British and French declaration of war on Germany.

The KEY QUESTION posed by the programme is to ask how Hitler ultimately became embroiled in a war with both Britain ad the USSR, when he clearly wanted to avoid war with Britain and even to work with her if possible.


THE NAZIS: A warning from History
Programme (4): The Wild East

This programme focuses on the experience of Poland during the Second World War, a country that suffered more than any other under Nazi occupation and where one in five people died. In particular, the Poles suffered the most brutal acts of ethnic cleansing'.
This is the story of the first twenty months of the war and of one of the chief architects of Nazi policy, Arthur Greiser, who claimed at the Nuremburg Trials that he had 'been acting under orders' ... but he lied. During the war men like Greiser tried to turn Poland into a model Nazi state, something he was able to do because of his status, which was comparable to that of an independent feudal baron.
On 1 September 1939 the Germans invaded Poland and within five weeks, the Polish army had been crushed and many buildings destroyed. This conquest resulted in the soaring of Hitler's popularity amongst German soldiers who saw him as the man responsible for the reclamation of the lost lands in the east. It was regarded as an act which had restored Germany's status as a Super Power.
The Germans created three states within German occupied Poland and Hitler demanded that two of them be 'Germanised' and ethnically cleansed. In line with his theories about the survival of the fittest and individual initiative, he asked no questions about the methods used to achieve these tasks by those in charge.


1. The initial task carried out by the Germans following their invasion of Poland was to categorise the population in the occupied territories. This was necessary before a policy of ethnic cleansing could be carried out. Essentially, the categorisation depended on 'how German' people seemed to be, something often established using criteria such as looks, language and attitude. Those Germans living in the former German areas lost at Versailles could be instantly 'Germanised' and most welcomed the German invasion as the forerunner to the establishment of a Grossdeutschland.
Other groups were regarded as 'dirty and without culture' and most Poles were regarded as sub species and treated in a variety of ways:
• they were deported to concentration camps in other parts of Poland.
• they remained as slaves
• they became victims of violence and genocide carried out by indigenous Germans, encouraged to settle old scores.

One primary source states, 'Greiser strove to make as many Poles as possible suffer, he took away their hope'. It is clear from the evidence that in these parts of Poland, the SS could do anything they liked and that they were responsible for many atrocities against the Polish people. One contemporary recollection by a German soldier suggests that he was shocked and ashamed at the time and felt that he no longer wanted to be German because what they were doing was so awful. He describes acts of genocide in which music was played 'because of the screaming'. The alternative view, however, was that 'the Poles had brought those crimes on themselves'. When doubts were expressed by some leading army generals about German policies in Poland and one view got back to Hitler (therefore, he did know what was going on) he dismissed their qualms as 'childish squeamishness' and said that a war could not be fought with 'Salvation Army methods'.
Hitler's policy of non intervention meant that the policy of ethnic cleansing in Poland was carried out very differently in different parts of the country.
In Danzig West Prussia, Albert Forster's (later found guilty of war crimes) methods were very different from those of Greiser. He was not committed to Hitler's racial theories and was determined to carry out Nazi racial policies as quickly as possible, rather than as thoroughly. His method was to declare that whole groups of Poles were now Germans (a policy accepted by 80% of the Poles affected) and could be put on the 'Germanised' list. This meant that extended families could have a very different experience of Nazi occupation dependent on which zone they were in.
The rivalry between Greiser and Forster led to complaints by Greiser to Himmler, that Forster was effectively 'cheating' in his policy of Germanisation and that his success could only be regarded as superficial. Greiser like Himmler believed that it was possible to scientifically identify Germans in order to distinguish them from non Germans. Forster had been heard to joke that if he looked like Himmler 'he wouldn't go on about the idea of race so much!', but Himmler criticised his strategies on scientific grounds. He warned Foster about the implications of his policies and stressed that a non systematic approach would result in contaminated blood and make it impossible to achieve a pure, Aryan race. But, with a direct link to Hitler, Forster believed that he could ignore Himmler and continue in his own way - and he was right, thus proving the limits to Himmler's authority.

