Hitler's Domestic Policies

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Evaluate the impact on Germany of Hitler’s domestic policies between 1933 and 1945.

Hitler aimed to affect key areas of German societal structure through the design and implementation of a range of domestic policies. These included policies which affected the political structure of the nation, women’s role in society and their aspirations, the development of future generations and fundamental belief systems such as those concerning religion and racial attitudes. However, it is simplistic to assume that all of these policies had an impact either on the status of German society and on trends in its development. The reality of implementing domestic policies did not always have the effect that Hitler intended, either in the scope or depth of their impact. Indeed, one could affirm that due to the ‘chaos at the heart of the state’ it is reductionist to assume that any policy put in place between 1933 and 1945 was actually of Hitler’s own design or even that policies were designed at all, since many decisions were implemented on an ad hoc basis merely to appease the Fuhrer.

A policy is defined as “an overall plan of action designed to influence and determine immediate and long-term decisions” and a “plan” is defined as “a detailed scheme worked out beforehand for the accomplishment of an objective”. Hitler had no such structured plan to determine policy and, therefore, it is questionable as to whether his ad hoc actions can actually be called “policies”. This is reflected in the political realities of the Nazi government where, as Otto Dietrich pointed out, there was a “completely opaque network of competencies”, with leading figures vying for Hitler’s attention and seeking his approval. To the extent Hitler’s actions can be characterised as “policies”, it is possible to make an evaluation of their impact.

Hitler’s domestic political policy aimed to have coordination or “gleichshaltung” over all aspects of society. In this respect, therefore, Hitler’s domestic political policy underpins every aspect of the Nazi regime. This is evident from the “Night of Long Knives” in 1934 when Hitler eliminated political opponents such as members of the “Sturmabteilung”. From this moment onwards, the German people felt an underlying terror of the regime and its potential actions. When the President of the Reichstag Paul von Hindenburg died in 1934, Hitler merged the offices Chancellor and President, which allowed him to rule by decree. Consequently, German society was transformed; it was no longer a freethinking democracy but on it’s way to becoming a dictatorship that would radically change the life of every German citizen. For example, the “Enabling Act” passed all legislative powers to the Nazi government; the “Gleichshaltung” laws changed the regional structure of government; trade unions were shattered; the Nazi party became the only legal political party; and ultimately sections of society lost all access to democratic processes and basic human rights. This means that Hitler’s domestic political policy was predominant over all other Nazi policies in its impact on German society.

Hitler’s economic policy had mixed and changing implications for Germany between 1933 and 1945. For example, from 1933 to 1936 increased government expenditure on public works, such as the construction of “autobahns”, increased demand for skilled working class men. Consequently, unemployment fell from 6 million in 1933 to 2.1 million in 1935 In this case the impact on Germany was very strong as it symbolised to German society that stability had returned to the nation after the “troublesome 1920s” and the effects of the Great Depression in the early 1930s. Furthermore, the “kraft durch freude” provided workers with opportunities to travel, to participate in cultural visits and to take advantage of leisure facilities. On the other hand, the demands on the worker were increased; an average 43-hour working week in 1929 increased to an average of 47...
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