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Did the German people consent to Nazi policies during the years 1933 to 1945?

Abstract
The issue of consent regarding the German people towards the National Socialist regime is a sensitive one, which has provoked much debate among historians. Nonetheless, the question of this paper - Did the German people consent to Nazi policies during the years 1933 to 1945? - is an important one, with vital lessons. The simple fact remains Nazi policies could not have succeeded without the direct or indirect support of the German populace, and Nazi historians have perhaps not always readily accepted this fact. This paper seeks to address this area by looking at the Nazi creation of consensus, the roles of terror and coercion, consent to Nazi anti-Semitic policies, and the extent of resistance and anticonformity among the German people. The overwhelming trend is one of passivity, regardless of sentiment. The 'Hitler Myth' had a large role to play in this also, as it separated Hitler from the everyday realities of life for the ordinary German people, and allowed for continual and increased support for him from the population. It should be acknowledged that there were many forms of resistance, however, there is academic disagreement concerning the nature of resistance. Prior to the 1970s, two schools of thought existed regarding the nature of consent; one argued that the German people willingly backed Nazi policies en masse; the alternative view was that the Germans were victims of the Nazi regime. This study builds on the work that has since been done in challenging these arguements. Primary sources are of particular importance to this work, especially the diaries of Jewish survivor Victor Klemperer. Taking into account all these facets, this paper seeks to thoroughly address the question posed.

Introduction
The study of German peoples attitudes towards the Nazi regime was largely unexplored until the 1970s.1 In 1984, Richard Bessel stated: historians of Nazi Germany at last have discovered the German people.2 Prior to the 1970s, especially in the post war years, distinct generalisations about attitudes of German people towards the Third Reich emerged. One generalisation that was common outside of Germany, put emphasis upon enthusiastic mass backing.3 The other generalisation, which was common among Germans themselves, put emphasis on the peoples helplessness, most of whom rejected the regime but could do nothing, especially in regard to the executions amidst the coercion and terror.4 Since the 1970s, these generalisations have been challenged and rejected as attention has been drawn to the many unclear facts, contradictions, and gray areas of dissent and support, which existed in Nazi Germany.5 A question that must be raised is: did the German people consent to the National Socialists and their policies? The endeavour of this project therefore, will be to explore this question and locate possible answers to it with reference to major historians works on the subject as well as primary sources.

Popular opinion
Alexander J. Groth argues that It is obvious that the policies of the Third Reich could not

Lisa Pine, Hitlers National Community Society and Culture in Nazi Germany (Hodder Education, Great Britain, 2007), p. 5. 2 Richard Bessel, Living with the Nazis: Some Recent Writing on the Social History of the Third Reich , European History Quarterly, Vol. 14 (1984), p. 211. 3 Ian Kershaw, Hitler, the Germans, and the Final Solution (Yale University Press, New Haven and London, 2008), p. 119. 4 Ibid. 5 Corey Ross, Untitled Review, Reviewed Works: Germans into Nazis, Peter Fritzsche (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge and Massachusetts, 1998), and Backing Hitler: Consent and Coercion in Nazi Germany, Robert Gellately (Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2001), The Journal of Modern History, Vol. 75, No. 2 (June, 2003), p. 462.

have been carried out without the active involvement and cooperation of millions of Germans.6 This section of the project will focus on how the Nazis created this cooperation in order to enact their policies. But before one looks at how consensus was created, it is necessary to explain the term popular or public opinion. As Ian Kershaw states, public opinion is a difficult term to use for Nazi Germany as any opinion that was publically expressed from 1933 onwards was more or less the opinion of the Nazis rather than the general public.7 Thus a historian has to base the Germans opinions upon sources from agencies of the Nazi regime like the SD (Security Service) reports or upon oppositional sources, in this case the Sopade (exiled German Social Democrats) reports.8 One also has to remember that many people were intimidated into hiding their real views or conveyed these views in a disguised form only.9 There is no way of reconstructing opinion, therefore a historian must rely on their own interpretation and thus conclusions are limited and based on assumptions rather than facts.10

