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Where Did Power Lie in the Third Reich?

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Introduction

Where Did Power Lie in the Third Reich? " The essential political decisions were taken by a single individual, in this case by Hitler." (Jackel)! It has been said that at the heart of the power system of Nazi Germany there was a confusion of private Empires. This is true to some extent but overall power lay with Hitler. Hitler had ultimate power but how he exercised it is a different issue. The traditional view that Historians used which is also known as the, 'Intentionalist' theory was that Hitler was Master of the Third Reich, which was a totalitarian state. Other historians such like Mommsen and Brozat have said of this view to be too simplistic. They say the Nazi system was feudal, chaotic and polycratic. Mommsen describes Hitler as a 'weak dictator.' This school of thought is known as the 'Structuralist' theory. They counter attack the argument of the Third Reich being a Totalitarian state because there was no set ideology and no one member had complete power. All Historians agree that Hitler dominated Germany from 1933 - 1945, however the extent of his power and how he used it has been greatly debated. The first issue to discuss is how Hitler came to power and then how he consolidated it. Hitler became chancellor in January 1933 whereby Van Papen claimed that he would be pushed into a corner, "so hard he'll be squeaking." Hitler straight way called for elections, which were to be held in March. The campaign to the election was violent to say the least. Goering used his powers as Minister of Interior in Prussia and head of the police to recruit more people in the Gestapo and break up Communist meetings. Various posters were published which appealed to the middle class and the working class after the collapse and depression the Weimar Government had left them in. He spoke to the public asking for 4 years to transform this crumbling country. ...read more.

Middle

No one could block his will and he was prepared to use his power if he felt threatened as can be seen in The Night of the Long Knives. Although other people influenced their legislation one has to see that they had to convince Hitler first because he had ultimate power and everyone was 'working towards the Fuhrer.' This is probably the most significant issue because it meant that Hitler didn't have to intervene over day to day issues as everyone was implementing the will of the Fuhrer and nothing would be done without his central ideas. Some say that he didn't intervene because he liked the discontent among his party, as this didn't directly challenge his power. He trusted the likes of Goebbels and Himmler to be loyal and was never concerned about their power. His real power can be seen when it came to decision making. Hitler provided the overall vision, which was then turned into policies by people around him. If anything was to happen it could happen on the basis of Hitler's will. Although Hitler had overall power that didn't mean that he was the only person with power. Hitler had co-ordinated nearly all threats to his position and had made the Nazi party the only legal party. A 'threat' therefore could be from within the party. The role of key individuals such as Bormann, Goebbels, Himmler is essential to the 'success' of the Nazi party and it can be argued that without these people the Nazi party wouldn't have been what it was. Hitler somewhat laid the foundations of what he wanted doing and these people in charge of their own departments went and did it. Once in power the party was seen as a career opportunity for some and they were more concerned with personal advancement. However most Nazi officials held high positions.. Martin Bormann joined the party in February 1927 and rose quickly through the ranks of the Nazi party. ...read more.

Conclusion

These people had considerable power and communicated directly with Hitler and had a lot of influence on the legislative process. By using these people Hitler could control the states and have his policy implemented. The only institution that Hitler had to worry about was the army and he couldn't afford to rush to try and co-ordinate it. He already gained their support by weakening the SA but even still Hitler was worried that they posed a threat to his regime so he left it mainly untouched until 1938. The state and the army were seen as one and the army generals mainly co-operated with Hitler as they shared his view on military actions and Anti-Bolshevism. It was in 1937 when Hitler really started to take over when he dismissed Blomberg and Fritsch Hitler then became Commander in Chief of all armed forces. Hitler now had almost complete control over all elements of Germany. Although he didn't control every element of every institution he now weakened them to such an extent that they would not threaten his position. Therefore in conclusion it can be said that no one had ultimate power in the Third Reich, the simple reason being because it wasn't a Totalitarian state. However the conclusion that can be drawn is that overall power lay with the Fuhrer. His policy of co-ordination had worked to a great extent as all external institutions that posed a threat had been Nazified. The only thing that could pose a threat was the party, but the discontent and chaos and then the idea of 'working towards the Fuhrer' made sure that no one directly challenged Hitler or his power. Although his image has been somewhat glorified and the concept of him being master is too simple, one can not argue against the fact that no one within the party challenged Hitler and no major laws passed without his permission which takes me back to the first statement: " The essential political decisions were taken by a single individual - in this case by Hitler." (Jackel) ...read more.

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