2. The second task facing those in charge in the occupied zones, and a task which became increasingly difficult as numbers increased, was to find homes for ethnic Germans who were relocated to Poland, under a deal with Stalin. Propaganda films show Polish Germans welcoming the new arrivals, but 'the reality was very different'. Contemporary accounts make clear that the Polish Germans looked down on the immigrants; a view summed up by the statement, 'we almost took them as Poles'. But if the indigenous population were critical, those they condemned were equally disappointed by their new homeland and by the fact that they were not living in the former Kleindeutsch, Reich. Many were forced to live in very poor conditions in transit camps, which were often former schools which had been stripped, strewn with straw and in which no segregation was possible.
The practical implications of this policy of recolonisation for those such as Geiser and Forster, were immense. How were they to provide homes and jobs when they didn't exist?
In Geiser's district, Polish families were forcibly evicted from their homes, often at night and without warning and removed to concentration camps, in order to make way for incoming Germans. Empty properties were then distributed randomly. Families would be given a map and a key and told to find their new home. Primary reminiscences give the feelings of those obtaining new homes in this way. As the properties usually showed that they had been abandoned very hastily, it might be expected that the new families felt sympathy for those that had been forced to leave. In fact the evidence suggests that instead the new occupants felt 'fears of revenge and recrimination'. Although the new people now had homes, they still had no jobs. Sometimes however it was possible to achieve a home and a job simultaneously. In one example, a restaurant was 'repatriotised' although in this example the new tenant expressed some concern about the fate of the former owners and says that it was, 'unnatural' and 'really shouldn't happen.
In the 'hidden' countryside, the evictions were more total. In the example of Odrowgz, a whole village was emptied during which many atrocities were carried out. An interpreter, Franz Jagemann, who helped carry out the evictions, describes his ambivalance at the policy. He explains that although he went ahead with the process, he later warned other villages of what was ahead. 'It was the only way I could live with myself', he says. Therefore, in this way, Polish Germans were often responsible for slaughtering Poles they had previously lived with as friends.
Under Arthur Greiser, 700,000 Poles were evicted in this way in one year. Many were deported to the third German zone in Poland, in the south east, 'the Nazi racial dustbin' under the control of Hans Frank's General Government.

3. The third issue raised by the colonisation process was therefore that of deportation and what was to be done with those Poles evicted from their homes. There are many primary accounts of what happened, which describe how people were transported for eight or nine days in closed wagons with very little food or water, often to concentration camps. Dr Fritz Arit, a senior Nazi Officer in the General Government, describes how as many as 15,000 people a month could arrive unannounced in this way. When asked whether he is ashamed to have been a Nazi, Arit answers that it was a decision taken after careful thought and that he isn't ashamed. He goes on to describe how Hans Frank was enraged by the fact that his region was being used as a dumping ground, but despite his sycophancy towards Hitler, when he complained to him, his appeal was countered by Himmler and the policy continued. Arit also makes clear that even Ethnic Germans suffered if they resisted an aspect of Nazi policy and they too could be sent to a concentration camp.

4. Policy towards the Jews was the fourth aspect of the German occupation of Poland. When the Germans invaded Poland there were three million Jews living there. In the early months following the occupation, the initial Nazi policy towards these Jews was to gather them together and transport them to ghettos within the major towns. At this stage, it is clear that the Nazis had no concrete policy towards the Jews. The programme gives the example of Lodz in Grieser's district, in which in one of the biggest ghettos, 2 square miles, 160,000 Jews were gathered together. The programme includes many contemporary reminiscences, backed up by primary film footage. Once in the ghettos, the Jews were sealed in behind barbed wire fences and once their food stocks were exhausted they had to buy supplies through the fences at inflated prices. Money was extorted from the Jews and many Poles and Germans got rich as a result. When the Jews had nothing else to sell, they starved to death. A contemporary, recalls that he was upset at the fate of the Jews, but that he continued to exploit them - 'what else could you do? You would be killed too!' By the summer of 1940, many more Jews in the ghettos were dying and the Germans embarked on a new strategy, instead of letting the Jews die, they were kept alive (at least temporarily) and used as slave labour. In this way, people could continue to make money out of the Jews. The programme claims that therefore Greiser was the greatest beneficiary of Hitler's policy when he chose to be a thief and a murderer!
The programme concludes with the sinister observation that, 'in the first twenty months of their occupation of Poland, the Nazis had shown that they were amongst the cruellest conquerors the world had ever seen ... but that even worse was to come'.

