Q1. Write a one page history of Germany.
• as a schoolchild in Nazi Germany
• as a Jewish survivor of a concentration camp
• as a political opponent of the Nazi regime
Ans. • Hitler was fanatically interested in the youth of the country. He felt that a strong Nazi society could be established only by teaching children Nazi ideology. This required a control over the child both inside and outside school. Children were segregated. Germans and Jews could not sit together or play together. Subsequently, undesirable children—Jews, the physically handicapped, Gypsies were thrown out of schools. And finally in the 1940s, they were taken to gas chambers. ‘Good German’ children were subjected to a process of Nazi schooling, a prolonged period of ideological training. These children were taught to be loyal and submissive, hate Jews and worship Hitler.
• Nazi Germany was based on extreme violence. Hitler hated Jews and called them ‘undesirables’. Many Gypsies and Blacks living in Nazi Germany were considered as racial ‘inferiors’. They were widely persecuted. Even Russians and Poles were considered sub-humans. Jews were the worst sufferers. They were often persecuted through periodic organised violence, and expulsion from the land. They were compelled to leave the country. The next phase was too brutal. They were concentrated in certain areas and eventually killed in gas chambers in Poland.
• Do it yourself.
Q2. Imagine that you are Helmuth. You have had many Jewish friends in school and do not believe that Jews are bad. Write a paragraph on what you would say to your father.
Ans. I would request my father to change his outlook towards Jews and let them live peacefully. I would convince him that Jews were also human beings like them and therefore they must be given free environment to live in.
(Students can expand the answer).
Q1. Describe the problems faced by the Weimar Republic.
Ans. (i) After the defeat of Germany in the First World War, King Kaiser William II, the German emperor, abdicated and Weimar Republic was proclaimed by the National Assembly with a federal structure. This republic was never accepted whole-heartedly by the Germans who made this government responsible for accepting the humiliating treaty of Versailles. They made this government responsible for all their miseries. The republic became financially crippled by the war compensation imposed on Germany.
(ii) The great economic depression worsened the German economy. The economic crisis created deep anxiety and fears in people. The middle classes, small businessmen, the self-employed and retailers suffered as their business got ruined.
(iii) The Weimar Republic was politically weak. The Weimar Constitution had some inherent defects which made it unstable and vulnerable to dictatorship. One was proportional representation which finally brought a rule by coalition. Another defect was Article 48 which gave the President the powers to impose emergency, suspend civil rights and rule by decree. Within its short life, the Weimar Republic saw twenty different cabinets lasting on an average 239 days.
Q2. Discuss why Nazism became popular in Germany by 1930.
Ans. (i) The Great Economic Depression (1929-1932) badly hit the German economy. Banks collapsed and businesses shut down. Workers lost their jobs and the middle classes were threatened with destitution.
(ii) This crisis in economy prepared the background for the popularity of Nazism in Germany. Nazism became a mass movement during the economic depression.
(iii) Nazi propaganda stirred hopes of a better future. In 1928, the Nazi Party got no more than 2.6 per cent votes in the Reichstag—the German Parliament. By 1932, it had become the largest party with 37 per cent votes.
(iv) Hitler, the leader of the Nazi Party, influenced the people with his personality. He promised to build a strong nation, undo the injustice of the Versailles Treaty and restore the dignity of the German people. He promised employment for those looking for work and secure future for the youth.
(v) Nazis held massive rallies and public meetings to demonstrate the support for Hitler and instil a sense of unity among the people. Nazi propaganda skilfully projected Hitler as a messiah, a saviour, as someone who had arrived to deliver people from their distress. This image captured the imagination of the people whose sense of dignity and pride had been shattered after the German defeat in the First World War and who were living in a time of acute economic and political crisis.
Q3. What are the peculiar features of Nazi thinking?
Ans. The peculiar features of Nazi thinking are given below:
(i) There was no equality between people, but only a racial hierarchy. In this view, blonde, blue-eyed, Nordic German Aryans were at the top while Jews were located at the lowest rung. All other coloured people were placed in between depending upon their external features.
(ii) The Aryan race was the finest. It had to retain its purity, become stronger and dominate the world.
(iii) Nazis glorified war. Their only aim was to unite all people of the Aryan race under one state, i.e. Germany.
(iv) Hitler believed that new territories had to be acquired for settlement. This would enhance the area of the mother country, while enabling the settlers on new lands to retain an intimate link with the place of their origin. It would also enhance the material resources and power of the German Nation.
