Terror and Repression in Nazi Germany

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One of the key proponents of Nazi ideology was a promise to birth a new Germany. This promise of national rebirth resonated strongly in the early 1930s, when the Weimar Republic was shaken to the core by economic and political crisis. At the centre of the Nazi vision stood the ‘national community’, depicted as the polar opposite to the conflict- ridden Weimar society. In a speech witnessed by the nation in January 1932, one year before his appointment as German chancellor, Adolf Hitler concluded that the resurrection of Germany depended on the creation of a ‘healthy, national, and strong’ community. But Hitler made clear that not everyone would be allowed to join: those who endangered the ‘body of the people’ had to be ruthlessly excluded. This was no joke. Hitler and other Nazi leaders had talked for years about the need to ‘cleanse’ Germany of various ‘community aliens’ (Gemeinschaftsfremde). Only by removing from society all that was alien, sick, and dangerous, they claimed, could the uniform ‘national community’ emerge. Nazi leaders had no complete plan for the execution of their devastating vision. But it was clear that they envisaged, from early on, a fierce campaign of repression, targeting three groups in particular: political opponents (predominately left), social outcasts, and ‘racial aliens’ (Jews). Well before they gained power, the Nazis believed that an extensive policy of exclusion was needed for national salvation: their dream of a brighter future for Germany was always a dream of terror and destruction for those unfortunate enough to stand in the way.

After Adolf Hitler was appointed chancellor of Germany on January 30, 1933, he took every opportunity to turn Germany into a one-party dictatorship. He also strategized carefully to arrange the police power necessary to implement his long-term policies of racial purification and European conquest both inside and outside the legalities of the German constitution. On the night of February 27-28,...
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