The programme's focus is on the first twenty months of the Nazi occupation of Poland. It explores four main aspects of Nazi policy:
1. The categorisation of the population in the occupied territories prior to the introduction of 'ethnic cleansing' and the treatment of the non-German people in these areas.
2. The policy of re-colonisation, in which ethnic Germans from the East were relocated in Poland, following an agreement with Stalin.
3. The treatment of Poles evicted from their homes in order to facilitate re-colonisation.
4. The Policy towards Polish Jews.

THE KEY QUESTION is again that of responsibility for Nazi policy and the extent of popular support and endorsement for the way in which non-Germans in the occupied territories were treated.


The NAZIS: A Warning from History
Programme (5): The road to TREBLINKA

The programme starts with a view of a railway line, followed by the view of a field. Between July 1942 - August 1943 this area became a 'killing factory'. This is TREBLINKA, one of six extermination camps set up in Poland by the Germans to tackle the Jewish Question'.

The theme of the programme is to ask, 'How did it happen? How could such places ever come to exist?
Following the German conquest of Poland, the Germans adopted a number of temporary solutions to deal with the 3 million Polish Jews living there (see programme (4) ). The Jews, who were regarded as racially inferior were brutally persecuted. Propaganda promoted the view that the Jews were carriers of Bolshevism; people who were plotting a world wide political and economic conspiracy. However, despite the rhetoric about 'racial destruction', as late as the end of 1940, the Nazis had no systematic plan for the mass elimination of the Jewish race. Instead, the emphasis was on expulsion from conquered lands and their possible re-settlement in a new Homeland (such as Madagascar from France) in a German Police State.

However, in the Spring of 1941, Hitler's radical decision to invade the USSR, necessitated a change in Nazi policy towards the Jews. On June 22 1941 the Germans embarked on 'Operation Barbarossa', 'an ideological and imperialist crusade'. The primary evidence presented by the programme confirms that this was a new type of war, 'a war without rules'. The order from the top was 'to destroy everything' with no scruples no stubbornness', and the order was reinforced by careful propaganda. Although one contemporary, Adolf Buchner explains that some soldiers were repulsed by the new German tactics against the Russians he confirms that most people were influenced by Nazi propaganda which described the Jews as 'parasites'. It was argued that the Jews had undermined thousand year old cultures and their influence would bring about crime, corruption and chaos.


Germans entering Soviet territory were organised into Einsatz Groupen - 'killing squads' - organised by Reinhart Heydrich, Head of the Security Police. Their orders were to clear the conquered areas of undesirables' ready for re-settlement by ethnic Germans. He gave orders as to who should be executed during this process and the list included all officials of the Comintern, officials of senior and middle rank, all Jews in the service of the party and the state and people's Commissars. It was made clear that no steps should be taken to stop purges that began spontaneously and were carried out by the indigenous population - in fact, these were to be encouraged. Heydrich is described by one witness as a cold blooded murderer' who 'thought himself a man of culture'. A friend of Heydrich, Christine von Amsberg, however describes him as 'charming' and a gentlemen'. When asked how she could reconcile this view with what she now knows about him, the reply was that 'there is a logic in it, because he was a conscientious worker'.
Between them, Himmler and Heydrich were responsible for, 'a quantum leap forward in Jewish policy', it was they who ordered the 'collective murder of the Jews'.
There were FOUR Einsatz Groupen, each containing between 600 - 1,000 men and led by 'educated' Germans.