The creation of consensus


The Nazis aimed to create consensus for their regime and conformity for their ideology.11 It can be argued that the Nazis support base was firmly established in the early years of the regime as the people more than approved of the economic recovery, the restoration of Germany as an international power, solidaristic gestures and the Nazis tough approach to law and order.12 Those who did not initially accept National Socialism would eventually be affected by processes like Gleichschaltung (co-ordination), attempts of the regime to break down class barriers, propaganda and the Hitler myth.13 Richard Evans noted that almost

Alexander J. Groth, Demonizing the Germans: Goldhagen and Gellately on Nazism, The Political Science Reviewer, Vol.32, (2003), p. 118. 7 Kershaw, Hitler, the Germans, and the Final Solution , p. 120. 8 Ibid., p. 121. 9 Ibid., p. 120. 10 Ibid., p. 121. 11 Pine, Hitlers National Community, pp. 17-18. 12 Ross, untitled review, p. 463. 13 Pine, Hitlers National Community, p. 18.

every aspect of political, social and associational life was affected, at every level from the nation to the village.14 Gleichschaltung was designed to bring every aspect of German life under the Nazis control. For example, the Nazis co-ordinated the civil service by enacting the Law for the Restoration of the Professional Civil Service on the 7 April 1933.15 Other public and state institutions were treated along the same lines. It could be argued that the German people consented to this policy as between the 30 January 1933 and the 1 May 1933, 1.6 million people joined the party.16 However, this could have been to safeguard their employment as Lisa Pine argues.17 Also, it should be acknowledged that decisions people made were often prompted by intimidation or violence directed by the SA (Stormtroopers) or the SS men. Many historians believe that fear of these organisations was not the driving factor for consensus but rather it was the conscious decision of the people to support Nazi policies; from the late 1960s onwards research emphasized peoples relative freedom in choosing to resist or to consent as the apparatus of the Gestapo appeared less coercive than it had before.18 The ninety-nine per cent the German electorate gave to Hitler and his policies, according to Robert Gellately, provided remarkable evidence of popular backing for the Nazis, Hans-Ulrich Wehler supports this view.19 It is in Ulrich Herberts words accurate to note that the Nazis... succeeded in expanding their base of support during the first four or five years of their rule.20 Gleichschaltung or co-ordination was intended to eliminate the threat of opposition and to inculcate the spirit of Nazism into the population.21 Yet the process was not entirely successful as members of the Nazi party or one of its formations did not necessarily accept Nazi ideology; some that joined secretly remained loyal to the political left, Pine refers to
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Richard Evans, The Coming of the Third Reich (London, 2004), p. 381. Pine, Hitlers National Community, p. 18. 16 Ibid. 17 Ibid. 18 Richard J. Evans, Coercion and Consent in Nazi Germany, Raleigh Lecture on History, The British Academy 151 (2007), p. 53. 19 Ibid., p. 54. 20 Ulrich Herbert, Untitled Review, Reviewed Work: Backing Hitler: Consent and Coercion in Nazi Germany by Robert Gellately, The American Historical Review, Vol. 108, No.1 (February, 2003), p. 276. 21 Pine, Hitlers National Community, p. 18.

