The Third Reich, for Hitler, was supposed to have lasted 1000 years minimum, but it only lasted 12 years and four months. Many historians blame this on an individual that’s Hitler himself. The argument is based on Hitler being actually a weak dictator that wasn’t able to unite Germany as a new Fuhrer should had, also he didn’t create the basis of a strong empire but hurried everything up putting on risk everything he had accomplished. As Germany 1918 to 1945 states ‘The inconsistency and contradiction in Nazi Government arose entirely from the Fuhrer’s weaknesses’.
When Hitler establishes his control over Germany in 1933, his power was by no means absolute as Stephen Lee states.
For example he never had emergency powers from Hindenburg’s, this still gave the Weimar Republic a chance to control him.
However, Hitler used the Weimar State’s own political element, democracy, to destroy it. He strengthened the influence of the NSDPA to later put as many seats in the Reichstag as possible, he controlled meetings of other parties, and passed several laws (he had vast majority in the parliament) to grant him absolute powers over Germany.
Nazi Germany definitely didn’t have a head that controlled, ordered and imposed every action to be taken in the German territorylike Italy or Russia had. As an article published by the University of Wales states, ‘it was a chaotic collection of individuals and organizations, all of which competed for power and influence’. The final idea here is that power was too spread all over different jurisdictions, and Hitler had delegated so many jobs to be done that sometimes different groups found them doing the same job. This created difficulties like opposition in the party itself and struggle for influence.
A case of this is the roles that the SS and the Ministry of Propaganda played during Nazi Germany. In one side the ministry of Propaganda intended to show how well the Nazi regime was working and the benefits of it, on the other the SS continued torturing and kidnapping people to spread fear among population. Both organizations couldn’t work together like this as none of them achieved the goals they were intended to.
Many organizations came back from the past Weimar Republic like the businesses or the army, and new organizations were being created that 1) were replacing them, 2) were a threat to their interests and 3) some of these opposed to Hitler’s mandates. Also struggle among these started and the objective was to achieve Hitler’s good will in order for them to survive.
The case of the army putting pressure on Hitler in order to make him turn against his SA members was a clear case of this. In some way the army controlled Hitler, they may had offered him revolution towards his regime if he didn’t do so and as well Hitler needed a strong and loyal army by is side.
Hitler had created several police forces that had major power and influence in Germany, these were the SS, the Gestapo (secret police) and the SD. All these were in charge of looking for groups of revolutionaries, to eliminate opposition and to spy Nazi regime’s politicians.
However after The Waffen SS, these police forces’ influences expanded to a major extend. They were given influence over the army and concentration camps; also the SS was given substantial economic and political resources which aided them in their activities.
It’s clear that their influence was to be taken into account. Leaders like Goering and Bormann stood aside of this groups and opposed entirely to their role and expanding influence.
Another great dictator that lasted for many years over the control of Soviet Russia was Stalin. He is considered by historians as a very strong dictator, and in some ways almost a brutal one.
First of all the way Stalin controlled organizations such as the army or propaganda organization was extreme. Any charge that gave an individual too much power was eliminated, and the ones that played important roles in the different powers of the state were accused of treason, judged for false charges, and even murdered in order to get rid of any possible threat to the regime.
Hitler, on the other hand, trusted very much his organizations and its leaders were indeed loyal to him. Except by 1933 when he was consolidating power, his actions against leaders of organizations weren’t brutal as Stalin’s purges.
‘Leading Nazi officials were not just puppets of Hitler but exercised real power and were able to influence developments.’ Hitler really trusted his commanders, and politicians as he actually gave them the power to control Germany, Hitler wasn’t the head of everything like Stalin or Mussolini were. The major case here was the assassination of Trotsky, leader of the Red Army, by Soviet intelligence, Stalin didn’t trust no one but himself and Trotsky was gaining too much power. Hitler was a contrast, he gave his Luftwaffe leader Goering full control over this organism of the army until the end of WWII.
The article of the University of Wales sees a very important point of Hitler and Stalin as individuals. They state that Stalin worked much more than Hitler, as Hitler enjoyed his position as leader by taken cruises or waking up late in the morning, he even could cancel meetings. This could be viewed as a live trauma as Stalin’s origins were more of a higher-middle class, compared to Hitler’s which were poor and much suffered.
Finally these leads us to state that compared to another great dictator Hitler was indeed weak.
The argument of the chaotic organization of the state is very difficult to analyze as there are factors that play against and in favor of Hitler, depending on the angle we see it. For example, no one could afford imposing his wills over Hitler’s–> Strong Dictator, however in order to pass their laws and ideas they needed to please Hitler, most of the time these laws needed to be 100% respectful of the Nazi ideology –> weak dictatorship that imposes Nazi ideology or the indivual interests over the State’s interests.
