How did Hitler see Freemasonry and why

National Socialism and World War II

Hans-Ulrich Thamer

To person

Born in 1943, is Professor of Modern and Contemporary History at the University of Münster. His main research interests are National Socialism and European Fascism.

Publications including: Seduction and violence. Germany 1933-1945, (The Germans and their Nation, Vol. 5), Berlin 1986; National Socialism, Stuttgart 2002.

The interlocking of party and state, instrumentalization of law and justice, disenfranchisement and persecution of the Jews: The years 1934-1938 were characterized by the reorganization of Germany into the "Führer State". The cult of personality around Hitler was intensified through targeted propaganda.

Almost a hundred thousand soldiers gathered in the Nuremberg Luitpoldarena in September 1937: the Nazi party rally took place on the grounds every year between 1933 and 1938. (& copy AP)


Rarely in recent history has a person united such a power as Adolf Hitler. After the death of Reich President von Hindenburg on August 2, 1934, there was no longer any constitutional institution that could have limited Hitler's position. In contrast to fascist Italy, where the Duce Benito Mussolini (1883–1945) always had to reckon with the monarch and the army and administration related to him, all institutional starting points for the development of organized opposing forces were eliminated in the leadership state.

Hitler's power

Even within the NSDAP, after the assassination of the SA chief of staff Ernst Röhm, Hitler no longer had a serious opponent. From that time on, the Nazi system "stood and fell with Hitler; with his decisions, his ideological fixations, his political lifestyle and his need for the grandiose alternative of victory or catastrophe" (Karl-Dietrich Bracher).

This "Führer absolutism" (Martin Broszat) was not based solely on Hitler's will to power or special personal qualities, but also and above all on the willingness to consent and subordinate in administration and society as well as on the special mechanism of rule in the National Socialist Führer state. The "Führer" myth became the common denominator of the internal mechanism of rule and legitimation through society. Even during the ascent phase of the NSDAP, Hitler had become the political and ideological reference point of the National Socialist movement. He had also been able to reinforce or exaggerate this position of power through the "Führer" expectation within the NSDAP and through the "Führer" cult propagandistically (cf. Information on Political Education No. 251 "National Socialism I", p. 21).

After the seizure of power in 1933, this process of mutual reinforcement of the general expectation of a charismatic redeemer and savior and the now state cult around the "Führer" carried over to the whole of society. In addition to the widespread social expectation of a national savior, who should lead out of need and crisis with his extraordinary qualities, the political and propagandistic reinforcement of this expectation by the followers was one of the prerequisites for the successful effect of this "Führer" myth. She served as a mouthpiece for the extraordinary powers of the charismatic leader. In addition, the "Führer" cult was staged by the propaganda apparatus of the Reich Minister for Public Enlightenment and Propaganda Joseph Goebbels (1897–1945). Above all, they used the economic and labor market successes of the regime in combating unemployment and stimulating the economy, as well as later the national political successes in restoring German claims to great power. They were only well written to Hitler, in order to encourage those in agreement with the "Führer" who believed that the "political nobody" had little ability and political success.

The fact that the politically and administratively completely inexperienced and unprepared leadership clique of the NSDAP was able to get through the critical initial phase was due to the willingness of large sections of the traditional power elites in the bureaucracy, the Reichswehr and the economy to cooperate with the National Socialist regime and to support it, because they promised themselves advantages of their own and the fulfillment of the most diverse social and material expectations. In addition, there was an undeniable tactical skill of Hitler, who in his new role as Reich Chancellor initially acted cautiously and gave himself the appearance of an honorable statesman who not only wore the party uniform, but also the civil suit when the opportunity arose.

In the first weeks and months of his reign he tried to keep the official business of the head of government regular and normal. It soon became apparent that, despite his lack of experience in government, he quickly grasped the rules of the game and, to the surprise of those who had expected the "vulgar" agitator to be quickly drained, he was able to deal with them skillfully. The change in the style of government away from parliament and parties and towards authoritarian action also found the approval of the conservative power groups: For Hitler seemed to be the constitutional change that came with the presidential governments of the former Chancellor Heinrich Brüning (1885-1970) and Franz von Papen (1879 –1969) had started to just continue. At first he ruled primarily with the power of emergency decree of the Reich President, and the elimination of parliament and cabinet through the Enabling Act of March 23, 1933 (cf. Information on Political Education No. 251 "National Socialism I", p. 43 ff.) Aroused him the Reich bureaucracy and in the army no suspicion.