A= Dr Walter STAHLECHER = The bloodiest group operating in the Baltic states.
B = Arthur NEBE
C = Dr Otto RASCH

Group A followed the German army into the staunchly Catholic Lithuania, an area already suppressed by Stalin. Ironically, because of this, at first the invading army was welcomed as 'liberators'. The 'killing squad' immediately began the destruction of communist symbols - such as statues and posters, but they also embarked on programmes against the Jews, because of their supposed Communist sympathies.
Wilhelm Gunsilius, who was part of a German reconnaissance unit in 1941, remembers one such programme, the 'KAUNAS massacre' - but this was genocide carried out by the local population. He describes how a group of Jews was bludgeoned to death and how someone then stood on the pile of bodies with an accordion and played the Lithuanian national anthem. The majority of programs, however, were carried out by the Nazis; 'all men, not just the leaders, would be rounded up, taken out of the towns and shot dead'.
In August 1941 Himmler made a propaganda visit to group (A) and his appointment book records for 15 August - 'Minsk - attend execution'. Such executions were not recorded officially, but some footage of such executions does exist, such as that recorded by Walter Frentz, cameraman at Hitler's Head Quarters in 1941. The programme shows an execution in Latvia and includes Himmler's explanation of it the same evening, 'If we don't do it to them, they will do it to us'. Such views became the justification for the extension of Nazi policy towards the Jews. Every single Jew now became a potential military threat and it was argued to justify the killing of women and children, 'that a generation, of avengers could not be allowed to grow up'.
But Himmler was worried about the psychological effect of his policies on German soldiers and he was warned of the likely adverse consequences by Arthur Nebe, commander of Einstatz Groupen B.
This meant that the Nazis began to experiment with 'a more humane way' of killing the Jews to protect the executioners. The solution would be poison gas, but while the experiments with gas took place the executions continued. In the summer of 1941, the Lithuanian village of Butrimony exemplified this extension to German policy. Primary evidence from a woman who escaped, explains how Jews who had previously been tolerated were expelled and executed - 'villagers watched out of curiosity and greed'.
67 men 37 women 303 children were therefore killed by Lithuanian collaborators.
On the same day in Alytus, 1,279 people were murdered. On 10 September 1941, 854 people were executed in Merking and 831 in Varena.
In the Baltic states at this time, it is estimated that 80% of the killings were carried out by local people. Petras Zelionka recalls how so called 'volunteers' were given Vodka to encourage them. (He ended up in a Soviet Gulag, having given evidence against his comrades who were then executed). When asked, 'Didn't you think you shouldn't do it?, Zelionka replies 'that it is very difficult to explain today, .... This is a tragedy, a big tragedy, but it's a kind of curiosity, you just pull the trigger, he falls and that's it'. When questioned as to why he feels no guilt, his answer is to argue that he has paid his debt, 'I served a twenty year sentence'. But what about your conscience' 'I'm not going to explain anymore'.

Policy towards the Jews in Germany.

Throughout the war, Hitler continued to direct policy from 'the Wolf's Lair' and by September 1941 his policies were becoming increasingly extreme. For example he declared that Leningrad should 'vanish from the surface of the earth', but this was a public policy statement. Behind the scenes his private comments focused on his desire to take revenge on the Jews, especially if they pushed the USA into the war. Even before America entered the war however, Hitler had already extended his policy towards German Jews. In September 1941 it was made obligatory for all Jews in Germany to wear the yellow star of David and primary sources suggest that people were aware that a shift in policy had taken place, because suddenly all Jews were on show. Gunther Ruschin states 'Hatred grew and was felt', especially when Aryan Germans claimed that German Jews were not German.

The continuing War in the East.

During the Autumn and Winter of 1941, the war in the USSR became increasingly difficult. The Germans were 'bogged down in the mud of the East' and in December 1941, following Pearl Harbour, the US entered the war.
On 18 December, Hitler met Himmler to discuss the Jewish question ('Judenfrage') and Himmler's appointment diary records - in 'camouflage language' - that the Jews were 'to be exterminated as partisans'. The entry is written by Himmler and clearly links Hitler with the killings.
In January 1942 a second meeting took place on the outskirts of Berlin, clearly called to finalise details of Nazi policy towards the Jews. Hitler, had already authorised the deportation of Jews and the meeting was chaired by Heydrich, who months earlier had been asked to compile a plan for the 'Final Solution'. The minutes of the meeting were taken by Adolf Eichmann and were deliberately, euphemistic, talking about 'evacuation' ('evakmering'), but this was code for extermination. After the meeting, Hans Frank told his officials in Poland that 'liquidation' would be the outcome for the Jews.
Deportations were carried out throughout Germany as amateur footage filmed in Dresden confirms. This was the culmination of Nazi policy towards the Jews which had begun as soon as Hitler became Chancellor in 1933.
1. The Jews had been denied Reich citizenship
2. The Jews had been denied the right to state education.
3. Jewish property had been confiscated.
4. Jews had become victims of violence and internment and were physically identified by the yellow star.
5. Jews were deported to work camps, 55,000 Jews were deported from Berlin - more than from any other city.

