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Where did power lie in the Third Reich?. Hitler? Traditional Institutions? Nazi Party? SS? Gestapo?. Hitler’s relationship with the German people. Which view best summarises the view of prominent Nazis? Hitler is an absolute dictator who is free to do whatever he wants.

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where did power lie in the third reich

Where did power lie in the Third Reich?


Traditional Institutions?

Nazi Party?



hitler s relationship with the german people
Hitler’s relationship with the German people
  • Which view best summarises the view of prominent Nazis?
  • Hitler is an absolute dictator who is free to do whatever he wants.
  • Hitler is all powerful because he represents the will of the people.
  • Hitler has to act according to popular wishes.

Read sources 11.2 and 11.3 on p.184 in the SHP textbook and decide

the hitler myth
  • All would agree that Hitler dominated Germany from 1933 to 1945. Although there is debate surrounding how he exercised such power.
  • After the Enabling Act he was able to issue decrees, but in addition his wishes and even interpretations of his wishes served as laws (idea of working towards the Fuhrer/will of the Fuhrer).
  • Hitler’s power rested on a his unique relationship with the German people and not really on a formal position within the system of government.
  • This leadership principle (Fuhrerprinzip) which was applied to the party in the 20s was applied to Germany.
  • Helped by a powerful propaganda machine, Hitler built up a form of charismatic leadership sustained by a powerful Hitler myth.
  • Ian Kershaw’s the ‘Hitler myth’ (p.185 SHP)

‘Yes! Leader we will follow you!’

A Nazi propaganda poster showing how the Hitler myth was cultivated


This propaganda poster showing Hitler holding the swastika flag of the Nazi party contains many elements of the Hitler myth – can you identify them?

hitler myth vs hitler reality
HITLER MYTH vs. Hitler reality
  • Use the information from the sheets to summarise in your tables what factors made up the Hitler myth and what was in fact reality
the fuhrer cult
The Fuhrer cult
  • The Hitler myth provided the nation with a focus for unity and helped to sustain the regime in power. It also helped to mask the regime’s failings and inconsistencies. Germans who might never have been wholehearted supporters of Nazi ideology were nevertheless drawn into admiration and adulation of the Fuhrer
  • By the late 1930s, an estimated 90% of the German people admired and supported Hitler
  • The success of Goebbels in generating and sustaining the Hitler myth was one of his greatest achievements as a propagandist
the hitler myth working towards the fuhrer
The HITLER MYTH/Working Towards the Fuhrer
  • One of the debates that surrounds Hitler was whether he was a ‘strong’ or ‘weak’ dictator
  • Nazi Germany used to be seen as the classic case of a totalitarian regime – Hitler was an omnipotent dictator whose decisions were smoothly implemented by his disciplined subordinates
  • But since the 1960s, studies into the actual operation of the Nazi system of government has challenged this view – Hitler has come to be seen by some as a ‘weak dictator’ who frequently did not intervene in many areas, who permitted and even encouraged arguments amongst his subordinates and who might intervene merely to endorse the decision of whoever emerged as winner
  • Mommsen – sees Hitler as unwilling to take decisions, frequently uncertain and concerned more with upholding his prestige.
  • Rich – sees Hitler as the master of the Third Reich.
  • Kershaw – elements of both – sees Hitler as crucial but that he did not need to send out a stream of directives because of this idea of working towards the Fuhrer.
key terms




A policy or programme of censoring

Development or improvement of the mind by education or training

Organised spreading of information to promote the views of the government or movement with the intention of persuading people to think or behave in a certain way

The act of teaching a doctrine, principle, or ideology, especially one with a specific point of view

Key terms
  • ‘organised spreading of information to promote the views of the government or movement with the intention of persuading people to think or behave in a certain way.’
  • Why was it so important to Hitler and the Nazis?
march 1933
March 1933
  • 13th March 1933 – New ministry for Public Enlightenment and Propaganda.
  • Dr Joseph Goebbels in charge – ‘master of propaganda’. Since 1927 was party propaganda chief, was well educated and fiercely anti-Semitic.
  • What were his aims?
‘It is the task of state propaganda to simplify complicated ways of thinking that even the smallest man in the street may understand.’
  • ‘The finest kind of propaganda does not reveal itself, the best propaganda is that which works invisibly.’
  • ‘The Nazi gained 52% of the vote in the March 1933 election. This government will not be content with 52% behind it and with terrorising the remaining 48%, but will see its most immediate task as winning over that remaining 48%.’
  • ‘The propagandist must understand how to speak not only to the people in their totality, but also to individual sections…to the worker, the peasant, the middle class.’
the propaganda machine the means
The propaganda machine – THE MEANS
  • ‘The Reich Ministry of Popular Enlightenment is responsible for the entire area of spirituality influencing the nation…’
  • You are going to work in groups of 2 or 3
  • Pick a topic out of the hat
  • 5 minute presentation (use clips, PPT slides, handouts)
  • One side of A4 lecture notes for the class
  • Include:
  • What were the features of your area of propaganda?
  • What was the purpose of this type of propaganda?
  • How effective was it – merits and deficiencies?
  • Presentations on 18/10
  • You will be presenting on one of the following:
  • Parades and public spectacles e.g. The Day of Potsdam, meetings and rallies (Nuremburg)
  • Press – newspapers/posters/photographs/radio
  • Popular culture – music, literature, theatre and film (The Triumph of Will)
  • Fine Arts – painting and sculpture, architecture
  • Education and youth movements
  • Social policies – include Nazi rituals such as the Heil Hitler greeting and folk culture (Volksgemeinschaft)