Meetings of the Reich Cabinet took place less and less. The fact that the cabinet members, who were mostly still German nationalists, were no longer able to control Hitler, was accepted by them. From the beginning there had been no votes in the Hitler cabinet. Since the Enabling Act, Hitler, as Reich Chancellor, was able to promulgate laws independently of the Reich President. Decisions on bills and ordinances from the ministries were made by circulation procedure. While the minutes of 1933 recorded 72 meetings of the cabinet, the ministers met only twelve times in 1935, and since 1938 the cabinet has not met at all. The splendid cabinet room in Hitler's new Reich Chancellery was never used. The government was divided into a large number of individual departments. They were only in contact with the "Führer" through the newly appointed head of the Reich Chancellery, Hans Heinrich Lammers (1879–1962), provided that they, as members of the National Socialist leadership clique, did not already have direct access to Hitler. Through this procedure, Hitler became the "lynchpin of the government apparatus" (Ian Kershaw), but on the other hand he was able to stay out of the daily advisory and coordination activities and leave this to the head of the Reich Chancellery or other leaders' secretaries. This considerably strengthened the aura of the "Führer", who stood above all disputes.

This policy of sharing and ruling, which splintered powers in order to then pool them again in a supreme arbitration body, was not based on a specific program of action by Hitler and his subordinates. Rather, it was based on intuitive action, which combined cautious waiting with the ability to quickly and skillfully exploit favorable opportunities and a pronounced instinct for power. Hitler only allowed this to act when he saw his authority impaired, or when he was able to present his decision as a consequence of compulsions to act.

Equipped with the new abundance of power, Hitler's tendency towards a volatile lifestyle and work style increased after 1934, which now also shaped the political decision-making procedures. Soon he was constantly rushing back and forth between meetings and rallies, marches, groundbreaking and inaugurations. Outwardly, this strengthened the image of the restlessly active and omnipresent "leader". Cabinet or government officials often had to follow him to get a decision. This strengthened the influence of the leadership groups of the NSDAP, the Gauleiter and Reichsleiter, or even the adjutants and secretaries who were nearby. This gave them an increased chance to enforce decisions bypassing the responsible ministries. Occasionally, such uncoordinated proceedings also led to decisions that contradicted the own legislation of the Hitler government. Robert Ley, for example, had Hitler put the "Ordinance of the Fuehrer on the German Labor Front" under Hitler for signature on the sidelines of an event on October 24, 1934, and had it published via the German intelligence office when the Reich Ministry of Economics determined that its content clearly corresponded to the "Law for the Order of National Labor" of January 20, 1934 contradicted.

This mishap could only be concealed with great effort by the fact that the implementing provisions necessary for the implementation of the ordinance were never issued and the process thus came to nothing. Because the "Führer" could of course not be wrong. Despite Hitler's astonishing memory and his often astonishing detailed knowledge, the strings of the government could not be kept in hand. In the course of time, this style of government promoted the uncoordinated life of many individual departments and direct special apparatuses.

However, Hitler refused any attempt to formally define the new system of rule. In many cases he formulated specifications so vaguely that several concepts for implementation emerged; or he kept things in suspense until one of the power groups or a subordinate from the ramified system of rule seemed to prevail. This approach can be observed especially for the stabilization phase of the regime between 1934 and 1936/37, when after the establishment of power and after the end of the constitutional parliamentary order, the decision was made to lay the foundations for a new political and social order. In domestic and social policy in particular, Hitler was increasingly unwilling to take unequivocal decisions. It was different in foreign policy, which bore his signature ever more clearly.

Leader Myth

Whenever doubts arose about Hitler's policy and complaints about the recurring bottlenecks in the supply of food or criticism of the corrupt behavior of local group leaders or other NSDAP functionaries arose, these expressions of discontent were due to the power of the Hitler myth or caught by Hitler's suggestive persuasion. This was less due to the much-cited charisma of Hitler than to the willingness to adapt and self-deception that many of them had already prepared for or existed in collective psychological terms. They saw in Reich Chancellor Adolf Hitler the savior and social benefactor whom they had expected after years of political and social structural and identity crisis, and made the supposedly more radical and incompetent subordinate leaders responsible for the inconveniences and unreasonable demands of everyday rule. "If the Fiihrer only knew that," was a common phrase used to express this distraction and self-delusion.

