"Fascist rule could only exist by exploiting the fears of the masses." To what extent would you agree with reference to either Germany or Italy up to 1939?

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Between 1933 and 1939, the Fascist Nazi state, under the rule of Adolf Hitler was reliant on a combination of fear caused by force, and popular support for its maintenance. It is difficult to decide exactly whether fear or support was more effective, as because of the Fascist regime, the German public were forbidden to express their opinions as the historians Noakes and Pridham had commented, "an independent public opinion did not exist in the Third Reich." Therefore, there is much historical debate and controversy caused among those who believe that fear caused by force was the main factor keeping Hitler in power and those who believe that the Nazi state survived due to popular support from the German people. The historian Buchheim is an example of someone who considers the exploitation of fear to be responsible, as opposed to Wilt, who gives more credit to popular support for Nazism. It is important to consider and evaluate both methods to reach a balanced conclusion on which factor Hitler and his Nazi state was more dependent on for survival.

Undoubtedly, exploiting the fears of the German people by use or threat of force played a highly important part in helping Hitler to maintain power. The first step towards this was persuading President Hindenberg to hold new elections in which Hitler hoped he would gain a majority but unfortunately for Hitler, the Communists were a great threat to the Nazis and before the election there was vicious rivalry between the Nazis and the Communists as open fighting took place between the parties to prevent each other from holding political meetings. However, the German Reichstag was mysteriously burned to the ground on the 28th of February 1933. Found near the building was a Communist Dutch vagrant so Hitler saw this as a reason to blame the Communists. Hitler banned the Communist party by using the emergency powers under the terms of Article 48. He also played on the middle and upper class German people's fears of a Communist uprising to justify his banning of the Communist party and declared that the burning down of the German Parliament was the start of a Bolshevik revolution. However, later in 1980, the German courts affirmed that it was the Nazis who started the fire as they had access to the Reichstag through a secret passage. They would have benefited from blaming the Communists as it improved their prospects in the upcoming elections. This is an example of Hitler's use of force, trickery and exploitation of the fears of the German public to consolidate his power.

The Enabling Law, passed in March 1933, was perhaps the most important step in securing Hitler's position in power as the legal basis of the Nazi regime was secured. The Bill required a two-thirds majority to pass in the Reichstag, which Hitler managed to gain by using force to either scare MPs into voting for him or to stop them from voting altogether. First of all, he did this by making a deal with the Catholic Church that the Centre Party should be dissolved and that the priests should stay out of politics. In return, Hitler promised to give the Catholic Church a safe place in Nazi Germany and that religious orders and Catholic influence in education would not be restricted. Although Hitler made them a deal, many of the Catholic deputies felt forced to agree, as they were frightened by the threats made by the SA. The Catholics did not wish to suffer the same fate as the Communists. Also, 81 Communists and 12 Socialists were arrested and could not vote. Hitler intimidated the Parliament on the day of the vote by placing SS troops outside of the building and SA troops inside. A Socialist deputy described the scene: "The Kroll Opera House was crawling with armed SA men. The assembly hall was decorated with swastikas. When we Social Democrats had taken out seats on the extreme left, SA men lined up at the exits along the walls behind us in a semicircle. Their expressions boded no good." Nonetheless, these remaining...
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