Totalitarian regimes don’t conquer regions overnight. Instead, they implement and change everyday life for citizens one thing at a time.
The following is a guest post is by author Cathy A. Lewis. Thanks Cathy!
1. The Loss of Freedom
Everything from freedom of expression to civil liberties was eviscerated by the Nazi regime. During the Weimar Republic between 1919-1933, Berlin had become known as the capital of modernism. Everything from artistic expression to studies by intellectuals gained recognition. The freedom of expression was not limited to just scholarly and medical studies. In Berlin, the arts in all forms, cinema, print magazines, books, and newspapers proclaimed a newfound formulation of liberty. During the Weimar Republic, nine Nobel Peace Prizes were awarded to German innovators and scholars. The prominence of Jewish intellectuals gained the free world’s attention.
There was a small consensus of the German population that felt the city had fallen into a swell of degradation and resented this freedom of expression, although it was tangentially not illegal.
2. Jewish Prominence
Under the Weimar Constitution, there was an imposed freedom of religion, guaranteeing all people the right to worship as they pleased. This freedom came crashing down, destroyed with day one of the Nazi regime, starting on January 30th, 1933. The Nazi party sowed seeds of hatred towards the sizeable Jewish population. Based on his book Mein Kampf, published in 1925, Hitler’s number one strategic goal was to rid Germany of Jews. He described the Jewish population as a “destroyer of culture, a parasite within a nation of menace.” Hitler espoused “there is no greater threat to the German way of life beyond Marxism than the Jew.”
3. Oppression of All Opponents
Anyone who thought or expressed contrary beliefs to the Nazi agenda would be arrested, beaten, and sometimes murdered. The recklessness of the SS due to their unlimited power over civilian life was on full display.
Hitler was savvy enough to take advantage and make the most of the economic crisis facing the German population. As early as February 1933, Hitler decreed under the guise of “for the protection of the German people,” there would be restrictions on the freedom of assembly and the freedom of the press, thereby suspending the fundamental rights of the German people. Complete subordination, blind and unswerving compliance to the Nazi Party were the order of the day.
5. The Police State (Nazification) and institution of Concentration Camps/Persecution of German Jews, the Infirmed, Political Dissidents, Homosexuals, Gypsies, Jehovah Witnesses, the Social Outcasts
The Nazis expanded power, created loyalty among the police while nazifying the police culture and prosecuting Germany’s Jewish population.
The Third Reich’s police state was characterized by arrests and “protective custody” internments in newly constructed concentration camps. Anyone opposed to the Nazi regime could expect imminent indefinite imprisonment. If you did not fit the description of “Aryan,” your life as you knew it would soon be over.
Cathy A. Lewis is the author of The Road We Took: 4 Days in Germany 1933 out next month. Visit her website for more details.