The idea here is that there’s actually no way that Hitler wouldn’t have had any influence in German politics, to do so would be nonsense. It’s factual, however, to state that his power was limited by some means like his lack of control over entities he created, as well the problem of intelligence police having sometimes more influence than him it’s a constant to argue that his power was very limited.
We can’t argue against the fact that Hitler actually got rid of any element in his way that affected his policies or power. He decided himself, maybe by some pressure coming from the army, to kill Roehm and to finally eliminate de SA. Also he used the law to his favor in order to impose false charges over some military leaders, like Bloomberg and Fritsch; these were standing against his foreign policy and were charged of immorality.
Soviet Historians have a common view about Nazi Germany: ‘Germany, like all other history was a story of class struggle’. In the case of politics it wouldn’t be class anymore, but organization or groups.
However there’s a good argument extracted from The University of Wales article that states that Hitler himself created this struggle in order to make organization in charge of different sectors realize they needed to be strong to stand alive. Also he didn’t involve in running Nazi Germany, so people wouldn’t blame him for errors or wrong policies, they would turn instead to the organizations.
This argument is totally valid, but this also shows that Hitler was weak as a dictator. He wasn’t able to impose his power on organizations and neither on population. His lack of 1) support and 2) order to build a structured nation, absolutely made him stay away from problems.
Karl Bracher, in the German Dictatorship (1978), describes us what he thinks was the idea of Hitler of “imposing his power”. He did not do it with power pressure, or using fear; rather he used a ‘deliberate ploy’, a ‘divide and rule’ plan in which he created several institutions to do the same task and left them to fight among themselves leaving him the final responsibility of deciding which one to accept. This way he always assured the final decision to himself.
Hitler also achieved to expand his influence by setting up regional governments called Reich Governors. These had full control over designated areas and executed Hitler’s orders. This was a major achievement as the Kaiser didn’t achieve to expand his influence on regional areas, there’s evidence that shows that actually some people from the agricultural sector didn’t even know who or how they were being governed.
Although thbis expanded his influence giving him the chance to have more control over Germany, also it took away in some way part of his powers because these Reich Governors were given too much power and self action rights that sometimes Hitler’s authority wasn’t noticed and some others regional governments argued among themselves for interests that affected ones, and benefited others.
It’s impossible to deny that there was opposition to Hitler’s regime in Germany. These groups were the traces of parties that were competing with the Nazis during the Weimar Republic times, groups like the communists, democrats and even some right wing parties weren’t pleased by the way Germany was being ruled.
Hitler’s success as a dictator was to never let them regroup as a big massive opposing structure. We used the “justice” system to his own benefit in order to capture and send leaders of these groups to jail, he used the Gestapo and the SS to induce fear over any sort of opposition found. Actions like getting rid of the SA or Jews being sent to concentration camps showed the population that no opposition towards his government would be accepted and that a strong fist was ruling Germany, and this was Hitler.
He did not only use fear to eliminate opposition, he also used politics and intelligence systems to trace, eliminate and hide any evidence of opposition found. For example he eradicated unions in Factories replacing them with Nazi groups, that by the way had no real power. This way he vanished the influence of socialists on the industrial area of Germany imposing his power and using any means possible to remove any sort of opposition.
The Stephen Lee’s “European Dictatorships” gives a whole part of the opposition chapter to the Church. This shows how great as an opposing force towards Hitler they were.
The Christian and Protestant churches were the major churches in Germany. Hitler saw their ideology as contradictive with the Nazi one. So he used several tactics in order to eliminate them. The first one was the formation of a ReichKirche (The Reich Church), this united the ideologies of both the Nazi party and the churches’ ones. However, this wasn’t widely accepted by the German population and neither by the Church authorities.
There was also an attempt to fuse Catholicism with Nazism, that really didn’t bring much result. What was actually a success for the Nazis was the self dissolved Centre Party, this excluded the church from any sort of political activity.
Hitler’s intentions towards the Churches pointed that he intended to a major extend to ban them, and leave Nazism as a major ideology. Some of his most important members were completely anti-religious and even attempted to the beliefs of both Protestants and Catholics. However, there was no report stating that this was bound to happen, or that the number of laity was reduced, in fact it rose during war time. So Hitler achieved to control political influence of the Church, but never reached the point were Nazism was stronger than religious beliefs, not even his role as dictator allowed him to do so.
Finally, the opposition was never the reason why Hitler was removed from his place as leader of Germany, his failures during war time, partly his wrong foreign policy and, as usually happens to every dictatorship, the militaries condemned him.
