Hitler’s quick and unimpeded rise to power in the early 1930s was followed by the development and radicalization of the national ideology. Nowadays, Nazism is seen as the extreme form of fascism and encompasses a subset of ideologies including antisemitism and scientific racism. This essay will discuss how government control and propaganda shaped the image of the ideal citizen in totalitarian Germany and how the authorities infringed on human rights through control.
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The first and the main method of imposing total control was giving the police (Gestapo) full freedom to arrest citizens on the spot and execute justice to their liking. The members of the Gestapo operated undercover: neither they nor their informants wore any distinctive uniform so that ordinary people did not know when they were observed. Informants’ reports were treated seriously even though on many occasions, Hitler’s supporters would come into contact with the police to ruin someone’s life without any actual contents of a crime.
Second, Hitler created internal enemies (political opponents, Romani, Jews, some religious authorities) that had to be eradicated from society. The judicial branch could not defend human rights as with the emergence of People’s Courts, all decisions had to benefit the party. As for voter apathy, this concept barely applied to the case of Nazi Germany. During the last democratic elections in 1933, the turnout was high at 89%, and people partook with enthusiasm (Weinstein, 2014). However, there was nothing free about the elections as they were preceded by coercion measures.
First, the ideal citizen had to be racially pure and not belong to any minority groups. He or she had to agree with the ideology entirely and take action to perpetuate the cause. Namely, he or she would have to report if they witnessed misconduct and expose people’s ethnic background. Both girls and boys had to be educated with the focus on German history which was distorted in a way that would showcase the nation’s superiority. Girls had to be prepared for the role of a mother and a housewife to provide a safe haven for their military husbands.
To perpetuate their radical agenda, Nazis created a so-called terror state. Hitler’s police, Gestapo, was omnipresent and could arrest whoever they found suspicious. German citizens were deprived of their rights and freedoms: they could not express their opinion freely, expect legal protection, or vote. The ideal citizens had to be extremely compliant, ready to betray their friends and neighbors and recognize the German nation’s supremacy.
Weinstein, F. (2014). The dynamics of Nazism: Leadership, ideology, and the Holocaust. Amsterdam, Netherlands: Elsevier.