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The resistance to Nazism in Germany took on many forms and its effectiveness can be measured in a number of ways.

This essay will explore which groups rejected the ideology of the Nazi party, what actions they took against the Third Reich and how effective this was in achieving their goals. Furthermore, the essay will discuss how the resistance movement may have been hindered by the climate of fear created by the Nazis as well as the apparent ease at which the German people conformed to their new rulers. Also, the essay will look at whether or not the actions of resistance movements brought about any kind of change to the indoctrination of Nazism in Germany. Resistance, as defined by Historian Lisa Pine, is organised attempts to work against the Nazi regime with the deliberate aim of undermining or destroying it. Resistance could also be defined as a complete vocal and public rejection of National Socialist ideology. A resistance groups success and effectiveness is dependent on a number of factors, including the number of members, clear objectives, resources and an effective line of communication. These factors ultimately determine how successful any resistance movement can be. Furthermore, the cohesion of various movements is vital to their effectiveness. Given the spread of resisters across different levels of intellect, different social classes as well as religious organisations with differing motives and objectives, it made a single unified movement highly unlikely. Resistance can take all shapes and forms from leaflet campaigns to sheltering the persecuted and direct action. What could be said is that the time and effort that Hitler had to employ to deal with the various resisters could have been bette r spent elsewhere in Germanys fight with the allied powers. The groups involved in the resistance ranged from student groups to the very height of military command which did not see Hitler as taking Germany in the right direction. It could be argued that the plot of July 20 1944 only strengthened the resolve of Hitler to continue his policies. Historian Joachim Fest recounts part of the speech Hitler gave on the night of his attempted assassination; I myself am completely uninjured except for some very small scrapes, bruises or burns. I regard it as a confirmation of assignment from Providence to continue to pursue my lifes goal as I have done hitherto. The resistance of military men and their co-conspirators, it could be claimed, had the best chance of success given their close proximity and interaction with Hitler. However, the
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Pine, Lisa. Hitlers National Community Society and Culture in Nazi Germany (Hodder Education, London, 2007) p. (154) 2 Fest, Joachim. Hitler (Weidenfield and Nicholson, London, 1974) p. (710)

failure of their coup could possibly be traced by looking at the number of military men who remained loyal to Hitler as described by Martyn Housden; Within twelve hours its key instigators were either dead or under arrest. But still its nature tells us a lot. Although the coup did have some influential sympathisers, such as Field Marshal Rommel (the hero of the North Africa campaign), its basis in deception emphasised that the conspirators were far from confident of rallying the necessary support from senior military men.

Despite their willingness to defy Hitler and how close they came to securing their objectives, it could be argued that their failure was down to the fact that Hitler had ensured his Generals remained loyal by bribing them with gifts such as land. As Housden further argues, the attempted assassination and coup are best understood as the province of a relatively small group of hard-core conspirators.

In 1933 the Nazi party took power after the fall of Weimar Republic at a time of global recession, mass unemployment and poverty. Under the Weimar government, the standards of German decency had been seen to have fallen and the more traditional German citizens would have seen the Third Reich and Hitler as a way of reclaiming past glories. What the Nazi party did to consolidate their support, it could be argued, was a mixture of brainwashing through fear and propaganda. Historian Hans Rothfels states; To a great extent it was the necessity of economic existence which since the inflation had been reduced to bare subsistence. And reinforcing these motives there was undeniably an emotional urge played upon by masterly fashion by the instruments of propaganda, a sham-idealistic attraction, or the chimera of the national community (volksgemienschaft) which cast a spell, particularly on young people. In the beginning also an apparent improvement in social conditions, particularly the artificial reduction of unemployment, placed a psychological trump-card in the hands of the regime.