One contemporary recalls that it was 'an atmosphere of big fear'. Some Germans helped; Erwin Massuthe was an example of someone who didn't. He explains that 'everyone assumed that they were being taken to work, but growing knowledge and fear meant that you kept a low profile'. 'If you resisted, you risked your life and your job'.
But, how big a secret was Nazi Policy?
Alfons Schulz who worked at Hitler's Head Quarters 1942-1945 recalls a conversation overheard by a switchboard operator, between Bormann and Himmler. Himmler is reputed to have referred to the 'liquidation ... err evacuation ... of 20,000 Jews', producing an angry response from Bormann who insisted that all such discussions should be carried out through 'special courier', to avoid being overheard.
What the programme does make clear is that the Jews learnt of what would happen to them through ordinary Germans. 'Didn't they tell you yet?', workers at Frankfurt station are reported to have said to Jews as they were being loaded into wagons for deportation.
Therefore, how many Germans did know what was happening to the Jews?
A Nazi secret intelligence report from the period, records disquiet amongst Germans in Southern Germany as reports of 'shootings' in Russia reached them. As uncertainty about a German victory in the war increased, so did fears of revenge. But by this time, six extermination camps had been built in Nazi occupied Poland.


These were camps designed to eliminate not just German Jews, but all Jews in occupied Europe and any other groups (such as European gypsies) that the Nazis considered a racial or ideological threat.

TREBLINKA - a case study.

A reconstruction of the physical layout of the camp and of the camp routine has been put together using evidence from survivors, such as Samuel WILLENBERG. During the period in which it was in use, there were only seventy survivors from the camp. He explains that the station at Treblinka was made to look 'as normal as possible'. From the station, Jews were taken to 'undressing barracks' where they were segregated, having been told that this was a 'hygiene stop'. A connecting path ('the path of death' or 'the route to heaven') led from the barracks to the gas chambers. Willenberg claimed that it was the Ukrainians who pushed the Jews into the gas chambers. Jews that were ill were taken to a building marked with a red cross. Once through the door they were shot and buried in a huge pit. The vast majority of those who came to Treblinka were murdered within three hours of arriving. The pits they were buried in were dug by diggers and were massive - 200 m x 300 m. They were made to contain as many as 875,000 bodies. Willenberg states, 'it is difficult to believe that such a crime could be carried out in such a small space. The scale of the crime is beyond comprehension'. But the Nazis didn't just kill they stole as well. Clothes and valuables from the dead were sorted and plundered and sent back to Germany.
By 1943, their work completed the Germans tried to conceal what they had done, often by attempting to recover bodies from the burial pits in order to burn them. This usually wasn't done out of guilt, but out of fear, because by this time Germany was losing the war and it was realised that their crimes would be discovered if the Russians started to win. Himmler made his position clear when he addressed SS colleagues on the subject of the Final Solution. He said, 'it is one of most glorious chapters in our history which has not, and may never be written'.

The theme of the programme is to consider how the 'Final Solution' came about and how extermination camps ever came to exist. Taking a chronological approach the programme traces the experiences of Jews in Germany and the occupied territories from 1941-1943. It considers a number of issues:
1. The impact of Operation Barbarosssa
2. The organisation and methods of the Nazi 'killing squads'.
3. The influence of Himmler and Reinhart Heydrich on Nazi Policy.
4. The issue of responsibility for the Final Solution.
5. The case study of Treblinka.

The KEY QUESTIONS are incorporated in the programmes underlying theme which is to consider how such a policy as the Final Solution ever came into being. As in previous programmes the most sinister issue raised by the evidence concerns responsibility for what happened.