The relations with the army were a key point to his success on establishing a strong dictatorship. The army was pleased indeed by the militarist policies he intended to establish before being elected as prime chancellor, and as well by the economic support the government gave to the army during his dictatorship.
The army, was the only strong group that could ruin Hitler’s attempts to consolidate his power. So he tried to please them as far as possible, showing this way that he needed the army, to be leader of Germany. This was by 1934.
In July 1934 Hitler along with the army obliterated the whole structure and leaders in of what historian Lee calls ‘their own criminals’, the SA, this was called The Night of the Long Knives The army wasn’t pleased by the acts of the SA and saw them as a possible threat to their interests, and Hitler hated the image that the SA gave. This was the first actions he took to establish good relations with the army. But, also he created the SS that infiltrated every organism in Germany, including the army. However, he never used the power of the Gestapo, or he couldn’t so so, in order to infiltrate the army. This was strange as the Gestapo was given so much power over Germany that any plan against Hitler’s regime was automatically stopped.
Hitler finally had control over the army, and started Nazifying it. He changed generals and every single leader of the army for Nazi ones. By 1938 he announced ‘From henceforth, I exercise the immediate command over the whole armed forces’. Now he had full authority over the army and managed to control military strategy as well as Germany’s foreign policy.
Lee states that the mistake of the army, as well as right wing politicians was that they disliked the Weimar Republic that much, that they were prepared to go along with the Nazis in confidence that they would control Hitler. In fact the Weimar Republic thought so too.
Marxist Historians state that ‘Hitler was first and foremost a creation of the big capitalists and a servant of their interests’ This has very strong arguments such as Industrialists were given full free market, they improved to a major extend compared to post-Hitler periods and the fact that Britain and France didn’t stop Hitler when he was conquering territories because some of their industries were in Germany as cause of the inversion made by industrialists during the Weimar Republic period.
For this reason, compared to the Soviet Union, industry in Nazi Germany was given an autonomy to set up their own policies and production.
Industry was necessary for Hitler in order to prepare himself for the bounced to start war, and he needed a fast and accurate solution to the crisis that industry was in. He found that good relations with the industrialists and pleasing them to some extend as they wanted, in exchange of heavy industrial corporations and major production fro the state. For him this was the best way to speed up production.
The article of The University of Wales states that Hitler didn’t commit the same error as the Kaiser Wilhelm did. He never ever pushed his population so hard that they could actually start to have reasons for revolts, strikes and revolution. This was a major fear as a massive strike would stop temporarily the production of weapons and heavy armament for war. If we compare this to Stalin we can find that Hitler in this sense was very weak, Stalin pushed his working force as far as he could and left them no way to make revolts nor strikes because he used force (violence) to stop them.
To Hitler’s favor, he indeed made workers work more. Hours of work a day were increased up to 40% and hours of work in a week reached to the best of cases to 49 hours. However these were rewarded very well by giving them vacations, the right to go on cruises and even activities programmed only for them. Stalin on the other hand treated his workers ruthlessly and thought them were actually a disposable force that could be easily replaced.
Finally both systems worked perfect in respect to rearmament and getting ready for war, but Hitler neglecting to force German population to produce even more by means of terror or imposing his power made him end in economic crisis in the late 1930’s as a result of his rearmament policy.
Social policies like the one that women were only meant for ‘Children, Church and Kitchen’ weren’t good for the boom Hitler wanted for his industry. Before Nazi period women were 30% of the worker force of Germany, they were prohibited of working or engaging in professional activities. This was made by Hitler in order to “reduce” in some way unemployment in Germany and to increase German population in order to have more recruits for the army.
Women played a substantial role in production like Stalin showed by using them in labor and training them as doctors, nurses and even teachers. Hitler noticed this very late during the war and made women work again making them form again the 33% of German working force. The application of policies like this one was disastrous on boosting the industrial production, however Nazi ideology was indeed before everything else.
Also hatred towards Jews eliminated a major working force in Germany. Jews were 1) Numerous and 2)Well trained. Hitler’s mistake was to make them work in small projects like road building or bridge construction. Rather he could have used this group as a very numerous industrial working force that, according to Nazism, didn’t receive benefits nor does pay making the state have a controlled and cheap labor
Hitler gave big support to small and medium industries. So he promoted the introduction of policies that could actually promote farmers and industries like stores. These policies like the article published by the University of Wales states ‘Economic modernization in general, and preparing for war in particular, necessitated the economic mobilization of women and the concentration of industry and agriculture’ The policies he was promoting didn’t make no sense at all as to win a war no small artisans are needed, but big factories are used.