them as beefsteak Nazis brown (Nazi) on the outside, and red (Communist) on the inside.22 Nevertheless, Gleichschaltung did remove the possibility of widespread opposition to the Nazis, and thus it could be argued, that the German people did to an extent consent to this Nazi policy. Organized widespread opposition among the working class was not evident in Nazi Germany, perhaps because the Nazis destroyed the German trade union movement and their social working environment which eventually depoliticised them.23 However, as Dick Geary stated, the experience of mass and long-term unemployment in the Weimar Republic had already done a great deal to fracture, demobilise and demoralise large sections of the German working class before the Nazi seizure of power.24 The German Labour Front that replaced the trade union, had the aim of maintaining industrial peace and promoting social welfare schemes to enhance worker productivity.25 As mentioned earlier, the economic recovery in 1935-1936 attracted people to Nazism as many people secured jobs again and some stability, but little changed in terms of wages and living standards. The Nazis reports from Bavaria noted a growing discontent with regime and party in the working class.26 However benefits such as six days minimum annual holiday raised support among the workers for the regime or at least resulted in a disinterest in the arena of politics.27 Here it could be argued that the Nazis manipulated the working class people into supporting their regime and policies. Ulrich Herbert argued that the workers attitude was one of distance, but that they approved of some Nazi policies due to economic recovery and foreign policy successes.28 The middle classes were among the most ardent supporters of National Socialism due to material self-interest, as the Nazis had promised economic advancement to them.29 However, they became increasingly critical of the regime when these promises were not
22 23

Ibid., p. 19. Ibid. 24 Ibid. 25 Ibid. 26 Kershaw, Hitler, the Germans, and the Final Solution , p. 126. 27 Pine, Hitlers National Community, p. 20. 28 Ibid., p. 21. 29 Kershaw, Hitler, the Germans, and the Final Solution , p.124.

fulfilled. Small traders complained about the Nazi economic policies lack of credit, compulsory donations, taxation, the exploitation of the middle classes in favour of big businesses.30 Even though the middle classes were critical of the Nazis policies, they never publicly expressed this nor did they organise mass resistance, therefore this criticism was harmless to the regime. The Sopade reports stated that passivity and grumbling were the main traits of popular opinion, but beyond that, to oppose the regime it doesnt go that far.31 Another reason, it could be argued, for no open hostility from the middle classes was the possible fact that they hoped to benefit from the exclusion of the Jews from the economy. Jewish department stores were shut down and this reduction in competition pleased small businesses.32 Propaganda also played a role in maintaining the consensus of the middle classes. For example, the annual Buckeburg festival and the idealisation of pastoral life were meant to compensate for the failure of Nazi policies to live up to peoples expectations.33 Bernd Weisbrod stated that Hitler got rid of the last defences of the middle class by breaking the conventional morals of bourgeois society.34 The upper classes, it could be argued, were indifferent to Nazi policies and the regime as a whole; Jeremy Noakes argues that most of the German aristocracy was more or less totally detached from the regime and regarded it with a mixture of contempt and disgust.35 Nevertheless, many in the upper classes joined the party to protect their positions or because they were motivated by opportunism.36 One can argue that the aristocrats who did join the Nazi party were in a way giving their consent to Nazi policies.

30 31

Ibid. Ibid., p. 125 32 Pine, Hitlers National Community, p. 22. 33 Ibid. 34 Ibid. 35 Ibid., p. 22. 36 Ibid., p. 23.

The role of propaganda and the Hitler myth in the creation of consensus
Propaganda played a significant role in the creation of consensus for the Nazi regime and its policies. Reich Minister of Popular Enlightenment and Propaganda Josef Goebbels stated on 15 March 1933: It is not enough for people to be more or less reconciled to our regime, to be persuaded to adopt a neutral attitude towards us, rather we want to work on people until they have capitulated to us.37 Propaganda was most effective when it appealed to pre-existing beliefs of the people as historian David Welch has shown.38 Consistent propaganda themes were: national community, racial purity, hatred of enemies, leadership cult and domestic and foreign policy successes.39 Detlev Peukert has shown that Nazi propaganda was not entirely successful as there was anti-conformist behaviour, mainly in informal activities.40 Anti-conformist behaviour ranged from refusal to donate to Winter Aid to helping Jews. Jokes and rumours were another sign of discontent among the people. This was documented in reports on popular opinion and morale compiled by the SD.41 These reports in Peukerts words allow historians to form a very precise picture of everyday popular feeling and opinion.42 Criticisms and grumbling existed alongside a passive acceptance of the regime and its policies.43 But because there was no unity of opinion, organised political resistance was never established and thus the Nazis and their policies remained. The greatest result of Nazi propaganda, it could be argued was the Hitler myth, which was especially important when it came to sustaining consensus for the regime. The image of Hitler was in Lisa Pines words the principal rallying point for the German people.44 The Hitler or Fuhrer myth was not only the result of propaganda but also to a large extent the result of naive popular expectations of national salvation to be