The myth of the savior and leader was deeply rooted ideologically and mass psychology. He came into contact with older myths and ways of thinking from the world of the monarchy, the military and the youth movement. As a result, traditional leadership groups, the bourgeoisie and also the lower classes tended to misjudge the political and social reality of the leadership state; they preferred to perceive only what could be reconciled with their attitudes. In almost all strata of society there are examples of a split in consciousness associated with the Führer myth. Colonel-General Werner von Fritsch (1880–1939), who was ousted from his position as Commander-in-Chief of the Army in 1938 in a defamatory manner by the Nazi leadership clique, still spoke a year later of the work of redemption that the "Führer" had to master .

The wife of a former communist from Upper Bavaria confessed in 1935, in spite of all the persecution of the regime against communists: "Every day my dirndel has to pray for the leader of an our father because he has given us back our daily bread." The Hitler nimbus even increased when the National Socialist regime, after its successes in combating unemployment, which was actually only made possible through forced rearmament, was able to boast foreign policy successes since 1936, which corresponded to the widespread expectations of the restoration of a German position of great power .

Goebbels and his propaganda apparatus strengthened the "Führer" nimbus and, in adoring the dictator, did not shrink from any heroic exaggeration or rhetorical borrowing in order to postulate the identity of the Germans with Hitler: "This whole people is not only devoted to him, but rather with deep, heartfelt love because it has the feeling that it belongs to it, that it is flesh out of its flesh and spirit out of its spirit last man in the furthest village: what he was, he is, and what he is, he should stay, our Hitler. "

With his hymns to Hitler, which stood in stark contrast to his actual personality structure, the Propaganda Minister revealed a deeper layer of National Socialism, namely its character as a political religion. This meant the use of religious forms, the liturgy, the veneration of saints and the proclamation of salvation for the purposes of a secular political movement. By appealing to the hereafter and to the redemption needs of her followers, she wanted to achieve a more intensive, no longer questionable safeguarding of her claim to power. Such forms of pseudo-religious cult became visible in the regime's mass productions with their nocturnal rallies and honors. The spectacular highlight was the staging of a so-called "light dome", where the confluence of the beams from flak headlights gave the impression of a huge dome-like room.

It is difficult to determine how this pseudo-religious worship affected Hitler. Presumably, up to the mid-thirties, he understood the cult around himself as a staging and means of integrating party and people. After that, there were increasing indications that he himself believed in it and became a victim of his own myth. Since then he has been speaking more and more frequently of his historical mission to which he was called by "Providence". "I am walking the path that Providence tells me to walk with dreamlike certainty," he said in March 1935 for the first, but not the last time, full of complacency. This conviction that he was providential gave his ideological ideas and his own political self-image an additional confirmation and explained the increasing determination to carry out his ideological visions and to jump over all barriers of political calculation.

Government and Administration

The fact that Hitler was able to put his dogmatic goals of rule into practice was not only based on his "missionary will to enforce" (Joachim Fest). It was also and above all due to the power structures of the regime as well as to the ideological and political dispositions of Hitler's helpers, who were willing to implement the sometimes very vaguely formulated worldview formulas, be it for reasons of their own assertion of power or be it out of ideological zeal that they shared with Hitler.

The consistency and energy with which the National Socialist regime expanded its power and pushed ahead and implemented the economic, armaments-political and military preparations for its conquest plans appear at first glance to contradict the confusing structures of rule. Even after the renewed concentration of power in August 1934, at no time did the regime achieve a fixed and manageable order of government and administration until its end in 1945. Rather, the various power groups that had made Hitler's assumption of power possible in 1933 and who henceforth belonged to the supporters of the regime were in a state of constant rivalries and shifts in competence and power.

At first, the representatives of the traditional power elites, in addition to the state bureaucracy, the Reichswehr and large-scale business, seemed to have greater weight than the National Socialist movement, if only for reasons of their administrative qualifications and political experience. This shifted from 1934 and then increasingly from 1937/38 onwards, clearly in favor of the National Socialist party leaders and their apparatuses.From the beginning they were the more dynamic element in the power alliance, driven by the will to rise, a thirst for power, a mental aversion to bureaucracy and justice with their strict norms and administrative regulations, and ideological zeal.

