Overview

By 1934, Hitler considered the National Socialist revolution in Germany complete.  In control of the nation, the Nazis turned their attention to creating a racially pure “national community” in which Nazism was not revolutionary but normal.  This chapter focuses on the methods the Nazis used to get individuals to conform, if not consent, to their vision for German society. It also focuses on the consequences faced by those who did not fit into the “national community” the Nazis envisioned. 

Essential Questions

  • In what ways did the Nazis use laws to create “in” groups and “out” groups in German society? How did they also appeal to people’s hearts and minds?
  • What were some of the reasons that the Nazis’ idea of a “national community” appealed to many Germans? Why did it appeal to particular groups, like young people? 
  • What did it mean to be an outsider or even a dissenter in an otherwise “racially pure and harmonious national community”? What did it mean to be an insider?

Introduction
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Introduction

Before exploring our readings on the Nazi German society, get familiar with their central themes and historical context.

Reading 1 of 20
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The Common Interest before Self-Interest

Read the text of a widely distributed Nazi pamphlet that outlined National Socialism's central goals and defined what it meant to be German.

Reading 2 of 20
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Spying on Family and Friends

Discover the effects of the “Malicious Attacks” law, which criminalized dissent to the Nazi party, had on one German family and on German society as a whole.

Reading 3 of 20
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Speaking in Whispers

Learn about the role of cell and block wardens, Germans who collected information about their neighbors in Nazi German society.

Reading 4 of 20
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Political Prisoners

A member of the German Communist Party describes her experience in a Nazi concentration camp for political prisoners.

Reading 5 of 20
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The Nuremberg Laws

Learn about the laws that redefined what it meant to be German in Nazi Germany, and that stripped Jews and others of citizenship.

Reading 6 of 20
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Discovering Jewish Blood

Find out how one family's lives changed when Hitler passed the Nuremberg Laws in Nazi Germany.

Reading 7 of 20
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Can a National Socialist Have Jewish Friends?

Melita Maschmann describes the contradictory way she viewed Jews, and particularly her Jewish classmates, while growing up in Nazi Germany.

Visual Essay 8 of 20
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Visual Essay: The Impact of Propaganda

Explore a curated selection of primary source propaganda images from Nazi Germany. 

Reading 9 of 20
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Art and Politics

Discover how the Nazis used art as a tool to promote their ideology by celebrating what they perceived as authentic German art and eliminating art they deemed degenerate. 

Reading 10 of 20
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Propaganda at the Movies

Learn how the Nazis used film to create an image of the “national community” and to demonize those they viewed as the enemy, such as the Jews. 

Reading 11 of 20
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Women and the National Community

Investigate a primary source text that outlines the Nazis' vision for women in German society.

Reading 12 of 20
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Joining the Hitler Youth

Reflect on these firsthand experiences of former members of the Nazi Youth.

Reading 13 of 20
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The Birthday Party

Gain insight into the pressures that compelled young people and their families to support Nazi youth organizations with this story about a member of the Hitler Youth.

Reading 14 of 20
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Models of Obedience

Consider how conformity, obedience, and desire for belonging influenced the attitudes and values of youth in Nazi Germany.

Reading 15 of 20
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Disillusionment in the Hitler Youth

Consider why some young people in Nazi Germany chose to drop out of Hitler youth organizations with this story about a former Hitler Youth member.

Reading 16 of 20
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Rejecting Nazism

Learn about the Edelweiss Pirates and the Swing Kids,  two German youth groups that questioned Nazism.

Reading 17 of 20
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“Heil Hitler!”: Lessons of Daily Life

Get a glimpse into the daily lives of children in Nazi Germany, and consider how the Nazis “educated” Germany’s youth.

Reading 18 of 20
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Youth on the Margins

Consider what it was like to grow up as an outsider in Nazi Germany with these firsthand accounts from a Jehovah's Witness and a Jew.

Reading 19 of 20
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Schooling for the National Community

Learn how the Nazis transformed German public education to advance their nationalist and racial ideologies.

Reading 20 of 20
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Even If All Others Do—I Do Not!

Reflect on the true story of a father who dared to challenge the education his children received in Nazi Germany.

Analysis and Reflection
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Analysis & Reflection

Enhance your students’ understanding of our readings on Nazi Germany society with these follow-up questions and prompts.

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