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Ibid. Ibid. 39 Ibid., p. 23. 40 Detlev Peukert, Inside Nazi Germany: Conformity, Opposition and Racism in Everyday Life (London, 1987), p. 52. 41 Pine, Hitlers National Community, p. 24. 42 Peukert, Inside Nazi Germany, p. 52. 43 Pine, Hitlers National Community, p. 25. 44 Ibid., p. 25.

brought about by the coming of a great leader.45 Hitlers popularity from the start was based upon his suppression of the Communists and his great achievements. After The Night of the Long Knives in 1934, Hitler became more popular as he was viewed as defender of the people from the SA, and upholder of public morality as Ernst Rohm was homosexual.46 The recovery of the economy in 1935-1936, huge public works schemes and the elimination of mass unemployment were regarded as personal achievements of Hitler.47 Hitler stood above daily realities for people so they disassociated him from unpopular policies, for example, the regimes anti-Semitic policies.48 It can be argued therefore, that the people were able to voice their discontent and consent for the Nazi regime and its policies at the same time. Foreign policy successes were largely the reasons for Hitlers continued popularity and for consensus among the people. The majority of Germans were thrilled with Hitlers revocation of the Treaty of Versailles terms. The bringing home of the Saarland in 1935, and the Anschluss with Austria in 1938 brought with them huge popular approval as they were massive triumphs for Germany under Hitler.49 On 5 April 1938, following the Anschluss, Victor Klemperer, a Jewish professor and survivor of the Nazi regime, writes: How deeply Hitlers attitudes are rooted in the German people.50 The German people were hesitant to go to war in September 1939, but they still accepted Hitlers decision. Popular support peaked after the Nazi occupation of Paris in 1940. Kershaw argues that on the eve of the invasion of the Soviet Union... Hitlers popular standing was undiminished and confidence in his leadership among the great majority of the population unbroken.51 It was only after the Battle of Stalingrad in January 1943, that both the Hitler myth and the strength of the German army began to be questioned. Yet still there was no
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Kershaw, Hitler, the Germans, and the Final Solution , pp. 130-131. Pine, Hitlers National Community, p. 25. 47 Ibid. 48 Ibid. 49 Ibid., pp. 25-26. 50 Victor Klemperer, translated by Martin Chalmers, I Will Bear Witness: A Diary of the Nazi Years 1933-1941 (Random House Inc., New York, 1998) p. 253. 51 Ibid., p. 26.

organised opposition. It should be remembered that the Nazi apparatus of terror had a lot to do with this as well as the strains of war on people, which led to resignation rather than rebellion in Pines opinion.52 In the last phase of the war the Hitler myth completely collapsed, but this does not explain for the continued support of the regime. Following the demise of the Hitler myth, the Nazis resorted to an increase in their use of coercion.

The role of terror and coercion in creating and sustaining consensus


Coercion, terror and surveillance were extremely important to the Third Reich as they made the regimes aim to create and sustain the consensus of the German population, possible.53 It has been argued, especially prior to the 1970s, that the German people were forced to accept Nazi rule due to the latters use of violence and terror.54 Neil Gregor has argued that coercion and violence were absolutely central to the seizure and consolidation of power.55 Robert Gellatelys work on the Gestapo in 1990 proceeded from the assumption that fear was indeed prevalent among the German people.56 Was it fear that made people consent to the Nazis and their policies? Recent research has contradicted this opinion. In the 1990s, Eric Johnson and Karl-Heinz Reuband conducted an opinion survey of elderly Germans, which claimed that only a small number of Germans feared being arrested by the Gestapo.57 Johnson and Reuband have advanced the theory that Hitler and the Nazis were so immensely popular among most Germans that intimidation and terror were rarely needed to enforce loyalty.58 Klaus-Michael Mallman and Gerhard Paul have shown that the Gestapo did not have the resources or numbers to be omniscient and omnipotent.59 However, it must be noted that fear did play some role in the formation of consensus. In June 1933 a