But even within the National Socialist power complex there was no political organizational unity. It was characterized by a permanent power struggle between the political organization and the party army of the SA and SS as well as between the subordinates of the individual special or subsidiary organizations. The reasons for these constant rivalries and conflicts of competence lay in the different successes of the individual subordinate leaders in merging their apparatuses with state institutions, but also in the different recognition they received from Hitler. All attempts to permanently clarify the relationship between the state and its administration, on the one hand, and the party and its subdivisions, on the other, failed. This was masked by formulas which, while proclaiming the subordination of the state to the party ("The party commands the state"), actually only meant the undermining and appropriation of state administration. The dualism between party and state, whose lines of conflict were even more complicated than this formula suggests, was one of the structural features of the regime. Above all, this amorphous structure of the "Führer state" secured the undisputed authority of Hitler, who was the only point of reference in this polycratic order. All those in power could refer to his supposed or actual "will of the leader"; his decision was decisive in the many rivalries. Anyone who had direct access to and the favor of Hitler was considered more like an authority, however large, in the power complex.


The regime, which was permanently determined by internal power struggles, was held together not only by the authority of Hitler, but also by an at least partial agreement of the individual power holders in their goals for power. A strong authoritarian state was wanted in order to secure political influence and social status against the forces of parliamentarism and democracy. The Reichswehr's monopoly on force was not only to be maintained, but also to be expanded into an instrument of revision and conquest policy through rearmament. The participation of the organized labor movement was to be eliminated and the employers to be made "masters in their homes" again. The National Socialists also seemed to be pursuing similar goals or hiding their sometimes much more far-reaching goals behind such conservative-authoritarian recipes. Their methods were far more radical, but at first they were generously overlooked. The conservative allies had agreed to the elimination and persecution of the political left and the liberal-democratic constitutional system and also accepted the destruction of the rule of law. The marginalization of the racially stigmatized minority initially took place with the consent or tolerance of the conservative government partners.

Within this power cartel there was a constant movement and shifting of the balance of power: The SS triumphed over the SA in 1934, the state bureaucracy lost more and more influence to new National Socialist special authorities, which claimed sole decision-making authority from road construction to the management of the economy and the ministries and administrations degraded to mere executive organs. In the end, the judiciary and the police saw their institutional independence as being restricted and undermined by the SS, something they themselves had played a major role in through their overly great ideological willingness to agree and adapt. Adolf Hitler was not the neutral arbitrator or moderate mediator between the power groups, but the radical impulses came from him or were approved by him. What many contemporaries did not want to understand, it was the radical center of the National Socialist movement. After the "seizure of power", she first directed her energies to controlling and organizing the individual sectors of the state and society through new compulsory associations. After the destruction or the synchronization of the old interest groups, these were to be subjected to the totalitarian claims to rule of National Socialism.

For example, the German Labor Front (DAF), which was founded by the Reich Organizational Leader of the NSDAP Robert Ley (1890-1945), quickly grew into a mass organization through the takeover of the members of the broken democratic trade unions and the forced membership of the employees in the new Nazi organization (1939 as a whole 25.3 million) and had tens of thousands of full-time and honorary functionaries (1939: 44,500). Accordingly, Ley tried to expand the competencies of the DAF. While the DAF initially had to limit itself to mere socio-political support and propaganda work, Ley gradually seized new fields of activity, above all in the areas of vocational education, housing and settlement, in the leisure sector and social insurance. This was always done in an effort to create quasi-union functions for reasons of self-assertion and attractiveness of the DAF. In doing so, the DAF wanted to adopt the traditional practice of the labor movement.

In its urge to organize and expand, the DAF initially encountered resistance from the private sector and the Reich Ministry of Economics and Labor, who were able to base their power on the fact that they were both initially indispensable. Industry and the Ministry of Economics for the armaments policy of the regime, the German National Reich Labor Minister Franz Seldte (1882–1947) as a counterweight to the powerful DAF leader Robert Ley. "Of course Ley would be better than Seldte," noted Goebbels in 1943 in response to Hitler's criticism of the sleepy Reich Minister of Labor, "but the Fuehrer takes the [...] position that he can change Seldte at any time, while Ley can no longer do that Case is ". That is why Seldte remained in office and formed a counterweight, albeit a weak one, to Ley, who, supported by the great weight and the full coffers of his mass organization, had his own house power and had direct access to Hitler.

