How did Nazi rule affect Germans?



The key here is to understand that the Nazi state affected different people in different ways.   For the majority of people, in fact, life was good - that is why they turned a blind eye to the fact that - for groups which were not accepted by the Nazi state - life was horrific.




Resources from SchoolHistory 

Dr Dennis's model answers - very clear and useful exemplar answers, aimed at OCR students


- BBC debate-podcast on Life in Nazi Germany

- Scott Allsop's podcast on Life in Nazi Germany

- Giles Hill on Nazi Germany


Notes on the German economy, 1933-1939

Nazi propaganda 1933-45


What did the Nazis do for us? - the Nazis were evil genuises, and we still benefit from things they did.

1    Nazi Party members

  • were especially happy - they got all the best houses, preferential treatment, good jobs in the government and power over other people.


2     Ordinary people

For ordinary people, life was good, and many Germans even today look back and remember the years before 1939 as happy years:

  • Nazi economic policies gave full employment (work programmes/ Strength through Joy), prosperity and financial security - many observers stated that there seemed to be no poverty in Germany,

  • the Strength through Joy programme (KdF) gave some people fun and holidays.

  • the 'Beauty of Work' movement (SdA) gave people pride in what they were doing.

  • law and order (few people locked their doors),

  • autobahns improved transport,

  • frequent ceremonies, rallies, colour and excitement,

  • Nazi propaganda gave people hope,

  • Nazi racial philosophy gave people self-belief

  • Trust in Adolf Hitler gave a sense of security (one German woman told the American reporter Nora Wall: 'He is my mother and my father.   He keeps me safe from all harm.')


There were few drawbacks:

  • Wages fell, and strikers could be shot - the Nazis worked closely with the businessmen to make sure that the workforce were as controlled as possible.

  • Loss of personal freedoms (eg freedom of speech).

  • All culture had to be German - eg music had to be Beethoven or Wagner or German folk songs - or Nazi - eg all actors had to be members of the Nazi party/ only books by approved authors could be read.


Prora holiday camp




Source A

We all felt the same, the same happiness and joy.    Things were looking up.    I believe no statesman has ever been as loved as Adolf Hitler was then.    Itís all come flooding back to me.    Those were happy times.

A German farmer, Luise Essig, remembering life in Nazi Germany.




3     Women

The Nazis were very male-dominated and anti-feminist.   Nazi philosophy idealised the role of women   as child-bearer and creator of the family:   

  • The Law for the Encouragement of Marriage gave newly-wed couples a loan of 1000 marks, and allowed them to keep 250 marks for each child they had.   

  • Mothers who had more than 8 children were given a gold medal.   


But not all women were happy with the Nazi regime:

  • Job-discrimination against women was encouraged.   Women doctors, teachers and civil servants were forced to give up their careers.

  • Women were never allowed to serve in the armed forces - even during the war.


Source B

The perfect Nazi family



4    Youth

Most German young people were happy:   

  • Nazi culture was very youth-oriented.   

  • The HJ provided exciting activities for young boys.   

  • The HJ and the BDM treated young men and women as though they were special, and told then they had knew more then their parents.   

  • Many parents were frightened that their children would report them to the Gestapo, which gave young people a power that they enjoyed.


But not all young people were happy with the Nazi regime:

  • SOME girls were unhappy with the emphasis on the three Cs (Church, children, cooker).  

  • Girls who were regarded as true Aryan girls were sent off to special camps where they were bred (like farm animals) with selected 'Aryan' boys.

  • Towards the end of the war, youth gangs such as the Eidelweiss Pirates grew up, rejecting the HJ and Nazi youth culture, drinking and dancing to American jazz and 'swing' music.  

  • In Cologne in 1944 they sheltered army deserters and even attacked the Gestapo.  

  • If they were caught, they were hanged.


More sources on Nazi youth


Source C

The perfect Nazi boy...

Source D

...and Aryan girl


5    Opponents

The Nazi's used 'fear and horror' against anyone who disapproved of their regime:

  • Hitler banned all Trade Unions on 2 May 1933.   Their offices were closed, their money confiscated, and their leaders put in prison. 

  • Communists were put into concentration camps or killed.

  • Many Protestant pastors such as Dietrich Bonhoffer were persecuted and executed.

  • Each block of flats had a 'staircase ruler' who reported grumblers to the police - they were arrested and either murdered, or sent to concentration camps.

  • Children were encouraged to report their parents to the Gestapo if they criticized Hitler or the Nazi party.


But remember that:

  • Many Germans welcomed this because it brought political stability after the Weimar years.


Nazi concentration camp badges


This Google book has a very clear, detailed description of the anti-Nazi opposition.

Opposition to the Nazis - difficult article

And this is a good article on the Polish resistance: Action N.


6    Untermensch

The Nazi regime despised many groups which it thought were racially or socially inferior (untermensch = subhuman) - people they called the 'germs of destruction'.


Groups which were persecuted and killed included:

  • Jews, such as Anne Frank, whom the Germans systematically persecuted, were forced into walled ghettos, put into concentration camps, and used for medical experiments.   In the end the Nazis devised the Final Solution of genocide - it was the Holocaust.

  • Gypsies were treated almost as badly as the Jews - 85% of Germany's gypsies were killed.

  • Black people were sterilized and killed.

  • 5000 mentally disabled babies were killed 1939-45.   

  • 72,000 mentally ill patients were killed 1939-41.

  • Physically disabled people and families with hereditary illness were sometimes sterilized.   300,000 men and women were sterilized 1934-45.

  • Some deaf people were sterilised and put to death.

  • Beggars, homosexuals, prostitutes, alcoholics, pacifists, hooligans and criminals were also regarded as anti-social, and they were put in concentration camps.

Holocaust - essential link

Auschwitz - a tour

Film clip

Good research prompts


Source E

Nazi anti-Semitic poster

A Nazi race-hatred poster:

'The Jew - the inciter of war,

the prolonger of war'.


But note that:

  • Many Germans approved of this - or at least turned a blind eye*.


Source F

Children in concentration camps who had been used for medical experiments.




*   Please note that I have had a complaint about this sentence from a German student who pointed out quite fairly that:


'Gestapo-terror was everywhere. Anyone who spoke up was killed or put into  a concentration camp. I mean, would you speak up knowing that you will be killed ? You should not forget also  that MANY GERMANS HID JEWS.
Another point you should not forget is, how could people see pictures like these? All they could see was Nazi propaganda which of course had an influence on the people's minds.

Certainly there  was real injustice going on  during the Nazi regime - I'm happy that I am living nowadays and not back then - but I think people today often forget that the Germans were not EVIL PEOPLE...'


I have left my sentence because I believe that, on balance, it is also fair comment, but readers should note that it is a judgement, not a fact.