There is a debate as to whether the Nazis achieved a socially equal national community during the years of 1933 to 1941.
There is evidence to suggest that the Nazis were successful in creating a greater socially equal community. In 1933, with the establishment of the DAF (led by Lay), which replaced the trade unions, and aimed ‘create a true social and productive community’ The employees were given high set wages as well as making dismissal increasingly difficult, social security programmes were started by the Arbeitsfront, leisure programmes were started, canteens, pauses and regular working times were established. Although membership was voluntary, it became incredibly difficult to secure a job without membership. Generally German workers were satisfied by what the DAF gave them in repaying for their absolute loyalty. The loyalty of the populace was a key cornerstone in the idea of Volksgemeinschaft, so the loyalty shown by members of the DAF was a early success for the Nazis.
Within the DAF there was a propaganda division, called the Schönheit der Arbeit (Beauty of Labour) which aimed to appease the working classes. It created campaigns such as the ‘Fight against Noise and Good ventilation in the work place’ which created the opportunity for the creation of practical workplace benefits whilst as the same time installing a sense of community and greater partnership between the dictatorship and the worker populace.
Hitler did not just aim his attempts at the Working classes. In order to keep the middle classes on side, the Nazis actually went through with some of there election promises, such as passing the ‘Law to protect retail trade’ in May ’33 which banned the opening of new department stores, and allowed the smaller shops, which were owned by the middle classes to to flourish. Small businesses were also given preferential treatment. Interest rates were also kept low, as well as the possibility to obtain confiscated Jewish property.
The Nazi view on women was one that they are to be confined to a domestic role. Placing heavy restrictions on women who worked, and offering rewards and benefits to those how took on a solely domestic place in society. Including the establishment of the Women’s front, and the awarding of ‘Mothers Cross’ for women who have had above 4 children (for a bronze medal). Marriage loans were also possible for newly weds, to help them start a family. And children were made tax deductible, again to help encourage a high birth.
The Nazi policies paid special attention to the young, as early indoctrination was likely to produce people more in-line with Volksgemeinschaft. Arguably the Youth section of the Volksgemeinschaft was the most successful. Pressuring parents to send children to Youth clubs. But after 1939 membership of clubs became compulsory. In 1935 60% of German youth’s were members of clubs, with each club being co-ordinated by Baldur von Schirach, to enforce the clubs co-ordination with Nazi ideals. In schools all political opponents and Jews were removed from their positions, as well as the removal of ideas from Jewish scientists. The National Socialist Teacher’s Alliance (NSLB) was set up to indoctrinate teachers, and many became party members during the later 30’s. By 1939 the Hitler Youth has almost 8 million members, a successful part of the Nazi strive for Volksgemeinschaft.
On the other hand, it can be said that the Nazis were not successful with their policy of Volksgemeinschaft. As many aspects which could be considered successful, did not achieve fully what the Nazis wanted, and only went some way to achieving their goal, before slowly returning to their previous state (Such as the decline in the membership of the HJ after 1939) Many policies that seemed politically successful only had an affect on the surface, but actually did very little to changing the social community in Germany, the birth rates changed very little under the Nazis mothering schemes, with the birth rate rise becoming negligible (and lower than other countries at the time)
The Nazi Youth schemes, were not totally accepted by all youth’s, with many ‘resistance groups’ being formed such as the ‘Edelweiss pirates’ and the ‘White Rose’ which were originally ignored as simply a nuisance, but became progressively more active, eventually leading to the hanging of several members. Which only led to a rise in even more pirate groups, as the youth’s begun to become disillusioned with Nazi ideals.
Nazi attempts at brining women into the Volksgemeinschaft also had underlying problems. Such as rewards for new married couples may have seeded a short term gain, but ended with many marriages being rushed, and an increased number of divorces. The idea that women should solely fill a domestic role, was contradicted by the war effort, especially when in 1941 when the work force switched to one ready for ‘total war’. From 11.6 million in 1933, in 1939 it rose to 14.6 million. Which is clear evidence for contradiction to the aims of the Volksgemeinschaft. The Lebensraum programme was seen by many working class Germans (which the newly acquired land was intended for) to be immoral. Clearly the idea that Germans were the best race in the world and deserved a right over the land they needed to expand their nation, was not being as tightly followed as initially projected.
The laws passed to help improve the situation for farmers are another example of short term gain and long term loss. The Reich Entailed Farm Law and the establishment of the Reich Food Estate, helped farmers for several years, until 1937 when the rising cost of labour, but the legally fixed food prices (both Nazi schemes) led to a decline in profits, and number of active farms similar to that of before the original laws designed to help farmers were introduced.
The Nazi policies aimed at helping the middle classes, provided such a contradiction to what they wanted the working class to achieve, it caused a retraction in working class wealth. As the Nazis wanted to keep prices low and get more people into jobs, small businesses were out competed by large firms for what the laws forced in.
In conclusion, I do not think the Nazi policy of Volksgemeinschaft was successful, during it’s initial stages it was working well, but towards the later 30’s the image of a socially equal national community was false, the image was created by diverting opinion against the groups the Nazis seemed unworthy, uniting people against minorities, but not uniting the nation together as one.