Linking party and state

Some Gau and Reichsleiter were successful in their conquest of power, and they were also able to attain state offices in addition to their party positions: Goebbels, as Gauleiter of Berlin and Reich Propaganda Leader of the NSDAP, received the longed-for ministerial office in March 1933 (see Information on Political Education No. 251, " National Socialism I ", p. 42). After all, as President of the Reich Chamber of Culture, he was also able to dispose of the co-ordinated professional associations from writers and theater people to the owners of newspaper kiosks in the entire cultural-political area. Walter Darré (1895–1953) conquered a similar abundance of power through parallel offices: from 1931 head of the (party) office for agricultural policy, he became Reich Minister for Food and Agriculture in 1933 after the resignation of Alfred Hugenberg and in 1934 as Reichsbauernführer finally head of the Reichsnährstand Organization of all farmers and agricultural producers to control the agricultural and food sector.

The power and office of Hermann Göring, who soon could boast of being the second man in Adolf Hitler's empire, became even more extensive and branched out: since 1932 President of the Reichstag, he became provisional Prussian Minister of the Interior in 1933 and finally Prussian Prime Minister as well as at the Reich level Minister without portfolio in the Hitler government. In 1934 he was also Minister of Aviation and Reich Forest and Hunter Master. In 1935 Göring was officially appointed Commander in Chief of the Air Force and in 1936 initially commissions and foreign exchange commissioner and then commissioner for the four-year plan. This brought him de facto the role of a dictator for the entire economic and labor policy, bypassing the classic economic department, which continued to exist.

The rise of Reichsführer SS Heinrich Himmler (1900-1945) to Reich Minister of the Interior (1943) and the military function of commander of the reserve army (1944) proceeded through the appropriation of the police headquarters in the federal states.

The system of interlocking party and state offices continued down to the level of the Nazi local group leaders and mayors. The role of the thirty Gauleiters showed that the conquest of state offices did not necessarily mean an increase in power within the regime. Almost all of them - one exception was the radical anti-Semite and Gauleiter in Franconia Julius Streicher - were allowed to adorn themselves with state offices, although some soon discovered that the party function was more important than the ministerial title. Only two of them - Goebbels and Bernhard Rust (1883–1945) - won ministerial offices. Only a few also achieved the post of a Prussian head president or a Bavarian state minister, which at least secured a strong position for them at the regional level. On the other hand, the influence of those who had been appointed as Reich Governors, that is, as direct representatives of Reich authority in the countries that had been brought into line, were rather limited. That only changed with the territorial conquests of the empire in 1938, which opened up a new, promising field of activity.

The NSDAP also gained social control and power through its numerous branches and affiliated associations. A whole network with a partly unregulated competence lay over the company and secured the numerous subordinates ever greater influence. Baldur von Schirach (1907–1974), for example, who had asserted himself as the leader of the HJ (Hitler Youth) in the phase of the seizure of power and had been appointed Reich Youth Leader, now claimed control over the entire field of education. This provoked the resistance of the also National Socialist Reich Minister for Science, Education and Public Education Rust as well as that of the Ministry of Economic Affairs, which represented the interests of the commercial economy in the apprenticeship and training area. In 1936, Schirach finally managed to make the Hitler Youth a state youth and thereby break a breach in the education ministry's state right to education.

Source text

Youth in the Nazi state

When Hitler talks about education, the first thing that strikes you is that he uses terms such as "hammer into it", "burn into it" or "cultivate it". There is also talk of "given human material". The development of the personality of the individual as the maxim of every educational pedagogy is here clearly rejected. Rather, Hitler's ideal is the one who obeys without contradiction. Without further ado, he explains what a young person must be able to do: "He should learn to remain silent, not only when he is rightly reprimanded, but should also learn, if necessary, to endure injustice in silence." What Hitler understands by "education" he outlines in a self-contained section of "Mein Kampf", the section "Educational principles of the völkisch state". The decisive passage reads: "The Völkische Staat [...] has to adjust its entire educational work primarily [...] to the cultivation of perfectly healthy bodies. Only secondly comes the development of mental abilities. But here again at the forefront is the development of character, especially the promotion of willpower and determination, combined with training to be willing to take responsibility, and last but not least, scientific training. "

For Hitler, the "growing up of perfectly healthy bodies" was the education of boys to become soldiers. The girls should be raised to be women who "can give birth again to men". "Character and will formation" in Hitler's "völkischer education" did not refer to the individual, but to the centrally managed "völkisch whole". This represents the opposite of an emancipatory pedagogy that seeks to strengthen the students' individual self-confidence and sense of responsibility. Scientific training came last. The elementary school pupils, who made up 90 percent of the total number of pupils, were only given basic knowledge in a roughly abbreviated form. Hitler's contempt for "education" and Nazi education only found its limits where the necessary elites of the Nazi state could not do without well-founded specialist knowledge. [...]