The NAZIS: A warning from history
Programme (6) : Fighting to the end

The programme starts with the observation that because Italy was 'the birthplace of fascism', an alliance between Rome and Berlin in the 1930's therefore seemed natural and not unexpected. The two countries fought together in the first years of the Second World War, but on 19 July 1943, the 'unthinkable happened' Rome was bombed. By this time 200,000 Italian soldiers were dead or missing, the Axis alliance was a disaster and they wanted to get out of 'the war which was lost'. On 24 July 1943, the Grand Council expressed its lack of confidence in Benito Mussolini and made clear its desire to return to the monarchy (an institution not abolished by Mussolini), which was to have control of the armed forces. On 25 July, Mussolini met with Victor Emmanuel and he was dismissed as Prime Minister and subsequently imprisoned. There was immediate popular support for the new government, which surrendered to the Germans and then in October 1943 declared war on Nazi Germany - 'not a very honourable thing to do', as Mario Mondello, an Italian diplomat points out, 'but typical of the Italian character'.

Having considered the Italian experience when faced with defeat, the programme then goes on to compare Germany with Italy and to ask two questions:

1. When it was clear that Germany was losing the war, why didn't the Germans remove Hitler as the Italians had done to Mussolini?
2. Why were the German people prepared to fight to the end?
It goes on to suggest a number of reasons as to WHY the Germans behaved differently from the Italians:

1. Hitler's personality, status and inaccessibility during the war.
The first task for anyone seeking to remove Hitler physically, from power was to gain access to him. This was not an easy task when he hid himself for most of the war surrounded by mines, barbed wire and SS guards in the Wolf's Lair, and only spent time with his generals.
A second problem when dealing with Hitler, as primary sources suggest, was how to avoid being seduced by the force of his personality. Karl BoehmTettelbach, a General Staff Officer at Hitler's Head Quarters in 1944 talks about his 'respect' for Hitler, and 'the tension he felt in his presence'. He goes on to talk about Hitler's 'flair' and the way he was 'an inspiration to others; a very strange thing'. Another Staff Officer, Ulrich de Maziθre says that 'Hitler could even inspire those who had given up to try again'.

2. The nature of the War
By the end of 1943 it was clear that Germany was losing the war. In November 1942, the area of German control in Europe was at its peak, but a year later:
• the Russians were advancing in the East
• the Americans and British were pushing up through Italy
• troops were gathering in England in preparation for D Day.
The programme suggests that a second reason why the Germans fought on under these circumstances was because of their actions in Poland and the Soviet Union. As in earlier episodes, the programme makes clear that the war in the East was very different from that in the West. In the East, the fact that the Germans believed that they were fighting 'subhumans' meant that Hitler had aimed for 'annihilation'.
Adolf Buchner remembers the 'brutality' of the Germans towards those in the occupied Eastern territories. Partisans were executed wherever they were found and the war became an excuse for the local population to eliminate anyone they didn't like. Therefore, the Nazi leadership could not conspire against their Fuhrer when they had known about, and approved of, the policies of 'barbarism and killing', because they themselves were implicated in what had taken place.

3. Hitler's strategy of leadership. Hitler's encouragement of personal enmity between individuals and the way in which he promoted in-fighting between groups in his 'policy of dualism', meant that the leadership all hated and mistrusted each other. This was especially clear in the relationship between Ribbontrop, Goebbels, Goering and Borman, who fought each other for Hitler's support and favour. What Hitler's strategy meant in practice, however, was that conspiracy against him was unlikely. In addition, the military all swore an oath of personal loyalty to Hitler so that any plot against him would have to be very secret and would be difficult to co-ordinate.
Hans von Herwarth an officer involved in the one serious attempt to kill Hitler - the von Stauffenberg Plot, explains the problems facing the conspirators. He survived the plot and avoided execution because he was not later betrayed by those arrested. He says that the plotters all realised that the only way to succeed in killing Hitler was to carry out a Kami-Kazi type attack. As such, Klaus von Stauffenberg, took a bomb in a suitcase into Hitler's office as Hitler was being briefed. It exploded at 12.42, but Hitler survived with only minor injuries because he was standing behind a table which took the brunt of the blast. The conspirators were immediately searched for, rounded up and executed. In the early hours of 23 July, Hitler addressed the German people on the radio. In talking about his miraculous escape he said, 'I take this as confirmation of my assignment from Providence ... and I will continue to pursue my life's goal'. Later that day Hitler visited those injured by the blast and Otto Klimmer, a Nazi Youth Officer at the time, talks about the 'relief' he felt that Hitler was still alive and 'the general feeling of outrage at the killers'.