This argues that the number of people who saw the Nazi party both as a hostile force and a threat to their lives significantly dropped. Therefore the number of people willing to join a resistance movement was hindered which directly affected the effectiveness of any resistance group. Historian David

Welch concurs with Rothfels view when he highlights a speech given by Joseph Goebbels on 15
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Housden, Martyn. Resistance and Conformity in the Third Reich (Routledge, London, 1997) p. (96) Ibid, p. (96) 5 Rothfels, David. The German Opposition to Hitler (Oswald Wolff Publishers LTD, London, 1961) p. (24)

March 1933, It is not enough to reconcile people more or less to our regime, to move them towards a position of neutrality towards us, we would rather work on people until they are addicte d to us. The mobilisation of the German people to conformity is a clear indicator of the failure of several resistance movements in Nazi Germany. Furthermore, it should also be noted that the Nazi party were democratically elected and thus would have had a large number of supporters sympathetic to their cause. Despite this, there were still a number of people who did not agree with every policy of the Nazi regime as Pine explains while political dissent and opposition to specific measures were widespread resistance in its fundamental sense lacked a popular base of support
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The climate of fear created through Nazi propaganda was further fuelled by the secret police, the Gestapo. Historian W.S Allen talks about how even rumour of Gestapo presence could have had an effect on how Germans went about their everyday lives. He cites the example of the German town of Northeim and how the fear of the Gestapo prevented much of the social interactions between the townsfolk. He states It seems clear that the public in Northeim had a good idea by mid-Summer 1933, that even to express oneself against the new system was to invite persecution.


Allen points out how the towns relationship with one another began to break down, A teacher remembered that the mother of one of his pupils complained about the book burning. He agreed with her but also warned her not to try to tell other people, lest she got into trouble. This led to a deep distrust amongst citizens, to such a degree that social gatherings were infrequent for fear of saying something incriminating in earshot of the Gestapo or informants. This disruption of communication between the people of the town would have damaged the capacity of any resistance. Of course this is just one example of one town, however, it could also be said that this was a widespread situation. An argument against the Gestapos effectiveness is that their numbers were few and possibly nonexistent in the town of Northeim. However, the spread of rumour is just as effective as having actual Gestapo stationed in each town. As Allen describes, g iven the atmosphere of terror, even people who were friends felt that they must betray each other in order to survive.
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It could be said that resistance

was ineffective towards the Nazis due to this climate of fear. Historians Klaus Michael Mallman and

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Welch, David. The Third Reich: Politics and Propaganda (Routledge, London, 1993) p. (29) Pine, Lisa. Hitlers National Community Society and Culture in Nazi Germany (Hodder Education, London, 2007) p. (155) 8 Allen, William S. The Nazi Seizure of Power (Penguin books, London, 1989) p. (188) 9 Ibid, p. (188) 10 Ibid, p. (189)

Gerhard Paul argue that this is used merely as an excuse by the German people to absolve them of any responsibility, the myth of the Gestapo also gave the mass of ordinary Germans a convenient alibi, their failure to engage in serious resistance to the Nazi dictatorship could simply be seen as the inevitable consequence of the Gestapos awesome power.

Despite the conformity of the German people and the climate of fear spread through rumour, resistance movements were still able to recruit and disseminate pamphlets among the German people. Students of Munich University formed a highly notable resistance group called the White Rose group. Alexander Schmorell, Christoph Probst, Hans Scholl and Sophie Scholl were all members of the White Rose group and it was their intention, through passive resistance, to overthrow the Nazi government. Their method of resistance was to distribute leaflets to German citizens in the hope that they too would copy the leaflets and distribute them. They tried to play on the conscience of the German people as Historian Frank McDonough highlights We will not be silent. We are your bad conscience. The White Rose will not leave you in peace.

Despite their non-violent stand, they knew

the risks taken by opposing the Nazi regime. Between February and July 1943 they were captured, tried and executed. They had hoped their trial and execution would spark a revolt amongst fellow students, however, their deaths had the opposite effect. It could be argued that fear and conformity had played a role once again. Despite their efforts, the White Rose group were ineffective in bringing about any change in Nazi Germany. The group themselves even questioned the effectiveness of their movement. McDonough highlights the misgivings shared by the group themselves the leaflets had not made much of an impact on public opinion. Even Hans Scholl was pondering at this juncture whether to abandon the leafleting campaign altogether.