(v) Nazis wanted only a society of pure and healthy Nordic Aryans. They alone were considered ‘desirables’. Only they were seen as worthy of prospering and multiplying against all others who were classed as ‘desirables’. This meant that even those Germans who were seen as impure or abnormal had no right to exist.
(vi) Nazis hated Jews. They terrorised, pauperised and segregated them and compelled them to leave the country.
(vii) Children were taught to be loyal and submissive, hate Jews and worship Hitler.
(viii) While boys were taught to be aggressive, masculine and steel-hearted, girls were told that they had to become good mothers and rear pure-blooded Aryan children.
Q4. Explain why Nazi propaganda was effective in creating a hatred for Jews.
Ans. As Hitler had a deep hatred for Jews, he launched a vicious propaganda against them soon after becoming the dictator of Germany. The reasons for the success of the propaganda against Jews are the following:
(i) Nazi hatred of Jews had a precursor in the traditional Christian hostility towards Jews. They had been stereotyped as killers of Christ and usurers.
(ii) Nazis never used the words ‘kill’ or ‘murder’ in their official communications. Mass killings were termed special treatment, final solution (for the Jews), euthanasia (for the disabled) selection and disinfections. Gas chambers where the Jews were deported, were labelled ‘disinfection areas’ and looked like bathrooms equipped with fake showerheads.
(iii) Media was carefully used to win the support for the regime and popularise its worldview. Nazi ideas were spread through visual images, films, radio, posters, catchy slogans and leaflets. The images of Jews were stereotyped, mocked, abused and described as evil.
(iv) Propaganda films were made to create hatred for Jews.
(v) Orthodox Jews were shown with flowing beards wearing kaftans, whereas in reality it was difficult to distinguish German Jews by their outward appearance.
(vi) Jews were referred to as vermin, rats and pests. Their movements were compared to those of rodents.
(vii) Even children were taught to hate Jews.
Nazism worked on the minds of the people, tapped their emotions and turned their hatred and anger at those marked as ‘undesirables’, i.e. Jews.
Q5. Explain what role women had in Nazi society. Return to Chapter 1 on the French Revolution. Write a paragraph comparing and contrasting the role of women in the two periods.
Ans. Women had a limited role in Nazi society. They were considered radically different from men. While boys were taught to be aggressive, masculine and steel-hearted, girls were told that they had to become good mothers and rear pure-blooded Aryan children. Girls had to maintain the purity of the race, distance themselves from Jews, look after the home and teach their children Nazi values. They had to be the bearers of the Aryan culture and race.
Women formed the unprivileged section of society both during the French Revolution and Nazi Germany. They were deprived of political rights. They had no freedom to choose their life partners. They had no access to education. Their role was very limited. They had to look after their families and children.
But French women were more powerful than German women. French women played a major role in bringing the revolution. They were active participants in the events which brought about so many important changes in French society. They could start their own political clubs and newspapers to voice their interests. On the other hand, Nazi women had no such freedom. They could not voice their interests. They had no freedom to form associations. Their role was limited to home and hearth. They had to teach their children Nazi values. They were viewed as the bearers of the Aryan culture and race.
Q6. In what ways did the Nazi state seek to establish total control over its people?
Ans. The Nazi state came into being under the leadership of Hitler on 30 January, 1953. Having acquired power, Hitler took a number of steps to establish total contol over the people of Germany:
(i) First of all, the structure of democratic rule was dismantled.
(ii) Civic rights like freedom of speech, press and assembly that had been guaranteed by the Weimar Constitution were suspended for indefinite period.
(iii) Then started the repression of the Communists which was too severe.
(iv) On 3 March 1933, the famous Enabling Act was passed. This Act established Hitler’s dictatorship in Germany. It gave Hitler all power to sideline Parliament and rule by decree.
(v) All political parties and trade unions were banned except the Nazi party and its affiliates.
(vi) The state established complete control over the economy, media, army and judiciary.
(vii) Special surveillance and security forces were created to control and order society in ways that the Nazis wanted.
(viii) Apart from the already existing regular police in green uniform and the SA or the Storm Troopers, these included the Gestapo (Secret State Police), the SS (the protection squads), criminal police and the security service (SD). It was the extra-constitutional powers of these newly organised forces that made the Nazi state so dreadful. People could now be detained in Gestapo torture chambers, rounded up and sent to concentration camps.