Of particular importance is Hitler's statement that the young people would no longer be free all their lives, and his addition that they were happy with it. Indeed, creating that happiness that came with the total disenfranchisement of the youth was a key to success in raising soldiers to die joyfully.

Benjamin Ortmeyer, School days under Hitler's picture, Frankfurt am Main 1996, p. 20 f.



Competition for skills

In addition to the competition claims by the offices of the NSDAP and mass organizations with sovereignty and coercive character, there were other forms and techniques of the erosion of the state apparatus, which is bound by legal norms, especially in the form of the special administrations directly linked to the leaders, which were soon created in all areas of public administration and services of general interest. They began with the seemingly harmless establishment of the direct driver's office of the "General Inspector for German Roads", with which Fritz Todt (1891–1942) was supposed to promote popular road and motorway construction in competition with the Reich Ministry of Transport. Soon there was a "leader of the Reich Labor Service". Although he was formally subordinate to the Reich Minister of the Interior as State Secretary, he actually acted as the independent head of a compulsory organization of labor and pre-military training. The latter function was typical for the amalgamation of state and party, but also for the competition between party institutions and the armed forces.

A dense and confusing network of special plenipotentiaries, Reich commissioners, plenipotentiaries and representatives of the Führer, which competed with existing administrative bodies without any precise delimitation of competencies, arose very quickly from the organization of the youth through the management of the economy to the disposal of the state police by the party organization SS spread. It was always special tasks that soon justified an organizational dynamic of their own and tied up more and more competencies.

When the building administration of the imperial capital Berlin did not push Hitler's ideas about the expansion of his capital energetically enough, he created the office of "general building inspector for the imperial capital" for his private architect Albert Speer (1905–1981), which gave Speer almost dictatorial powers in the area of ​​municipal construction - and transport policy. In 1936, Hitler reacted to the resistance of the Reichsbank, the Ministry of Economics and the private sector to an armament policy that ran counter to all economic reason by pushing the policy of autarky. It was supposed to partially decouple the armaments industry's important areas of the German economy from the rules of the market economy and make them independent of foreign supplies. Hitler commissioned Hermann Göring with the implementation of the four-year plan, a kind of command economy for the control of such important areas as the procurement of raw materials, labor and foreign currency, iron ore mining and the production of synthetic substitutes. Göring turned the order into a kind of supreme ministry that was able to control large parts of the economy across all other institutions and was supposed to make them fit for war. A difficult task, according to Hitler's concept, needed above all the right man in the right place, who had to assert himself in a competition with the state administration and at the same time also in the competition with extensive special powers, characterized more by his will and ambition for power than by professional competence Race for the favor of the "Führer" had to convince.

Himmler's appointment as "Reich Commissioner for the Consolidation of German Volkstum" on October 7, 1939, showed how far the disintegration of state administrative competencies had already progressed and what radicalizations such a delimitation of state and party could bring with it Transferred responsibility for the brutal Germanization and implementation policy in Eastern Europe with all powers up to the forcible deportation of Jews and Poles as well as the resettlement of ethnic Germans. The establishment of this authority, which Himmler autocratically expanded, was based on a secret Fuehrer decree which was known only to the "highest Reich authorities", but not to the general administration. The Reichsverwaltungsgericht confirmed that this meant a break with any legal binding of the administration, but this changed nothing in the administrative chaos and above all in the extermination policy by the Fuehrer's decree.

This made it clear how the implementation of National Socialist domination goals could be accelerated by the establishment of competing and direct administrative offices without abolishing the existence of traditional departments. They "only" lost their central responsibility, but continued to work and created an image of apparent normality, although the Nazi state based on special powers, which did not feel bound by the rules of administrative law, had long since constricted and incapacitated them with its noose. What drove the men to act in these new, secondary party bureaucracies was the desire for employment and advancement, for material security and social recognition and influence, coupled with a willingness to adapt and a need for organization and technocracy. Quite a few of them saw themselves as representatives of the Volkisch National Socialist ideology, which they wanted to put into practice.