4. The influence of propaganda In effect, the von Stauffenberg plot proved a 'propaganda coup' for Hitler. In fact, however, it only enhanced the deep roots of loyalty to Hitler which had been so carefully nurtured by Goebbels' propaganda campaigns in the eleven years since the Nazis had come to power.
Hitler now ordered that the armed forces be drawn more deeply into the Nazi fold. He said, 'We are now political soldiers and our task is to defend our national socialist idea'. Otto Klimmer says as a result of the propaganda that he saw himself as part of 'an invincible fighting force' and he goes on, 'we felt we were somebody'.

5. The nature of German Society and the wider influence of Hitler's views. Another factor which meant that the Germans, unlike the Italians, were unlikely to abandon Hitler, was the fact that Germany was a racist society, whether as a result of propaganda or not. This meant that anti-Semitism was not just Hitler's view, but a belief shared by the majority of Germans, who therefore gave Hitler wide spread and positive support. in addition, support for Hitler's ideas, and thus for him extended beyond Germany to include all Aryans who profited from the slave labour of 'subhumans' in the occupied territories. Henrik Skrzypinski a Pole who worked as a forced labourer between 1940-1944, gives evidence about the harsh conditions of those forced to work by the Germans. His description is reinforced by other primary sources from those in charge. One witness makes clear their attitude when he says, 'well, they were Poles and we were Germans'.
By August 1944 there were seven and a half million forced labourers working for the Germans, of whom nearly 700,000 were Poles. It was the Jews, however, who suffered more than anybody else as slave labourers and the case study of a chemical works in Silesia, supplied by Jews from Auschwitz, illustrates what happened at the camp. He says that new arrivals were separated into two groups - those who could work were sent to the labour camp and those who couldn't mostly women and children - were sent to the gas chambers. The men usually worked in groups of five and he explains that it was usually safest to be in the middle, so as not to be hit by the SS. In general, however, to be sent to a labour camp achieved only a temporary postponement of death, for on average three months.
The programme maintains that even if the German people were ignorant of what went on in Auschwitz, they certainly knew that Germany had become a racist state. The belief that a 'true German' was a superior being was illustrated and promoted by propaganda films, but this led to a paradox. If the Germans were superior, why were they losing the war? Did they not have enough superior beings in the army? In order to overcome deficiencies in the army, German propaganda was extended to those outside Germany in an attempt to recruit racially acceptable foreigners into the Waffen SS. It was a successful strategy and thus Hitler's survival was prolonged by the 4,000 foreigners who fought alongside the Germans, motivated by anti-Semitism and fear of Communism. Evidence from Jacques Leroy, a Frenchman who fought alongside the Germans, illustrates how people were motivated by 'an ideological repulsion of Bolshevism'. The extent of his commitment, and German desperation, is shown by the fact that even when losing an arm and an eye be begged the SS to be allowed to continue, and they agreed.

6. Fear of Communism and of the USSR. If Hitler was able to capitalise on ideological fears in order to guarantee his survival, he also benefited from the German people's specific fear of Soviet soldiers and their experiences as civilians in the last period of the war.
In the last fifteen months of the war, as the allied bombing intensified, 350,000 died as a result of urban bombardment. Three times more civilians were killed than in the previous three years of the war by 'Churchill's murder boys'. But still, the German will to fight to the death. Survived German news reels showed the Germans retreating for the first time and the commentators tried to put the retreat into 'some new strategic light', emphasising the need for continuing loyalty to the Fuhrer. The effect of such footage was to increase the popular fear of Soviet advance, and simultaneously to increase the German commitment to fight. By 1945 it was the job of the Nazi 'guidance leaders' to inspire small groups of Germans in the will to continue. Walter Fernau, one such leader, describes his ways of doing this. He says that his approach was to describe the situation candidly and to be explicit about allied land and air advances on Germany. He would admit he says, that 'it's all shit', but then go onto say that because the Fuhrer must see it too, 'if he asks us to do our duty, then this is what we must do'. The programme shows footage of Goebbels addressing the Volksturm (Home Guard) which comprised six million men who were either too young or too old to have joined up initially. To inspire them he told them that they were 'the last bastion against the Bolshevik hoards'. In his last radio broadcast on 30 January 1945, Hitler reinforced this view when he emphasised the need for continuing sacrifice, especially against the advancing Russians.

