How Successful Was the Nazi Regime in Dealing with Opposition?
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The Nazi regime dealt with opposition through a combination of persuasion and force. Nazi propaganda was so effective at portraying Hitler and the Nazi ideals in a positive light that many German people believed Hitler was a good leader and genuinely supported him. Others were too intimidated by potential consequences if they spoke against the regime that they did nothing. However, there were some who openly opposed Hitler and had to be dealt with.
As Hitler came to power his biggest opponents were political ones and were the first opposition group that Hitler began to deal with. After the Enabling Law he banned all other political parties. The communists had already been banned after the Reichstag Fire and many opposition leaders had been thrown into concentration camps. Hitler also stopped freedom of speech and used effective methods of propaganda to promote his own ideology ahead of any other. Trade unions were also banned at this time, limiting the political power of workers in Germany. The Nazis dealt very effectively with their political opponents, by the end of the summer of 1933, the Nazis had wiped out any organisations where their opponents were strong and there was very little political resistance after 1933.
After removing his political opponents, Hitler created a Nazi Police State with a culture of fear that effectively dealt with opposition by intimidating people to such an extent that they would not act against the regime. Hitler’s police state worked on the rule that if you said nothing, no harm, could come to you. The Nazi secret police, the Gestapo, were greatly feared. In addition, general propaganda and particularly the indoctrination of children in schools and the Hitler Youth movement, encouraged people to inform on their neighbours and even their family. Individuals and groups who did speak or act against the regime were dealt with harshly and often publicly, which again frightened people who may otherwise have opposed the regime from actively doing so. However, this does not mean that they fully supported it either.
Despite this, there were groups and individuals who did oppose the Nazi regime. Youth movements such as the Edelweiss Pirates, The Swing Youth and The White Rose Movement opposed the Nazi regime, rejected their values and produced anti-Nazi propaganda in defiance. They were more prominent in the later part of the 1930s and into the war years and were dealt with very harshly by the Nazi regime; 12 of the Edelweiss Pirates were hanged publicly whilst leading members of the White Rose Movement were executed. Although the Nazis dealt swiftly and decisively with the opposition of youth groups, the fact that these young people were rejecting the Nazi ideology they had grown up with suggests that the Nazi attempt to remove opposition by encouraging the loyalty of future generations was not as successful as it may have seemed. The regime also faced opposition from Church leaders. The Protestant Church, and particularly Pastor Martin Niemoller, opposed Hitler’s Reich Church whilst members of the Catholic Church were against some of the Nazi’s policies such as the Euthanasia Campaign. The Pope spoke out against Hitler and his ideals. Although some leaders were dealt with harshly – Niemoller was sent to a concentration camp and some Catholic priests were executed – the Nazis did not appear to be so effective in dealing with the Church’s opposition; most remained open even though leaders continued to oppose the regime into the war years.
Overall, the Nazis were very effective at dealing with opposition. Although there was opposition to the regime none of the groups were strong enough or had enough support to pose a significant threat to the Nazi regime. The swift, harsh actions the Nazis took against oppositions worked very well as a warning to others who may have thought about challenging the regime.