Propaganda Nazi Germany Essay Topics
These Nazi Germany essay questions have been written and compiled by Alpha History authors, for use by teachers and students. They can also be used for short-answer questions and other research or revision tasks. If you would like to contribute a question to this page, please contact Alpha History.
1. Describe the life of Adolf Hitler between 1905 and 1918. How might Hitler’s experiences in this period have shaped his political views and ideas?
2. Identify and discuss five key elements of Nazi ideology. What did the Nazis believe and what were their objectives?
3. Nazism presented as a new ideology but drew heavily on traditional ideas. Identify links between Nazism and German ideas and values of the 19th century.
4. Discuss how Germany’s defeat in World War I contributed to the ideology of nationalist groups like the NSDAP.
5. With reference to primary sources, explain the relationship between the NSDAP and communism. Why were the Nazis so antagonistic towards communist and socialist parties?
6. Compare the organisation, membership and ideology of the NSDAP with another post-war nationalist group, such as the German National People’s Party (DNVP). In what ways were the Nazis different from other nationalists?
7. What were the functions of the NSDAP’s two paramilitary branches: the Sturmabteilung (SA) and the Schutzstaffel (SS). Discuss the organisation, culture and ideology of these groups.
8. Hitler was inspired by fascist ideology and Mussolini’s successful ‘March on Rome’ in 1922. In what ways were German Nazism and Italian fascism both similar and different?
The Nazi rise to power
1. The German Workers’ Party (DAP) was one of many small nationalist groups in post-war Germany. What factors led to this group becoming a major political force in Germany?
2. Chart the course of Hitler’s rise in the NSDAP. Was it leadership qualities or political manipulation that allowed Hitler to gain control of the party?
3. What were the objectives of the NSDAP’s Munich putsch? Why did this putsch ultimately fail?
4. How did the NSDAP evolve and change after Hitler’s time in prison in 1924? How and why did the party change its tactics?
5. What impact did the Great Depression have on German society? How did this benefit Adolf Hitler and the NSDAP?
6. Discuss the outcomes of Hitler’s failed bid for the presidency in 1932.
7. Paul von Hindenburg was initially reluctant to appoint Adolf Hitler as chancellor of Germany. With reference to particular people and events, explain what changed his mind.
8. How did Germans respond to Hitler’s appointment as chancellor in January 1933?
The Nazi state
1. How did Hitler and the Nazis use the Reichstag fire of February 1933 to consolidate and extend their power over Germany?
2. Investigate how the world press responded to Hitler’s appointment as chancellor, the Reichstag fire and the Enabling Act.
3. With reference to five specific policies or events, explain how the Nazis marginalised or eliminated resistance in 1933 and 1934.
4. Explain the structure and organisation of the Nazi government. Where did real power reside in the Nazi state: with Hitler, with other leaders or elsewhere?
5. How did the Nazis attempt to resolve Germany’s economic woes? Who were the key players in Nazi economic policy?
6. Discuss the relationship between Hitler, the NSDAP and the Reichswehr or German military between 1933 and 1939. What issues or policies parties agree and disagree about?
7. What were the roles of paramilitary groups the Schutzstaffel (SS) and Sturmabteilung (SA) in the Nazi state?
8. Explain why propaganda was a critical part of the Nazi state. Who was responsible for Nazi propaganda and how did they justify it?
Life in Nazi Germany
1. Discuss how women were viewed by the Nazi regime and incorporated into Nazi society. How did German women respond to Hitler and his program for them?
2. Why did Hitler and the NSDAP place a high priority on children? Explain how children were embraced and incorporated into the Nazi movement.
3. How did work and workplaces change in Germany in the 1930s? Were German workers better or worse off under a Nazi state?
4. Referring to specific examples, explain how propaganda promoted Nazi ideas about society, family and gender.
5. Discuss how the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games was used by the Nazi regime to reinforce and promote their ideas and values.
6. The German Weimar period (1918-1933) was known for its artistic innovation and modern culture. Discuss how art and culture changed under the Nazi government.
7. Investigate the methods used by Nazi security agencies, particularly the Gestapo and the Sicherheitsdienst (SD). How did these bodies minimise and eliminate resistance and opposition?
8. Discuss how eugenics determined or influenced Nazi social policies during the 1930s. Which people or groups were most affected by eugenics-based policies?
9. It is often claimed that Hitler and the Nazis were atheists. Was this really the case? Explain Nazi attitudes toward both God and organised religion and how these attitudes were reflected in Nazi policy.
10. Anti-Semitism underpinned many Nazi actions and policies during the 1930s. Referring to specific laws and policies, explain how the Nazi regime attempted to extract German Jews from positions of influence.