7. Fear of other Germans. In the last months of the war, an additional reason for continuing to fight became the fear of other Germans. In order to discourage dissent, Nazi terror against German civilians increased dramatically if they criticised or resisted policy demands. The programme offers the example of the village of Zellingen, in which after a 'flying court marshall', a farmer was hanged from a tree. The prosecuting officer at the time, who served six years in prison after the war, and claims that by the end of the war 'he was a madman', denies, however, that under the circumstances such actions were to harsh. A lesser sentence, he argues, such as six months in prison, would guarantee an individual's survival, given the imminence of the end of the war. The only way to guarantee national loyalty was therefore to deter disloyalty through the fear of execution.
The ruins of Berlin became Hitler's final bolt hole as the armies advanced West and at this stage, even Goebbels' propaganda could not conceal the final reality. By this time Hitler was ill, with shaking paralysis in his right arm (Parkinson's disease?) and forced to wear blue tinted glasses because of his poor sight. Eye witness accounts, such as those by Virich de Maziere, suggest however that even at this stage, 'Hitler had lost none of his demonic charisma. He goes on to say, 'He was mentally ill in the sense that he suffered from excessive self-identification with the German people and he really lived out this self-identification ........he was convinced - and I heard him say it - that after the end of him and of National Socialism the German people could not survive. The action would be destined to collapse. That was mentally sick.'

But, even under these circumstances, in the last desperate months of the war, Hitler remained the undisputed leader of Germany. Unlike the Italians, the Germans no longer had a king to whom they could turn. Hitler as Head of State and Chancellor held all the levers of power. The Germans paid a heavy price for his leadership, as the Generals had been told to close their hearts to pity and to act brutally, and in the final months of the war their actions proved that they had learnt their lessons.
On 30 April 1945, the Russians occupied and destroyed the East German town of Demmin. During the attack, the soviet soldiers carried out many brutal atrocities and multiple rapes on the civilian population, thus seeming to confirm the Germans' fear of bolshevism. As a result, nine hundred people, including whole families, committed suicide rather than be taken prisoner. On the same day shortly before 3.30 in the afternoon, with the Russians yards from the Bunker, Hitler shot himself.
Nazism and its leader had been destroyed, but at a terrible cost.
The programme concludes by citing the two most crucial reasons why the Germans fought to the end:
1. They were unable to rid themselves of Hitler.
2. They had been so well indoctrinated to see the Russians as sub human and to fear them.


Hitler had said that when he died he would leave a great and strong Germany behind him, instead his legacy was to leave a new knowledge of what human beings are capable of .... backed up by gruesome primary footage.
The philosopher Karl Jaspers, who was himself persecuted, wrote after the war,
... that which has happened is a warning, to forget it is guilt. It was possible for this to happen and it can happen again at any minute ...'
This is the warning from history, the lesson from the past.


The theme of the programme is to compare Germany with Italy when faced with defeat and to ask why, unlike the Italians, the Germans remained loyal to Hitler and were willing to fight to the end. A number of reasons are put forward to explain the German response:

1. Hitler's personality, status and inaccessibility during the war.
2. The nature of the war.
3. The effect of Hitler's strategy of leadership.
4. The influence of propaganda.
5. The nature of German society and the wider, European, influence of Hitler's views.
6. Fear of Communism and the USSR.
7. Fear of other Germans.

The KEY QUESTION raised by the programme is therefore to ask why the Germans failed to reject Hitler, even in the final months of the war, but the more fundamental issue is that raised by the scenes as a whole and encapsulated in its title. That is, whether examples of society's inhumanity should be forgotten, or whether instead, to learn about them is to enable lessons to be learnt from the past in order that such horrors can be a warning from History.




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