Section extent was the German middle class effected

1: Identification and Evaluation of Sources

            This investigation
will explore the question: To what extent was the German middle class effected
by Hitler’s rule before 1939? The years between the late 1920’s and 1939 will
be the focus of this investigation, because it focuses on the middle class,
during the elections up to before World War II. Which allows a better
understanding of what Hitler’s rule before the war was like.

            The first source which will be evaluated in depth is Ian
Kershaw’s book, “Hitler 1889-1936: Hubris,” written in 1998. The origin of this
source is valuable because Kershaw was a Professor and Head of Department at
the University of Sheffield in England, specializing in the history of modern
Germany, and his written extensively on Hitler, and the Third Reich. Additionally,
the date of the publication, 1998, strengthen its value, as it shows that
Kershaw has been able to analyze various sources, such as government documents,
interviews, and other valuable historical sources. However, the source is
limited because Kershaw did not receive his doctorate in German history,
instead he studied the Middle Ages and gained his doctorate in Middle Age
history. The source is also a biography on Adolf Hitler, which means that
Kershaw may not focus solely on the middle class, which this topic is focused
on, and consequently the information may not represent the middle class as much
as it should be.

            The purpose of Kershaw’s book is to analyze and inform
readers about Hitler’s entire life up to 1936, starting from his childhood, all
the way up to the beginning of the Nuremberg Laws establishment. This is
valuable because much of it focuses on the middle class and their thoughts on
the Nazi Party, and Hitler.

            The second source which will be evaluated in depth is
Richard J. Evans’ book, “The Third Reich in Power,” written in 2005. The origin
of this source is valuable because Evans is a Professor of Modern History at Cambridge
University. He has also written extensively on Hitler and the Third Reich,
which shows he has dedicated a significant amount of his time with this topic.
Furthermore, the date of publication for this source was 2005, which highlights
the value, due to the hindsight that Evans has in this matter. However, this
source is limited, because it covers the entire era of Nazi Germany, and its
main focus is not on the middle class of that time period. Evans wrote the book
based off of research he has done and passed down accounts of individuals that were
living in Nazi Germany.

            The purpose of this source is to highlight life in
Germany before World War II during Hitler’s rule and events that lead to World
War II. This is valuable because it analyzes life in Nazi Germany and how it
was affected by Hitler and the Nazi Party. The author writes about Nazi Germany
between 1933-1939, which means they get to focus more on this time span, which
is valuable for question of this investigation.


2: Investigation

RQ: To what extent was
the German middle class effected by Hitler’s rule before 1939?

            Many historians
would agree that the middle class was heavily affected during Hitler’s rule in
Germany. This economic class was divided when it came to supporting Hitler and
the Nazi Party. Much of the lower and central middle-class groups were drawn to
Nazis because of what the Nazis would do for them. “Most middle-class and
well-to-do Germans, and even a considerable leaven of the working class,
preferred the Nazis,” (Kershaw 409). The middle class was a key group for the
Nazis, and they were over-represented in the early days of the Nazi Party. In
fact, a majority of the Nazi party was made up of individuals from the middle
class. “On January 20, 1933, the NSDAP had about 850,000 members, most-though
by no means all- recruited from the lower middle class, the petty bourgeoisie,”
(Benz 89). The middle class was always an important group to many other
parties, but as the Nazis grew, fewer middle class votes went to other parties.
This eventually allowed the Nazis to take control over Germany, as all other
parties were losing support.

            One of the opposing parties, the Social Democratic Party,
did little to gain support from the middle class. They already had connections
to trade union movements, which many conservative Germans oppose. The leading
opposing party was also another reason why the middle class supported the
Nazis. The leading opposing party was the Communist party, and the middle class
did not support them because they feared that the Communists would take away
their wealth and property. The Communist Party was also a liberal party, and
much of Germany is conservative, the exact opposite of what the Communist Party
was. The Communist Party in Germany wanted to implement the same style
government that Russia has in Germany. Many of the citizens in Germany did not
want to live in that type of government, and this helped gain support for the
Nazi Party. The Nazis implemented Anti-Communism in their party platform. “For
most of the middle classes and peasants, Nazism, whatever its faults, wins
preferable to Bolshevism, which Hitler had successfully depicted as the only
alternative,” (Kershaw 508). Hitler made sure that much of the German public
opposed Communism. They depicted Communists as the enemies of Germany, and often
connected them with the Jews, which was another group of people that the Nazis
depicted as enemies of Germany. The middle class was promised protection from
Communism by the Nazis, and for the most part, they were protected from it
under Hitler’s rule. The Nazis arrested, and murdered many of the significant
Communist party members. The Nazis kept up with many of the promises they made
for the middle class, in order to keep them content.