When the Nazis came to power in 1933 there were 25,000 Jehovahs witnesses living in Germany and, despite their small number, the Nazi party immediately identified them as a potential threat to their aims. From as early as April 1933 they were banned from practicing their religion in different states and then completely banned throughout Germany by July of the same year. However, their strong will, based on an unflinching conviction of their beliefs, meant that most would refuse to salute


Mallman M Klaus, and Paul, Gerhard. Omniscient, Omnipotent, Omnipresent? Gestapo, society and resistance, In David F Crew Nazism and German Society 1933-1945 (eds) (Routledge, London, 2004) p. (166) 12 McDonough, Frank. Sophie Scholl: The Real Story of the Woman Who Defied Hitler (The History Press, Gloucestershire, 2009) p. (101) 13 Ibid, p. (101)

Hitler and were dragged in front of the courts for their non-conformist actions. The Jehovahs witnesses still managed to produce their literature and distribute it through Germany. They produced leaflets with tales of their woe and placed them on park benches and through letter boxes. Pine highlights an extract from a Jehovahs W itnesses leaflet, Open letter to the people of Germany who believe in the bible and love Christ, it gave a detailed description of the maltreatment of the Jehovahs witnesses by the Nazi regime.

Pine further describes the situation, In April 1935, a law was passed

that denied Jehovahs witnesses the right to work in public service, which led to numerous dismissals. Furthermore, many Jehovahs witnesses lost their children for refu sing to give the Hitler salute or participate in Nazi activities.

It could be argued that the Third Reich was surprised at how strong

the Jehovahs witnesses had remained in the face of such aggression despite the torture and murder of many of their number their faith remained unshakeable. This made it harder for the regime to break their resistance.

The number of Jehovahs witnesses who did not conform for religious reasons is

brought into stark contrast when compared to the numbers of Protestants and Catholics in Germany. This is evident in their refusal to sign a document which renounced their faith and pledge allegiance to the German state. As already mentioned, there were only 25,000 Jehovahs witnesses in Germany and most did not follow the National Socialist model. However, as Housden explains in 1933 62.7 per cent of the population (over forty million people) belonged to one of the countries twenty-eight independent protestant churches, and 32.4 per cent of Germans (almost twenty-two million people) were Catholics.

It could be said that if the Protestants and Catholics had been as active against the

policies of the Nazi party then perhaps the resistance would have been more effective. The effectiveness of their resistance to the Nazi regime is described by Pine when she states the use of force and terror by the SS strengthened the resolve of the Jehovahs witnesses rather than weakening it as it was designed to do.

It could be argued that the resistance by the Jehovahs

witnesses eventually led to better treatment. In the concentration camps they were far more trusted by the Nazis than the other groups and often dealt with general household duties and clerical work as well as working closely with the families of SS officers. The Jehovahs witnesses worked with

Pine, Lisa. Hitlers National Community Society and Culture in Nazi Germany (Hodder Education, London, 2007) p. (156) 15 Ibid, p. (156) 16 Ibid, p. (157) 17 Housden, Martyn. Resistance and Conformity in the Third Reich (Routledge, London, 1997) p. (46) 18 Pine, Lisa. Hitlers National Community Society and Culture in Nazi Germany (Hodder Education, London, 2007) p. (157)

diligence and reliability, as long as their religious principles were not compromised, and they gained a reputation among the SS as trustworthy prisoners.

It could be said that their better treatment

allowed them to conduct their services and even smuggle scripture into the camps. This helped them to secretly recruit new members to their group from other categories at the camps. So despite the treatment they suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime, they did not back down and continued with their faith. It could also be argued that this form of resistance was not effective in the conventional sense, however, they did not conform to the imposed nationalist social norms and thus contributed to the overall resistance movement. While it may be evident that other resistance groups did not base their non-conformity on religion, the same cannot be said of Church leaders. On 27 September 1933, Ludwig Mller was elected to the newly created post of Reich Bishop with the continued aim of uniting the Protestant Church with National Socialism and to omit all Jewish references from the Bible. Here Housden describes the reaction from Church leaders; In response to this growing Nazification of Protestantism, on 2 1 September, Pastor Martin Niemller set up the Pastornotbund (the Emergency Association for Pastors). A total of 1,300 clergymen joined at once; 6,000 had done so by the end of the year. This organisation later formed the basis for the confessing church an outspokenly anti-Nazi organisation.
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Niemller met with Hitler to discuss his concerns over Nazi interference in the Church. Hitler assured Niemller that he was there to take care of the German people, however, Niemller responded by saying but we too, as Christians and churchmen, have a responsibility towards the German people. That responsibility was entrusted to us by God, and neither you nor anyone in the world has the power to take it from us.

In response to the meeting, the Emergency Association met to discuss

how they would deal with Nazi interference. The meeting resulted in the Barmen Declaration and, of the points made, one stands out specifically. W e repudiate the false teaching that there are areas of our life in which we belong not to Jesus Christ but another lord, areas in which we do not need justification and sanctification through him.

