Did the people of Germany truly support the Nazi Regime?
Support from the military and the support of Goring, Heydrich and Himmler was key, as in the period of 1933-34, the army had the power to be able to remove Hitler. However, once the power of the SA was diminished and it’s leaders removed during the Night of the Long Knives, Hitler was able to gain the support of the majority of the military. Added to the fact that he rearmed, expanded and gave them the chance to fight and achieve victories.
Hitler expanded his control in an engineered plot in which he removed leading elements of the military who opposed his rule. However, key people in the army remained concerned at the idea of a huge war and kept plotting to remove Hitler. One of these key figures was General Beck, who planned on arresting Hitler, but Hitler was able to maintain control over and the trust of the army.
Even when the war began to collapse with defeats in Russia, the army had become so Nazified that most remained loyal to Hitler. In the July Bomb Plot of 1944, a group of officers did act and try to assassinate Hitler, but they were unsuccessful.
Even before the war, there were other instances of attempts on Hitler’s life. In 1936, Helmut Hirsch, who was a German Jew and a member of the pro-Strasser Black Front, planted two suitcases filled with explosives at the Nazi Party headquarters in Nuremberg in an attempt against Hitler's life. This suggests that a number of people in the German military were not satisfied with Hitler and wished to remove him entirely.
Overall, despite these few instances of disloyalty, the military was largely supportive of the Nazi Regime and Hitler’s rule.
The Upper Class
Support for Hitler has long been identified among the upper classes, with Hitler receiving support from wealthy industrialists and big businesses.
Hitler was even able to achieve support through the war.
When Germany rearmed and went to war, industrial sectors of the economy experienced a high increase in production and income, so they were even more supportive of Hitler and the Nazi’s policies.
The Nazis were even able to please German aristocrats, with their proposals to expand east and reduce the population density, desire to return to traditional values, imperialist policies and German nationalism.
Businessmen also supported Hitler as he was in favour of private businesses. In contrast, the Weimar Republic increasingly nationalised businesses between 1928 and 1933.
However, as a result of the war, food production was half what it had been prior to the beginning of the Second World War. Despite upper-class people being wealthier, they still suffered from a lack of food during the war period.
The Middle Class
Although earlier historians saw the Mittelstandspartei – a group of lower-middle-class craftspeople & small shop owners, and the central middle class – as being drawn to the Nazis in order to fill a gap in politics, some Nazi policies may have resulted in reduced support from the middle class.
For instance, the Nazi policy of Social Darwinism towards businesses resulted in smaller businesses, who were seen as less efficient, failing. In fact, during the rule of the Nazis, 20% of small businesses shut down, whilst big businesses increased their profit margins.
However, it can indeed be argued that the concept of Social Darwinism was mostly applied to Jewish businesses, rather than small businesses belonging to so-called ‘Ethnic Germans’. The ‘elimination’ of the Jewish businesses meant that middle class Aryan businessmen had less competition and saw improvements in their business.
Moreover, the middle class did benefit from the improving economy which enhanced their lifestyles, and bought the image of a moderate, unifying leader in Adolf Hitler, who united Germans. Aditionally, they were able to enjoy the benefits brought on by Kraft Deuche Freude, Strength Through Joy, as they were able to afford holidays and participate in activities.
If you look at the Nazi’s voting history as a whole, it is true that, especially in early years, the Nazis received a large number of votes from the Middle Class, whilst other parties, which relied on the support of the middle class, began to fail and collapse. Although, you could argue that perhaps, the even more over-represented group were the working class, and not the middle class.
The Working & Peasant Classes
The working and peasant classes also had mixed views on Hitler.
Peasants gained little from Hitler’s economic policy, but as a whole, there was little opposition from rural workers and farming did become more secure overall due to the regime’s investment in Autarky.
Meanwhile, Hitler was able to appeal to the urban working class as their economic situation improved through new Nazi labor organizations, and through removing the language of class warfare and replacing it with bonds of shared racial society which crossed classes. Although the working class voted in smaller percentages, they did made up the bulk of Nazi support.
