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Himmler and the SS illustrate the total power that Hitler had over Germany. How far do you agree with this viewpoint?

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Introduction

Himmler and the SS illustrate the total power that Hitler had over Germany. How far do you agree with this viewpoint? Traditionalist historians would agree with this interpretation of Hitler's Germany, viewing it as a totalitarian state supported by terror and repression. Undoubtedly, one of the most powerful instruments of this policy was the SS, created in 1925 as Hitler's personal bodyguard. This role expanded as the Schutzstaffel developed into a mass organisation under Heinrich Himmler's careful leadership and grew to represent one of the most powerful and feared tools of the Nazi State with 240,000 members by 1939, allowing it to achieve dominance in the Third Reich. Under Hitler's authorisation, the SS became an auxiliary police force and was able to take suspects into 'protective custody.' This allowed the Nazi's to target any opposition and by 1939, approximately 385,000 German's had been convicted and imprisoned for political crimes without trial. This is one example which illustrates the power the Nazi's imposed through their stringent policy of terror. Their persecution of non-conformists allowed Nazism to increase its hold over Germany with little opposition. ...read more.

Middle

This could be used to illustrate the structuralist view that Hitler didn't hold as much sole power over Germany as had previously been thought and that major decisions were influenced more by the structure of institutions and general trends and events in the course of German history than by Hitler himself. Another interpretation, which suggests that the SS isn't an example of the total power that Hitler held over Germany, is that it was a feudal regime. Kershaw stresses the importance of key party leaders such as Himmler and the increase in cumulative radicalism in policymaking rather than the influence of Hitler himself. This again is a structuralist view in that Kershaw is stressing the importance of broader context and structures in the operation of the Nazi state suggesting that the power came from below Hitler. However, despite this, he doesn't deny the influence of Hitler over Germany, just the fact that perhaps it wasn't a smoothly run efficient structure. While the above interpretations look at whether Hitler did really have power over Germany and ultimately, whether or not the SS illustrates this, there is also evidence to show that perhaps the Nazi party didn't have total control over the state. ...read more.

Conclusion

The evidence I have cited above would suggest, to some extent that this is not the case. Despite this, I believe that Hitler's regime was based on a mixture of popular support and co-operation as well as on an intrusive and arbitrary employment of terror. In most cases, the SS managed to quell opposition thus increasing the Nazi's power over Germany. On the other hand, whether or not Hitler really did hold total power over Germany is also heavily debated. Nazi Germany was certainly dominated by Hitler but the power was spread out among his key leaders with much policymaking power passing below. Although intentionalists would disagree with this arguing that Hitler was firmly in charge of all major decisions, he didn't hold total power over Germany, particularly from the point of view of Nazism and terror, as the SS established a vast power base through which it created it's own 'order.' This demonstrates that the SS does not illustrate Hitler's immense power over Germany as although it was a Nazi organisation of which Hitler was the key activator, he did not specifically initiate all policy and did not intervene in all areas. ...read more.

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