It could be argued that this was a direct reference to

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Ibid, p. (157) Schmidt, David. Pastor Niemller (Oldhams Press, London, 1959) p. (90) 21 Ibid, p. (91) 22 Robertson , E. H. Christians Against Hitler (SCM Press, London, 1962) p. (48)

Hitler himself, which highlights the Emergency Associations commitment and bravery in di rectly confronting Hitler and his policies towards the Church. Other church leaders, such as Bishops Wrm of Wrttemberg, Meiser of Bavaria and Marahrens of Hannover, held firm and refused to follow a policy set down by August Jaeger, second in command to Reich Bishop Mller. The plan was that each Bishop and Pastor took an oath of loyalty to Hitler which was read out as if it were scripture, which the Bishops refused. As Housden explains, W rm and Meiser opposed the statement publically and were placed under house arrest. Popular unrest accelerated to such an extent that both had to be released and, together with Marahrens were granted a personal interview with Hitler. As a result of the debacle, Jaeger lost his job.

It could be

said that this was a form of effective resistance which resulted in a reversal of policy. However, this small victory does not tell the entire story of church resistance. Many Protestants were nationalistic and their politics veered to the right and so were generally in support of Hitlers aims. Despite vocal resistance from within the church, most did not speak out as described by Housden. It was not by pure chance that no pastors denounced the Reichstag fire law, the enabling law or even the violent persecution of the Communists.

Housden goes on to describe how, out of 17,000 pastors across


Germany, just fifty actually received substantial sentences for opposing the government.

Furthermore, historian Doris L Bergen describes how even anti-Nazi organisations also conformed to most of Hitlers policies when she explains that; For the sake of national solidarity and wartime exigencies, even the Confessing Church and all but the most recalcitrant rallied to the flag and fighting volk. Likewise, for the sake of preserving domestic peace, Hitler curbed the anti-Church activities of some of his deputies, among them Martin Bormann. The Church were useful indeed, indispensable in wartime, and examination of the archival record suggests that this was as true for the Catholic as the Protestant Church, both of which remained loyal pillars of support.

The evidence suggests that there was no real effective resistance in conventional terms to Nazism from within Germany. The Church had some degree of success, as did the Jehovahs witnesses.

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Housden, Martyn. Resistance and Conformity in the Third Reich (Routledge, London, 1997) p. (50) Ibid, p. (53) 25 Ibid, p. (53) 26 Bergmen, Doris L. Nazism and Christianity: Partners and Rivals (Journal of Contemporary History) p. (32)

Dissent may have been widespread but very few were willing to stand up to Hitlers regime, whether from conformity, fear, rumour of Gestapo presence or through genuine support of Hitlers plans. Arguably this is the most likely scenario, given that the Nazis were democratically elected to power and the German people held similar beliefs to the Nazi party. Various groups had differing results in their resistance to the Nazi regime. Despite the military having the best chance of success, even they failed to bring down the Nazi government.

Bibliography Allen, William S. The Nazi Seizure of Power (Penguin books, London, 1989) Bergmen, Doris L. (2007) Nazism and Christianity: Partners and Rivals (Journal of Contemporary History) pp. (25-33) (Last accessed: 22 March 2013) Fest, Joachim. Hitler (Weidenfield and Nicholson, London, 1974) Housden, Martyn. Resistance and Conformity in the Third Reich (Routledge, London, 1997) Mallman M Klaus, and Paul, Gerhard. Omniscient, Omnipotent, Omnipresent? Gestapo, society and resistance, In David F Crew Nazism and German Society 1933-1945 (eds.) (Routledge, London, 2004) McDonough, Frank. Sophie Scholl: The Real Story of the Woman Who Defied Hitler (The History Press, Gloucestershire, 2009) Pine, Lisa. Hitlers National Community Society and Culture in Nazi Germany (Hodder Education, London, 2007) Robertson, E. H. Christians Against Hitler (SCM Press, London, 1962) Rothfels, David. The German Opposition to Hitler (Oswald Wolff Publishers LTD, London, 1961) Schmidt, David. Pastor Niemller (Oldhams Press, London, 1959) Welch, David. The Third Reich: Politics and Propaganda (Routledge, London, 1993