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Ibid. Ibid., p. 39. 54 Evans, Coercion and Consent in Nazi Germany, p. 53. 55 Pine, Hitlers National Community, p. 31. 56 Robert Gellately, The Gestapo and German Society, Enforcing Racial Policy 1933-1945 (Oxford University Press, New York, 1990), p. 129. 57 Evans, Coercion and Consent in Nazi Germany, p. 54. 58 Ibid. 59 Pine, Hitlers National Community, p. 34.

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young Social Democrat resisted the SA during a raid near Berlin killing three SA men, the SA responded by killing ninety-one people in Kopenick blood-week.60 Such violence was intended to scare family, friends and neighbours of the victims as well as the rest of the population. This it could be argued was one of the reasons for consent or collaboration with the regime and its policies. During the Nazis reign, police could hold people for indefinite periods of time without trial. Perhaps this had little relevance for the general population, as Robert Gellately claims that Nazi terror was highly selective and did not affect the majority of German people until the last phases of the war when German-on-German terror became the order of the day.61 For most of the 1930s, the Nazis terror apparatus was mainly used against Communists, Social Democrats, Jews, Gypsies, homosexuals, asocials and criminals. The detention of these people in concentration camps was widely publicized in the press as Gellately has shown in Backing Hitler.62 The majority of people found this to be a positive side of Nazism, and thus accepted a surveillance society in return for a crime free Germany.63 Gellately claims that On balance, the coercive practices, the repression, and persecution won far more support for the dictatorship than they lost.64 Not only did some Germans support the Nazis policy of terror but some actively collaborated by denouncing others. Pine argues that denunciations were the result of citizen collaboration, but that they were not always the result of racism or adherence to Nazism.65 Corey Ross states that denunciations often did not reflect active support for the regime and its policies.66 Many people denounced others to settle a score with them. For example, a girl made a complaint against her brother to prove hes not always right.67 This, it could be

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Ibid., p. 31. Robert Gellately, Backing Hitler: Consent and Coercion in Nazi Germany (Oxford University Press Inc., New York, 2001), p. 3. 62 Ibid., p. 51. 63 Pine, Hitlers National Community, p. 33. 64 Gellately, Backing Hitler, p. 259. 65 Pine, Hitlers National Community, p. 33. 66 Ross, Untitled Review, p. 463. 67 Ibid., p. 35.

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argued, shows a growing consensus among the German people in regard to Nazi surveillance and repression.

Consent to anti-Semitic policies?


So far it appears that the majority of German people largely consented to Nazi policies, albeit for many different reasons, but they consented nonetheless. Now the Germans attitudes towards the Nazis anti-Semitic policies shall be investigated. It should be remembered that it is hard to generalise the Germans reactions which were often mixed, and whose real opinions if anti-conformist could not be publically expressed.68 Daniel Goldhagen claims that German anti-Semitism was rabid, and that the people happily agreed to Nazi anti-Semitic policies.69 However, the majority of historians rebuke these claims; Alexander J. Groth refers to Goldhagens stereotypical assumptions as unrealistic and unjust.70 Both Robert Gellately and Peter Fritzche reject Goldhagens thesis on German popular opinion by stating that anti-Semitism was not the most significant base for consensus.71 For Gellately, repression was not as popular in relation to the Jews as it had been for the Communists.72 Anti-Semitic policies were enacted from the beginning of the Third Reich, but they were enacted gradually as the Nazis feared that foreign opinion, national opinion and trade might be affected by harsh persecution. David Bankier furthered the thesis that the population consented to anti-Semitic policies as long as these policies did not harm non-Jews, or the interests of Germany.73 It could be argued that German people were indifferent to antiSemitic policies once these policies did not affect their lives. There is evidence from Gestapo files and oppositional sources that industrial workers did not give much attention to Nazi