Social control by the NSDAP

Due to the huge influx of members and its organizational expansion, the Nazi movement was present almost everywhere in everyday life in German society. The number of members tripled between January and March 1933 alone, and in total it rose from almost 850,000 to at least two and a half million by 1935, and then increased to over five million by the beginning of the war. The SA experienced similar dramatic increases, rising from 450,000 members at the beginning of 1933 to almost three million at the time of the Röhm affair, only to shrink again to 1.2 million by 1938 after its political loss of importance. Other party branches and affiliated associations also expanded tremendously, often brought about by covert or open forms of coercion. With this, the NSDAP was able to achieve its new goal of social control and indoctrination after it had achieved its original task with the successful takeover of power in 1933/34.

It is true that the NSDAP had thus broken up into many partial rulers, but its possibilities of control and mobilization extended to almost every corner of the empire. In addition, it offered work and bread and, above all, a degree of social recognition and power for hundreds of thousands, whose commitment it was supported by, which many had only dreamed of before. In 1937 the number of political leaders had risen to 700,000, not counting the functionaries of the subsidiary organizations. During the war the number of command corps was two million. The tendency to expand the service sector received a huge boost with the Nazi regime and with it the material better position of the employees, especially in the area of ​​the party bureaucracy, which attracted comparatively high salaries and a thirteenth monthly salary.

The district and local groups with their block and cell waiting rooms were able, and this gave many of them a special form of satisfaction, to work right into the life of the individual fellow human being. For example, the NSDAP had to issue political credentials for civil servants who wanted to be promoted. For candidates from the public service as well as for people who applied for social support and training assistance, the vote of the local group was also decisive. Business start-ups and recommendations for the position as "UK" (indispensable), exempt from military service, also required the party's approval. The block leader not only had to collect the membership fees for the party and the "NSV" (National Socialist People's Welfare), but also drove with his helpers up to the HJ-Pimpfen the donations for the winter relief organization, the National Socialist support organization for the needy, and the contributions for the stew Sundays, which should demonstrate solidarity with the poorer "national comrades" by foregoing lavish meals. At the beginning of the war, the local and district group leaders were finally given the task of distributing food and clothing cards as part of compulsory management. These tasks offered not a few small party comrades the chance to symbolically increase their status and also to be harassed by the authority of the party uniform.

Rise of the SS

The development of the small Schutzstaffel (SS) from an original subdivision of the SA to the most powerful division of National Socialism and the dominant "SS state" was neither predictable nor mere coincidence. In the rise of the SS, the forms of rule and goals of National Socialism found their clearest organizational expression. The SS was both the purest embodiment of the National Socialist conception of a worldview organization and the perfect instrument of leadership power.

At first it looked as if the Reichsführer SS Heinrich Himmler and his small elite group of 56,000 "party soldiers" would miss out on the distribution of offices and positions of power in the spring of 1933. On March 9, 1933, Himmler was only acting police president of Munich and from there was given access to the political police in Bavaria. Goering had already occupied the most important position in the police force in the capital and in Prussia. There was a conceptual contrast to the power rivalry between the two. While Göring wanted to set up a political police unit with the Secret State Police Office that was organizationally separate from the rest of the police but would remain within the state administration, Himmler sought from the beginning a political police force that was detached from the general police apparatus and removed from all political and administrative control All political surveillance should be concentrated and persecution should be institutionalized.

This corresponded to the emergence and self-image of the SS, which had been founded as a "staff guard" between 1923 and 1925 or reorganized as a Schutzstaffel. In 1929 it was taken over as Reichsführer SS by the petite and shy-looking Heinrich Himmler, a trained farmer and animal breeder, and expanded into an organization similar to that of an order. The establishment of the elitist, leader-direct order, whose personnel was not selected on the basis of property, education or origin, but on race and ideology, arose from Himmler's racial and biological ideas as well as his need for as close a connection as possible to his new father figure, Hitler. At the same time, the elite fanatic and bureaucrat set up a party police force, which he prepared with the establishment of the Security Service (SD) in 1931 as the party's news and surveillance organ under Reinhard Heydrich (1904–1942).

Himmler began to differentiate the SS early on. On March 17, 1933, the "Leibstandarte-SS Adolf Hitler" was formed under Sepp Dietrich (1892–1966), and soon afterwards the "Political Preparations", which were converted into the "SS disposal troops" after the suppression of the SA in autumn 1934 formed the core of the later "Waffen-SS". Another pillar of the SS empire had emerged with the guards of the concentration camps, the SS-Totenkopfverbände, which had started in the Dachau concentration camp. On June 30, 1934, the SS had sole responsibility for all concentration camps, many of which had previously been under SA control. With the appointment of Theodor Eicke (1892–1943), previously camp commandant of Dachau, as "Inspector of the concentration camps and leader of the SS guards", the prerequisites for the standardization and systematization of the extra-state terror system were created.