However, by the end of the 1930’s Germany was in a crisis because of the wrong rearmament policies used, and industries owed by big industrialists became simple ‘functional elites’ whose power was subordinated to Hitler’s authority. Finallt Hitler achieved control over industries and concentrated on massive production rather than on small industries. This time the idea of Marxist historians arguing that Hitler was indeed an instrument of capitalists is in fact refuted.
Indeed Hitler achieved major response and support from working classes that were pleased by the way they were being treated. This allowed him to achieve the rearmament of Germany that was his major goal. Stalin didn’t do it better, he just made it different.
However Hitler showed his weakness on not making his people pay for the war effort as Stalin did. This shows a major weakness in his way of ruling the nation.
Hitler focused most of his policies to his foreign policy. Historians state as an anecdote that he didn’t go to meetings if he didn’t want to, however when it referred to foreign affairs he always did.
The economic policy, as well as his policy of rearmament went straight to achieving the conquest of more “Lebensraum”. He indeed tried to create a major army in order to conquer territories and expand the German empire. By doing so he would finally eradicate the Treaty of Versailles influence on Germany.
Historians argue among themselves that the foreign policy used by Hitler was simply a repetition of the Kaiser’s. There was no change in the direction in German foreign policy and the result of WWII shows that it was as inefficient as by the end of WWI.
However some others see Hitler’s foreign policy as a complete change, first of all there was the factor of an ideology uniting Germany and this ideology incites the expansion of German territory. Secondly as Hitler stated, the past foreign policies only protected German interests and secured boundaries, his foreign policy had the intention of expanding Germany and giving its people an assured and secured Lebensraum to live in.
Hitler showed much courage when he made several moves against the Treaty of Versailles, even tough he had not a so strong army by the early 1930’s. He used effectively diplomacy, and the continuous impossibility of big powers to stop him. Even policies like Appeasement were used in order to avoid a possible war because of the actions of a dictator.
For example one of Germany’s enemies was Soviet Russia, not only as a nation that could be a threat to them but also racial and historically. Hitler’s first moves were to change foreign view of his foreign policy by signing peace treaties with Russia like the Nazi-Soviet Pact. This in some way created a smokescreen to western powers.
Also he perfectly managed to stay away from any single compromise with the League of Nations and avoided the signing of any more treaties that later would stop him or difficult him the task of expanding Germany.
However there’s another point of view on how Hitler treated his foreign policy. Historians like A.J.P Taylor argue that Hitler didn’t go to one direction, but adapted himself to situations. He states ‘Hitler was gambling on some twist of fortune which would present him with success in foreign affairs, just as a miracle had made him chancellor in 1933’. In some way he actually was doing so, he risked too much with his foreign policy, he still didn’t have a so strong army and the risk of having a war by middle 1930’s would be devastating. When he made the Anschluss with Austria in 1938 thw whole world expected foreign intervention to start a war in that moment, it didn’t happen and Hitler continued this tactic until Poland, when war was declared by the British.
To sum up, Nazi foreign policy can be argued to have been a success to a major extend as Hitler achieved to put in practice without any obstacle, no matter his methods he had the courage to stand in front of the world powers and put his foreign policy to practice.
I agree completely with Alan Bullock that states in “Hitler: A Study in Tyranny” that such a program would be due to, ‘Hitler had only one program, power without limit, and the rest was window dressing’.
As a final conclusion, the question of Was Hitler a weak dictator is too vague? We need a comparison with another dictator like Mussolini or Stalin in order to say if it was actually strong or not. However, as stated through the whole argument presented Hitler did things differently to other dictators, had a different view of how to rule Germany, how to expand it and how to establish a dictatorship. This makes analyzing his methods and ranking them with how successful he was the only way to find a final answer to the question.
We can say that Hitler had a dictatorship based on an ideology. He made the people work for the Fuhrer and for the success of Nazi Germany as a new empire, this was a major achievement made by him. He didn’t need to impose his power 100% by the use of force, rather he only needed to establish an ideology based nation.
However, this also lead to disorganization and chaos among the political sphere of Germany, leaders confronting each other in order to please the Fuhrer, organizations with the same jurisdiction, etc. In this respect Hitler couldn’t achieve what dictators like Stalin or Mussolini did, a country with one only and supreme leader. Nazi Germany wasn’t a complete dictatorship if compared to others.
What we aren’t able to deny is that where Germany was going was clearly devised by Hitler, and that the final authority in Nazi Germany was him. He didn’t have a strong dictatorship compared to Stalin of Mussolini, but a different one that was quite strong and achieved his main objectives.