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Gellately, Backing Hitler, pp. 128-129. Daniel Goldhagen, Hitlers Willing Executioners Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust (Abacus, London, 1997), p. 9. 70 Groth, Demonizing the Germans: Goldhagen and Gellately on Nazism, p. 119. 71 Ross, Untitled Review, p. 464. 72 Ibid., p. 463. 73 Gellately, Backing Hitler, p. 123.

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anti-Semitic policies.74 Alf Ludtke states that in the first few years of Nazi rule direct support of Nazi policies was rare among the workers and their families, and that acceptance and active passivity was more common.75 Historians have different conclusions on whether the Germans agreed or disagreed with the Nuremberg Laws of September 1935. Otto Dov Kulka suggests that most Germans were probably pleased with the Nuremberg Laws as they thought they would put an end to crime and violence.76 Whereas Peter Longerich maintains that some people disagreed with the laws but they did not dare object in public due to fear.77 Victor Klemperer asked nonJews what they thought about the laws and he concluded that all had contradicting opinions.78 As the consequences of war became felt by people Klemperer noticed two distinct reactions of Aryans in relation to the Jews. The first reaction being one of sympathy, which he received from shopkeepers, the second was one of open hatred and attacks, for example, on November 1, 1941, Hitler Youths chased him and shouted A Yid, a Yid!79 Such contradicting experiences made it impossible for Klemperer to know whether the German people consented or not to Nazi policies. It could be argued that Nazi anti-Semitic policies were inconsistent as Klemperer had witnessed little experiences of outright anti-Semitism from people in Dresden. Whereas in areas like Gunzenhausen, there was a notorious pogrom in March 1934.80 In Osnabruck in August 1935, twenty-five thousand people gathered to hear a local Nazi party leader on the theme Osnabruck and the Jewish Question, which police noted as the high point of struggle against the Jews.81 Klemperer writes on December 17, 1941, that Hitler has literally created the Jewish nation, world Jewry, the Jew.82 He believes that the Jewish
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Alf Ludtke, German Work and German Workers: The Impact of Symbols on the Exclusion of Jews in Nazi Germany, in David Bankier (ed.), Probing the Depths of German Antisemitism, German Society and the Persecution of the Jews, 1933-1941 (Yad Vashem and the Leo Baeck Institute, Jerusalem, 2000), p. 304. 75 Ibid., p. 305. 76 Gellately, Backing Hitler, p. 123. 77 Ibid. 78 Klemperer, I Will Bear Witness, pp. 133-145. 79 Ibid., p. 442. 80 Kershaw, Hitler, the Germans, and the Final Solution , p. 159. 81 Gellately, Backing Hitler, p. 121.