            Amongst these promises, the Nazis promised they would
eliminate Jewish competitors, allowing the other businesses to succeed. “They
promised to protect profits and property and the home; they appealed to
patriotic sentiment, a plea which the democratic government had neglected,”
(Wunderlich 63). This showed that the Nazi party was for the people, unlike the
previous government, or other parties. The middle class was easily persuaded by
this, because of the shape Germany was in after World War I. They needed a
someone to look up to, because their country was no longer powerful, along with
economic depression that followed the war. Businesses were failing, and the
Nazis were promising to bring Germany back to its greatness. Small businessmen
had become a major group of Nazi supporters. Unemployment rates had also
dropped under Hitler’s rule. Hitler established many policies the moment he got
into office to lower unemployment. For example, the government disallowed some
machinery in the work place that took the place of manual labor. This allowed
for more jobs to be available for those who were unemployed. The government
also formed the Reich Labour Service (RAD), which helped with youth unemployment.
These programs were very similar to the Civilian Conservation Corps, which were
introduced by Franklin D. Roosevelt. Their main purpose was to plant forests,
dig ditches on farms, build the Autobahn, and build hospitals. The Nazis were
also able to militarize the RAD by forcing every man aged 18-25 to complete six
months of training at the RAD, wear a military uniform, live in camps, and
complete military/physical exercise every day. (“GCSE Bitesize”). While they
were lowering Germany’s unemployment, they were also preparing their country
for war.

            Although the early days of the Nazi platform mainly
appealed to the middle class, the middle class support was uneven, due to the
separate groups. “The old middle class constituted between 30 and 35 percent of
the Nazi Party joiners in each year from 1925 and 1932,” (Brustein 104).
Another group they appealed to in the middle class was the white collar
workers. The improving economy boosted their lifestyles. Along with this, came
the image of a strong leader that was bringing Germany together, after years of
depression. The Protestant churches were divided when it came to Nazism, some
supported it, some were against it, and others were neutral. There was a
movement within the German Evangelical Church by the “German Christians,” to
create a unified church called the Reich Church. This movement supported a Nazi
version of Christianity, while another movement within the church called the “Confessing
Church,” was created to oppose the German Christians. The Confessing Church
believe that politics should be left out of religion. This resulted in a
divided German Evangelical Church. One middle-class group that was not fully in
agreement with the elements of the Nazi platform were the Catholics. “Before
1933, in fact, some bishops prohibited Catholics in their diocese from joining
the Nazi Party,” (“The German Churches and the Nazi State”). As time continued,
the ban was dropped after a speech Hitler gave in 1933 that described
Christianity as the foundation for German values. Also, the Centre Party – a
Catholic political party in Germany up until 1933 – was dissolved as part of
the signing of the 1933 Concordat between the Vatican and Nazi governmental
representatives. Many of the leaders were murdered in the Night of the Long

            While the Nazis attempted to aim their party platform
mainly for the middle class, there were still members in the middle class that
felt the need to riot against the Nazis. Though they attempted to riot, they
were not very successful, because many of them would get arrested. “The leaders
of all three political wings of the white-collar unions were arrested and put
into concentration camps, and the unions themselves, along with all other
white-collar organizations, were amalgamated into the German Labour Front,”
(Evans 442). Hitler knew of the danger of trade unions, and the potential power
they had to influence the workers. Therefore, trade unions were banned in Nazi
Germany. This is when Hitler started the German Labour Front (DAF) to look
after the working classes in Germany. The DAF managed wages, working hours, and
discipline in all work places. The number of working hours was increased, wages
were frozen, and if one was to show disapproval of the DAF, they were arrested
(“GCSE Bitesize”). The DAF was controlled by the state, meaning that any
leaders of the DAF were loyal to Hitler. He made to it that membership to the
DAF was mandatory, which forced every worker to join. The DAF also created a
sub-organization call the Strength Through Joy (KdF), which sought to unite
German workers by giving them supervised leisure time activities. Some middle
class activities such as the movies, and theatre were made available for the
German workers at a lower price. Small actions such as these helped close the
gap between the social classes in Germany.

            The middle class in Germany had many views of the Nazi
party, but the government under Hitler’s rule implemented many policies to not
only benefit the economy, but also to improve German lives. He appealed to
those who were unemployed, the lower middle class, and the youth. All of which
played a significant role in bringing Germany’s economy back to its lofty
standards. Whether it was being part of the German Labour Front, the Reich
Labour Service, or any other important programs or jobs that helped bring it


3: Investigation

            This investigation has allowed me to
gain the ability to use the methods that historians

to carry out investigations. I feel like I can now carry out more
investigations by carefully

sources, that provide different perspectives on the subject. One way I gained
information on the subject, I read multiple books that were correlated to the
subject, and used them as sources for my investigation. I also gained information
from museum websites, and other documents written by historians that have taken
their time to study this era.

            When comparing evidence from the
different sources related to my research question, they all had similar knowledge
to share. While reading about the subject, much of the information I gained had
to do with the economic classes, religion, and politics that all effected the
middle class of Nazi Germany. Also, some of my sources were focused on certain
parts of the subject. For example, Kershaw’s book Hitler, 1889-1936: Hubris, focused on Hitler’s life up to the
beginning of his rule, including his ideology, policies, and how he controlled Nazi
Germany. While Evans’ book, The Third
Reich in Power, focused on the entire rule of the Nazi class. As I continued
to gain information from these sources, I realized how difficult it might be
for a historian to find the information that they need to complete their investigations.

            As I got closer to my conclusion, I
began to comprehend the work of a historian, and saw that history can be based off
facts, but sometimes there may not be an exact answer. There are always different
perspectives from other historians that did their investigations, and their
goal is to find the most widely acceptable conclusion. Limitations of a source
always play a role because they effect how others view the source. Historians need
to see how reliable the source is, and if the source’s validity and limitations
are important and need to be taken into consideration when accepting or denying
it as historically correct.


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