Shaping the Future: Indoctrinating Youth
“These boys and girls enter our organizations [at] ten years of age, and often for the first time get a little fresh air; after four years of the Young Folk they go on to the Hitler Youth, where we have them for another four years . . . And even if they are still not complete National Socialists, they go to Labor Service and are smoothed out there for another six, seven months . . . And whatever class consciousness or social status might still be left . . . the Wehrmacht [German armed forces] will take care of that.”
—Adolf Hitler (1938)
From the 1920s onwards, the Nazi Party targeted German youth as a special audience for its propaganda messages. These messages emphasized that the Party was a movement of youth: dynamic, resilient, forward-looking, and hopeful. Millions of German young people were won over to Nazism in the classroom and through extracurricular activities. In January 1933, the Hitler Youth had only 50,000 members, but by the end of the year this figure had increased to more than 2 million. By 1936 membership in the Hitler Youth increased to 5.4 million before it became mandatory in 1939. The German authorities then prohibited or dissolved competing youth organizations.
Education in the Nazi State
Education in the Third Reich served to indoctrinate students with the National Socialist world view. Nazi scholars and educators glorified Nordic and other “Aryan” races, while denigrating Jews and other so-called inferior peoples as parasitic “bastard races” incapable of creating culture or civilization. After 1933, the Nazi regime purged the public school system of teachers deemed to be Jews or to be “politically unreliable.” Most educators, however, remained in their posts and joined the National Socialist Teachers League. 97% of all public school teachers, some 300,000 persons, had joined the League by 1936. In fact, teachers joined the Nazi Party in greater numbers than any other profession.
In the classroom and in the Hitler Youth, instruction aimed to produce race-conscious, obedient, self-sacrificing Germans who would be willing to die for Führer and Fatherland. Devotion to Adolf Hitler was a key component of Hitler Youth training. German young people celebrated his birthday (April 20)—a national holiday—for membership inductions. German adolescents swore allegiance to Hitler and pledged to serve the nation and its leader as future soldiers.
Schools played an important role in spreading Nazi ideas to German youth. While censors removed some books from the classroom, German educators introduced new textbooks that taught students love for Hitler, obedience to state authority, militarism, racism, and antisemitism.
From their first days in school, German children were imbued with the cult of Adolf Hitler. His portrait was a standard fixture in classrooms. Textbooks frequently described the thrill of a child seeing the German leader for the first time.
Board games and toys for children served as another way to spread racial and political propaganda to German youth. Toys were also used as propaganda vehicles to indoctrinate children into militarism.
The Hitler Youth and the League of German Girls were the primary tools that the Nazis used to shape the beliefs, thinking and actions of German youth. Youth leaders used tightly controlled group activities and staged propaganda events such as mass rallies full of ritual and spectacle to create the illusion of one national community reaching across class and religious divisions that characterized Germany before 1933.
Founded in 1926, the original purpose of the Hitler Youth was to train boys to enter the SA (Storm Troopers), a Nazi Party paramilitary formation. After 1933, however, youth
leaders sought to integrate boys into the Nazi national community and to prepare them for service as soldiers in the armed forces or, later, in the SS.
In 1936, membership in Nazi youth groups became mandatory for all boys and girls between the ages of ten and seventeen. After-school meetings and weekend camping trips sponsored by the Hitler Youth and the League of German Girls trained children to become faithful to the Nazi Party and the future leaders of the National Socialist state. By September 1939, over 765,000 young people served in leadership roles in Nazi youth organizations which prepared them for such roles in the military and the German occupation bureaucracy.
The Hitler Youth combined sports and outdoor activities with ideology. Similarly, the League of German Girls emphasized collective athletics, such as rhythmic gymnastics, which German health authorities deemed less strenuous to the female body and better geared to preparing them for motherhood. Their public displays of these values encouraged young men and women to abandon their individuality in favor of the goals of the Aryan collective.
Upon reaching age eighteen, boys were required to enlist immediately in the armed forces or into the Reich Labor Service, for which their activities in the Hitler Youth had prepared them. Propaganda materials called for ever more fanatic devotion to Nazi ideology, even as the German military suffered from defeat after defeat.
In the autumn of 1944, as Allied armies crossed the borders into Germany, the Nazi regime conscripted German youths under sixteen to defend the Reich, along side seniors over the age of 60, in the units of the “Volkssturm” (People's Assault).
After the unconditional surrender of the German armed forces in May 1945, some German boys continued to fight in guerilla groups known as “Werewolves”. During the following year, Allied occupation authorities required young Germans to undergo a “de-Nazification” process and training in democracy designed to counter the effects of twelve years of Nazi propaganda.
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