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Question was not really a question or even an issue for most people before Hitler, but rather Hitler and the Nazis invented the concept to justify the persecution of the Jews. Klemperer often acknowledges with amazement that even Aryans who sympathized with the Jews did not really know or were ignorant of the severity of the Jews situation. Hannes Heer wrote that Klemperer misinterpreted the ignorance of the Germans, arguing that Klemperer overlooked the fact that the majority made a conscious decision not to know more than necessary rather than facts being hidden from them by the Nazis.83 On 2 October 1941, Klemperer writes Who among the Aryan Germans is really untouched by National Socialism? The contagion rages in all of them, perhaps it is not contagion, but basic German nature.84 Thus it could be argued that the German people supported anti-Semitic policies. Propaganda had an effect on peoples reactions to anti-Semitic policies. One Socialist from Berlin noted, that as a result of the long antisemitic campaign many people had themselves become antisemitic.85 In the press Jews were linked to the national enemy Bolshevism, in addition to this, films like Jew Suss had an effect on the Germans ideology toward Jews.86 Anti-Semitic propaganda increased when war broke out, a war the Jews were blamed for.87 The press even said it was the Jews who were to blame for Hitlers assassination attempt in November 1939, at a meeting in Munich.88 For Heide Gerstenberger, it was not only Nazi propaganda that furthered acquiescence with Nazi anti-Jewish policy but rather it was the secondary public sphere that furthered consensus.89 David Bankier suggests that Kristallnacht (Crystal Night) in 1938, led to disapproval

82 83

Klemperer, I Will Bear Witness, p. 450. Suzanne Heim, The German-Jewish Relationship in the Diaries of Victor Klemperer , in David Bankier (Ed.), Probing the Depths of German Antisemitism, German Society and the Persecution of the Jews, 1933-1941 (Yad Vashem and The Leo Baeck Institute, Jerusalem, 2000), p. 319. 84 Klemperer, I Will Bear Witness, p. 441. 85 Gellately, Backing Hitler, p. 125. 86 Ibid. 87 Ibid., p. 129. 88 Ibid. 89 Heide Gerstenberger, Acquiescence, in David Bankier (Ed.), Probing the Depths of German Antisemitism, German Society and the Persecution of the Jews, 1933-1941 (Yad Vashem and the Leo Baeck Institute, Jerusalem, 2000), pp. 25-26.

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among many Germans who had previously consented to anti-Semitic policies. Following Kristallnacht Bankier concludes that many people were wary of the Nazis now as they feared they themselves could be the next victims for the first time, non-Jews sensed a real danger of being the next victim of Nazi terror.90 Another way of interpreting the peoples reaction to Kristallnacht is that they welcomed the attacks on Jews. Kershaw argues that Kristallnacht showed that in extreme circumstances a wider public could be whipped up into a hysterical mood against local resident Jews.91 In some areas, for example Hesse, the German people took serious actions against the Jews on the night of Kristallnacht, including the burning down of synagogues.92 It could be argued that such participation in discriminatory measures surely reflects that the Germans consented to Nazi policies.

Whether the German people did or did not consent to the exterminations of Jews and other groups is a near impossible question to answer. There was a notion that the German people had not known about what was happening to the Jews, this notion has since been rejected.93 There were denials, evasions, repressions, deflections and rationalizations.94 It is impossible to know how many people knew about the exterminations and if they knew, how much knowledge they had of it.95 In Ian Kershaws words: Many doubtless became skilled at knowing how not to know.96 Surviving SD reports confirm that there were rumours of mass shootings of Jews in autumn 1941, and that Germans who wanted to find out, could have.97 Information about mass executions spread as soldiers left the front and this information was widely known by 1942.98 The Germans may not have consented to the extermination of Jews but their humanitarian and moral values declined as they did not

90 91

Ibid. Kershaw, Hitler, the Germans, and the Final Solution , p. 159. 92 Ibid., p. 126. 93 Ibid., p. 141. 94 Klaus P. Fischer, The History of an Obsession, German Judeophobia and the Holocaust (The Continuum Publishing Company, New York, 1998), p. 398. 95 Kershaw, Hitler, the Germans, and the Final Solution , p. 141. 96 Ibid., p. 142. 97 Ibid. 98 Fischer, The History of an Obsession, p. 399.

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oppose the regime even after hearing rumours about the exterminations in the East. 99 For Klaus P. Fischer this was due to the German habit of always deferring authority and obeying instinctively without questioning.100 Thus it can be argued, that in a way the people consented to the Nazi regime and its policies by not speaking out.

