Strength of Hitler
This question concerns the extent and strength of Hitler’s power and refers to the controversy concerning the efficiency of the Nazi regime; the debate between intentionalist and structuralist viewpoints. S stracturalist: To further these opinions stracturalist historians would refer to Hitler’s reliance on the power of the Gauleiter, as shown when he could not support Frick in trying to subordinate them. In 1934 the Law for the Reconstruction of the Reich meant Frick tried to put the newly created Reich Governors under his control as head of the Ministry of the Interior; thereby centralising control.
It did not work because most of the governors were also Gauleiter with large local power bases. In the end Hitler agreed to place them nominally under Frick’s control but in reality they could appeal directly to the Fuhrer. On top of that, The setting up of rival agencies to that of the traditional state which created political chaos and the use of Fuhrer orders which were often contradictory. The latter was notably the case when in 1935 both Hess and an official from the Ministry of the Interior were given contradictory orders with regards to whether it would be best for the Jews to be allowed to stay in Germany.
HOWEVER To accept the evidence of Stewart-stracturalist -in supporting the viewpoint of a lack of power would be to show a misunderstanding of Hitler’s role and significance. His absorption of the powers of Chancellor and President combined with the army’s oath, both in 1934, gave unassailable power. This then allowed Hitler to be presented as a demigod who was worshipped by the German people, most notably in the Triumph of the Will which portrayed the Nuremburg Rally.
In short Hitler’s dictatorship was so powerful that he could distance himself from the detail of government and furthermore this helped maintain power as blame for any unpopular measures would be directed to subordinates and not as an attack against the Fuhrer himself. Thus the bohemian lifestyle and competing agencies that were left behind do not show weakness in power but completely the opposite. Fuhrer’s will’ Hitler’s power as head of party, state and military was unassailable.
The ‘Triumph of the Will’ showed him as a demigod worshipped by the German people and it was this propaganda that distanced him from the need to be involved in day to day decisions. The crucial peacetime decisions were made by Hitler; most notably the Night of the Long Knives. However this chaos does not show a lack of comprehensive power as within this vacuum the agencies were competing to ‘interpret the Fuhrer’s will’. In fact a situation where all were trying to find the right method to achieve an element of the world view at the right time shows a much higher level of power.
This viewpoint can clearly be supported by analysing how the policy towards the Jews was formulated. Frick’s ‘Aryan Clause’, Wagner’s speech leading to the Nuremburg laws, the street violence following Anschluss, the 1938 legislation to isolate the Jews and Goebbels’ green light for Kristallnacht were all methods and legislation formed by those ‘working towards the Fuhrer’; trying to come up with the right method at the right time. Instead it was Hitler’s hand off approach that allowed a much higher level of power to develop.
By distancing himself from government Hitler left a vacuum that was filled by competing agencies and ministries all trying to form a method that fully interpreted his world view. Kershaw is correct to adopt this viewpoint as this style of government did create chaos but it was this competing chaos to please and gain influence from Hitler, supported by the representation of Hitler as a mystical religion in propaganda, that show the true totality and comprehensiveness of the Fuhrer’s power. Revision:Hitler – Weak Dictator or Master of the Third Reich TSR Wiki > Study Help > Subjects and Revision > Revision Notes > History > Hitler – Weak Dictator or Master of the Third Reich Two main historical interpretations of the relationship between Hitler and the Nazis. Contents [hide] * 1 Weak Dictator * 2 Master of the Third Reich * 3 The Middle Way * 4 Notes on ‘Hitler and Nazism’ by Jane Jenkins * 5 Comments| ————————————————- Weak Dictator * Structuralists; emphasis ‘intuitional anarchy’ of Nazi regime and ‘leadership chaos’ * Argue Hitler was merely a puppet, a figurehead Polycratic chaotic government consequence of Hitler’s inability to effectively direct government * Social Darwinist ‘divide and rule’ (a term coined by ‘intentionalists’) strategy resulted in time-wasting and bureaucracy * Argue that whilst Hitler’s ideas were central to Nazism, they were empowered and enforced by others * Argue that under Hitler, Germany suffered * Blame Hitler’s inaccessibility, reluctance to give policy directives or even to document his ideas * Structural limitations to Hitler’s power, as argued by Bracher. Many measures can be seen as responsive to pressure of events, and not the result of long-term planning; Hitler reacted to events, rather then creating them * Night of the Long Knives was a response to pressure from business and the army, not a predetermined strategy. * Idea that Hitler was an ‘all-powerful dictator’ is straight out of Nazi propaganda * Hans Mommsen: “Hitler was just one extreme element of the extensive malevolence that was the Nazi system” * “Several powerful empires ran underneath Hitler” * Preoccupied with self-image “Hitler Myth”, Kershaw – was the great vision of Hitler reality or simply myth * Built on fear * Ultimately weak in that he relied on, albeit a very powerful, propaganda machine, run by Goebbels, to provide a facade, a myth” * Rosenthal: “Without Goebbels, there was no Hitler” ————————————————- Master of the Third Reich * Intentionalists; stress centrality of Nazi regime; importance of Hitler’s personality, ideas and strength * Alan Bullock “National Socialism can be called Hitlerism” * Argue that Nazi policies predetermined by Hitler Key to power was access to Hitler; which explains the influence and control of the three ‘lieutenants’; Goring, Goebbels and Himmler * Party organisation based on the ‘Fuhrerprinzip’ – the principle of leadership – whereby authority remained with Hitler, at all levels. The same term is used by ‘structuralists’ to mean a different thing. * Hitler removed himself from daily life to retain his prestigious image, not out of weakness * Truly charismatic speaker, could hold people’s attention for up to 6 hours Alan Bullock: “It’s not what Hitler said, it’s the way he said it” * Corkery: “Hitler had the unique ability to persuade people” * “Hitler uber Deutschland” 1931 * Norman Rich: “Hitler had a fixed plan from the Beer Hall Putsch to death in his bunker in 1945” * Jackel: “the essential political decisions were taken by a single individual, by Hitler” * Williams: “There was no effective institution which could depose him” ————————————————- The Middle Way Kershaw: “Hitler’s force in Nazi politics was as such that calling him “weak” is difficult to accept”; there are no examples of major policy decisions by Hitler being successfully opposed by subordinates or the Party * Kershaw: “Nevertheless, his distant style of leadership and hesitancy regarding critical decisions make it equally difficult to see him as a “master” of Nazi Germany” * To some extent, Hitler was a prisoner within the Nazi hierarchy, with more active Nazi players interpreting Hitler’s will and anticipating his desires.