Despite this, they were not necessarily pro-Nazi, but Hitler was able to convince a lot of workers that, despite the loss of rights as compared with during the Weimar Republic, they were benefitting more.
Additionally, as the socialists and communists were crushed (and hence, this opposition to the Nazi’s rule), workers turned to Hitler.
Overall, the working class did not benefit from Nazi policy that much, as they lost their worker's rights and trade unions, and their work hours increased, while their wages did not, and they lost the freedom to quit or change their jobs. Despite the repression they faced, there were still instances where workers challenged their employers and nazi organisations and took industrial actions. Although, this did result in punishment for them.
Furthermore, they did not necessarily benefit from the leisure program— not nearly as much as the Middle Class did, because their wages were still low, and even farmers stayed poor despite Nazi autarky policies. Hence, as a result, the working class were unable to afford the activities promoted by the KDF programme of the Nazis.
Studies of the electoral results during the 1930s revealed the Nazis gained noticeable support from people who hadn’t voted in elections before, such as the young people who for their first time, had become eligible to vote.
As the Nazi regime developed, more and more young people were put through the Nazi Education System, exposed to Nazi propaganda and taken into Nazi Youth organisations, with Historians arguing that this significantly indoctrinated the Youth into supporting Hitler’s Nazi regime.
However, others argue that many young people were not actually indoctrinated by the Youth organisations, but rather enjoyed spending their time, participating in the activities with their friends.
There were even instances of rebellious Youth groups, like ’the Swing Kids’ who didn’t conform to Nazi ideals of traditional, conservative, family values. They drank alcohol, smoked, listened to American Jazz music and spoke about and had a lot of sex, actively rebelling against the Nazi Party.
It’s quite incredible to learn that the Nazis, who forced so many women out of their jobs and pushed for them to stay at home and have babies, was supported by so many women.
In fact, it’s true that many Nazi organisations aimed at women were run by women, and this represents the opportunities that the Nazis offered to women.
Although there was opposition from women who had been banned from certain jobs, like being doctors, there were millions of women, especially those who were uneducated, who supported the Nazi regime and took employment in areas they were permitted to, rather than organising an opposition movement against the Nazis.
Overall, Nazi policy towards women did fail as women continued to work and the Birth Rate failed to increase significantly. But that did not mean that the Nazis were not supported by women. Despite Nazi ideas that promoted traditional household values, like women being the light of the home, many women still wanted to work rather than become a housewife, and female employment actually rose and continue to rise exponentially during the war.
Over the course of the 1920s and early 1930s, in European countries, like Italy and even Germany, the Catholic Church had been moving towards fascism, as they knew that the Church would be abolished under a communist government, which appeared to be a significant threat at the time.
However, during the collapse of the liberal Weimar Germany, Catholics voted for the Nazis in far lower numbers than Protestants. Catholic Cologne and Dusseldorf had some of the lowest Nazi voting percentages, and the Catholic church structure provided a different leadership figure and ideology when compared with that of the Nazis.
Nonetheless, Hitler was able to negotiate with the Churches, coming to the Reichskonkordat, in which Hitler guaranteed Catholic independence and no new struggle between them in return for support and an end to their role in politics.
Although a few months later, Hitler ended up breaking the agreement, but at a vital time, Hitler received vital support from Catholics, and the possible opposition of the Centre Party vanished as it dissolved. Despite Hitler’s aggression, he still retained the support of Protestants, who disliked the Weimar Republic, Treaty of Versailles, and Jews.
However, a significant number of Christians remained opposed to Nazi policy. Some of it was successfully as Christians were able to temporarily stop the euthanasia program, which involved executing the mentally ill and disabled, as they voiced opposition against the policy. Still, the Nazi’s racist Nuremberg Laws were actually welcomed by right-wing Christians.