Anti-conformist behaviour and resistance


As it has been shown, there was a general consensus with Nazi policies; however, it should be acknowledged that there were people who resisted the Nazis and their policies. The resistance debate deals with the issue of what should be classified as resistance.101 For Jacobsen resistance was anything that showed that The German people wanted to disassociate itself from the crimes, but for Martin Brozat resistance was what was done and accomplished, not just desired or intended.102 There were many forms of resistance but never organised mass resistance that could have overthrown the Nazis. Martyn Housden asks was it terror alone that rendered it [resistance] so ineffective?103 Willy Brandt has said that too few made the conscious decision to oppose the Nazis and that it became normal to conform to abnormal expectations.104 One could view shopping in a Jewish shop following the boycott of April 1933 as an act of resistance. However cheaper goods may have been the motive behind this resistance, evidence from southern lower Saxony indicates this, according to Alf Ludtke.105 An example of resistance that openly opposed the regime was The White Rose student movement during the early 1940s, who at one stage painted the words Down with Hitler! on to twenty-nine buildings in Munich.106 Simon Henderson questions whether the White Rose movement reached the same level of resistance as the

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Kershaw, Hitler, the Germans, and the Final Solution , p. 148. Fischer, The History of an Obsession, p. 53. 101 Simon Henderson, The White Rose and the Definition of Resistance, The History Review, (December, 2005), p. 45. 102 Martyn Housden, Resistance and conformity in the Third Reich (Routledge, London, 1997), p. 161. 103 Housden, Resistance and conformity in the Third Reich ), p. 2. 104 Ibid., p. 160. 105 Ludtke, German Work and German Workers, p. 305. 106 Henderson, The White Rose and the Definition of Resistance, p. 45.
100

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Stauffenberg bomb plot of 20 July 1944.107 Theodore S. Hamerow argues that had the resistors beat Hitler it is not by no means clear that they would have succeeded, or rallied the people into overthrowing the Nazis.108 Nevertheless, resistance towards the Nazis and Nazi policies did exist.

Conclusion
What conclusions can we draw then from this project? Throughout the course of the project both German consensus and dissent with Nazi policies has been demonstrated. In conclusion, it can be argued that a large number of German people consented to Nazi policies during the years 1933 to 1945. However, it has also been shown that both partial approval and partial rejection of Nazism co-existed. As we have seen the entire German population did not consent as there was a minority of people who tried to resist or oppose the Nazis and their policies. What must also be borne in mind is that there are other factors for consensus and resistance that are unknown to the historian and thus outside the scope of this project. The following quote from Robert Gellately on Victor Klemperers diaries reflects how the Germans agreed to Nazi policies, he stated: A sense of how Germans responded positively to various waves of persecution and even to the spirit of Nazi justice is conveyed on almost every page of Professor Klemperers diary.109

107 108

Ibid., p. 45. Theodore S. Hamerow, On the Road to the Wolfs Lair (Harvard University Press, United States, 1999), p. 352. 109 Gellately, Backing Hitler, p. 8.

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Ludtke, Alf, German Work and German Workers: The Impact of Symbols on the Exclusion of Jews in Nazi Germany, in Bankier, David (Ed.), Probing the Depths of German Antisemitism, German Society and the Persecution of the Jews, 1933-1941 (Yad Vashem and the Leo Baeck Institute, Jerusalem, 2000).

Peukert, Detlev, translated by Richard Deveson, Inside Nazi Germany: Conformity, Opposition and Racism in Everyday Life (Harmondsworth, London, 1987).

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Pine, Lisa, Hitlers National Community Society and Culture in Nazi Germany (Hodder Education Great Britain, 2007).

Ross, Corey, Untitled Review, Reviewed Works: Fritzsche, Peter, Germans into Nazis, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge and Massachusetts, 1998, and Gellately, Robert, Backing Hitler: Consent and Coercion in Nazi Germany, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2001, The Journal of Modern History, Vol. 75, No. 2 (June, 2003), pp. 462-464.