Kershaw calls this relationship “working towards the Fuhrer”. ————————————————- Notes on ‘Hitler and Nazism’ by Jane Jenkins Foreign cartoonists ridiculed Hitler as an absurd little man * Yet many accepted his ‘dictatorship’ and remained loyal to the end * Germany appeared to be, on the surface, a one-party state under Hitler’s sole rule * His dictatorship was underpinned by an effective political apparatus * Goebbels’ propaganda aimed at creating a Hitler myth, emphasising his political genius, generating great support and fortifying Hitler’s position as all-powerful Fuhrer * Hitler has been portrayed as a leader who dictated events and who established ascendancy over all who came into contact with him. He was egarded as the master of the Third Reich * However, some historians disagree with this image, emphasising a man who was remote from public affairs * Hans Mommsen, 1971: “Hitler was unwilling to take decisions, frequently uncertain, exclusively concerned with upholding his prestige and personal authority, influenced in the strongest fashion by his current entourage, in some respects a weak dictator” * Hitler did not actively intervene in government and his withdrawal made the machinery of government slower and more chaotic, as the important decisions were not taken * Government disintegrated into competing personal empires; Goring, Himmler and Goebbels * Hitler became dispensable in this personal system; he rarely issued written orders; fuelling the view that he was an inactive leader There are two approaches to viewing Hitler’s role in Nazi Germany; the Intentionalist and the Structuralist * Intentionalists stress that the essential political decisions were taken by Hitler. He was the prime force in domestic and foreign policy. So important was the leadership principle that they equate Nazism with Hitlerism. * Intentionalist historians: Hugh Trevor-Roper, Alan Bullock, Jane Jenkins, Bracher, Hildebrand, Jackel * They stress the centrality of Hitler’s personality, ideas and strengths. * Regard Hitler as having predetermined goals, especially in foreign policy * Saw hostility between rival groups as being resolved solely by the Fuhrer * Hitler as central to foreign and racial policy Structuralists stress the limitations on Hitler’s freedom of action as a result of forces operating within the State. They argue that, under Hitler, Nazi Germany suffered a leadership crisis. From the mid 1930s Hitler abandoned the normal business of government. He resorted to extreme working methods and lifestyles, a development which was commented upon by contemporaries. * Structuralist historians: Hans Mommsen, Martin Brozat * Saw Hitler as ‘weak’, failing to give clear planning and consistent direction, leading to the collapse of ordered government and self-destruction * Emphasise ‘institutional’ anarchy and leadership chaos. Power was distributed among many. Hitler’s own authority was only one important element Hitler ruled through his trusted henchman but could not ignore his dependence on the traditional elites * A radical purge of the civil service would jeopardise this relationship * The government cabinet did not operate, so the Reich Chancellery co-ordinated events, although Hitler only made decisions when absolutely necessary * Hitler’s government can be described as ‘polycratic’, where his authority was only one element * However, Hitler still expected total loyalty and that all power rested with him * There are no examples of major policy decisions by Hitler being successfully opposed by subordinates or the Party * It would be misleading to view Hitler as a weak dictator * Only about 12 people had easy access to Hitler at all times * This ‘kitchen cabinet’ changed over the years but always included; Goring, Himmler, Goebbels, Hess and Bormann. Hitler organised the Party, created its main ideology and masterminded its campaign for power * He was the dominant focal point and others accepted his dictatorship; he demanded absolute obedience * He also ensured his supremacy and unchallenged leadership by fostering an anarchy of rivalries amongst leading Nazis * Such rivalries enhanced Hitler’s own position as supreme arbiter * Intentionalists argue that the government’s chaotic structure was merely a result of Hitler’s ‘divide and rule’ strategy * Even the top Nazis of the ‘inner guard’ were not immune; Goring was denied access to Hitler and ignored in policy discussions after 1941 and Heydrich was sent to Prague when they became too powerful * Hess was assigned ‘deputy to the Fuhrer’ because he represented no danger to Hitler * Hitler’s purge of Rohm, leader of the SA, is the best example of how top Nazi leaders, even ‘friends’, could be removed from power if posing a threat * Between 1933 and 1941 Hitler was central to the regime and certain developments would not have happened without his authority; the SS would not have developed on the large scale that it did and Germany would not have one to war, as war was unpopular with the Army and top Nazis such as Goring * Ian Kershaw argues that Hitler had three main functions: “to integrate the many different and antagonistic groups, to mobilise the actions of his subordinates and to legalise many of the barbaric actions taken by subordinates” * Hitler seized the opportunity in the 1930s as European diplomacy collapsed. Hitler exploited the weakness of Europe and was central to the collapse of international order * Hitler’s non-interventionist style of leadership, born out of Social Darwinist theories, has been misinterpreted as weak leadership * The Nazi state would have collapsed if Hitler had died or been removed, as he integrated the divergent Nazi groups * The succession would ultimately have passed to the Army elites, who, more Conservative in their ways, would have most likely began de-Nazifying Germany