One of big questions that spring to most peoples mind when learning about Hitlers rise to power is why was there so little Nazi opposition? This chart outlines 4 reasons why Hitlers grasp on power became so absolute.
Key Reasons as to why there was so little Nazi opposition
Gleichschaltung. The Nazis pursued this policy, which means co-ordination. They quickly took over existing organisations and put Nazis in charge. For example, the Nazis took over trade unions and armed forces. While also controlling organisations at the local level (e.g. youth clubs).
Even the churches joined in. The Catholic Church reached an agreement with the Nazis in 1933, where Hitler and the Pope signed a concordat. Many Protestant denominations agreed to come under the Reich Church too. Many individual churchmen opposed the Nazis, for example Martin Niemöller, who led a number of Protestant pastors to form the Confessional Church to oppose Hitler's Reich Church. Niemöller ended up in a concentration camp from 1937-45, and the impact of these individuals on their own was not enough.
The speed and ruthlessness of Nazi takeover 1933-1934. As discussed previously, the Nazis seized power swiftly and eliminated there enemies. Most of the active and capable opponents of the Nazis from the Communist and Socialist parties were imprisoned or killed.
People realised they had to be Nazi, or at least pretend to be one, to get anywhere. Otherwise, they had to leave Germany. Around 300,000 opponents left the country between 1933-1939.
The Nazi movement 'decapitated' any opposition movements. While there where still communists and socialists in Germany, they lost their leaders and failed to coordinate when divided.
Fear. This overlaps with a number of things.
- Personal fear occurred due to the terror tactics of the police state. Propaganda was used to encourage obedience and strike fear into people.
- General fear for economic and political instability. Germany had been in chaos a few years previously and many thought the alternatives to the Nazis were worse.
People conformed and fitted in even if they did not support the Nazis.
The Hitler myth. This idea comes from historian Ian Kershaw. He argues that while many Germans disliked the Nazis, they respected Hitler personally and did not blame him for the unfair things Nazi officials did. This belief only began to change towards the end of the Second World War.
People kept quiet and were prepared to overlook aspects of the Nazi regime that they disliked. With admiration for Hitler, they believed he had good intentions for what he was doing.