Himmler thus surpassed the decisive stage success that he had achieved in the non-Prussian states by the spring of 1934 in controlling the political police in the federal states. On April 20, 1934, Göring appointed Himmler as inspector of the Prussian Secret State Police and made the Reichsführer SS, whom he was looking for as an ally in the internal power struggle, to rule over the entire political police of the Reich. As with the assumption of police power in the other countries, Heydrich, who was intellectually superior to his boss, followed in April 1934 as the new head of the Secret State Police Office. As the organizer of terror, he gradually merged the identification of opponents by the party's own security service with the fight against opponents by the state political party. The Gestapo law of 1936 not only excluded their activities from any judicial review, but also stipulated their removal from general administration.

SS state

The SS state was mapped out with these individual steps; Himmler's access to the general police, that is, to the protection police, gendarmerie and criminal police, was still missing. This took place with the appointment of Himmler as "Reichsführer-SS and chief of the German police in the Reich Ministry of the Interior" on June 17, 1936. On the one hand, the centralization of the police at the Reich level was completed, on the other hand, the police finally implemented captured by the SS. In the peculiar official designation of Himmler, this appropriation was expressed as well as the further expansion of the competencies of Himmler and his SS vis-à-vis the state administration (and soon also the armed forces). As State Secretary in the Reich Ministry of the Interior, Himmler was "personally and directly" subordinate to the Minister of the Interior, but as Reichsführer SS he was only subordinate to the "Führer". This direct position in the leadership was always more important than the subordination as police chief and state secretary to a minister who was also an old National Socialist, but who had no house power. At this point in time, Himmler was already strong enough that he no longer had to maintain his own state office as "Chief of the German Police in the Ministry of the Interior". Rather, this task was carried out by an office within the SS headquarters. The police were thus removed from the administrative state.

Himmler quickly followed this decisive step with an organizational restructuring of the entire SS complex, which created a multitude of new, constantly reorganizing offices, which "like a giant octopus with its institutional tentacles ate into all areas of the state, society and party" ( Bernd Jürgen Wendt). The police were divided into two main offices: the Ordnungspolizei (Schutzpolizei, Gendarmerie) under SS-Obergruppenführer and Police General Kurt Daluege, and the Security Police (Political Police, Criminal Police and Border Police) under SS-Obergruppenführer Reinhard Heydrich, who also remains head of the security service (SD) stayed.

The process of amalgamation of state offices and party apparatuses came to an end when on September 27, 1939 the central offices of the Security Police and the party's own SD were combined to form the Reich Security Main Office (RSHA). In order to better integrate the various offices that had arisen in the meantime, a "Higher SS and Police Leader" (HSSPF) was installed in each military district, which also corresponded to an SS upper section, in November 1937, who would have the entire SS police force in the event of mobilization should coordinate and lead in competition with the armed forces. With the beginning of the military policy of conquest, the HSSPF should take on an expanded competence in the establishment of the National Socialist occupation and in particular in the "racial cleansing" in the east.

As an "ideological shock troop and protective squadron of the Fuehrer's ideas", as Heydrich had already described the conception of the SS in 1935, it should be an institution that "carefully monitors the political state of the German national body, recognizes every symptom of illness in good time and identifies and helps with the germs of destruction eliminated every means ". This fight against opponents must be carried out "on all fronts" with technical, police and intellectual means. Because, as Himmler formulated the ideological fear of National Socialism, the next decades would bring "the annihilation struggle of the subhuman opponents and the whole world against Germany".

The business distribution plan of the security police represents a bureaucratic document of the global ideological hostility of National Socialism. In the individual offices should "Communism, Marxism and subsidiary organizations, reaction, opposition, legitimism, liberalism", furthermore "political Catholicism, political Protestantism, sects, other Churches and Freemasonry "are monitored and combated. For example, Section IV B 4 "Political Churches, Sects and Jews" was responsible for "Jewish affairs", while the head of the unit was SS-Obersturmbannführer Adolf Eichmann (1906–1962). Group IV C dealt with protective custody issues, Group IV D dealt with foreign workers, subversive foreigners and emigrants. Closely connected with the fight against opponents was Amt VII "Weltanschauung research and evaluation", in a sense the scientific counterpart that was taken over from the SD.