To What Extent Did the Nazi Regime Face Serious Opposition Within Germany During the Years 1939–45? (2017), by Sean Gabb

To What Extent Did the Nazi Regime Face Serious Opposition
Within Germany During the Years 1939–45?

Note: One of my duties in the various places where I teach is to show students how to write essays – something most young people are not nowadays taught to do. What I like to do in class is to choose a question at random, discuss possible approaches, and then dictate an answer one paragraph at a time. Some of these answers are very short. Some are just notes. Some amount to small dissertations. In this latter case, the students take turns at looking on-line for the information we decide is needed. It they cannot find it, I show them how to change the structure of what has already been written, or to strike out in a new direction.

It is a “writing masterclass” approach that makes use of my own strengths, and is often a welcome alternative to formal teaching. It fills up a long morning session. Everyone learns something, and the more attentive will improve their final grades by at least one step.

Here is an example of the finished product. Do not take it as a statement of personal opinion. It is an answer produced for a specific question, and it bears in mind what a possibly unknown examiner will appreciate, and what can be written to incorporate the sources found in class. SIG

PS – If anyone wants to engage my services as a teacher of these skills, please click on the image to the left. Though they are my niche subjects, Greek and Latin are not my exclusive focus as a teacher. I do much else besides.


Introduction: With the spectacular but limited exception of the 1944 Bomb Plot, there was almost no serious opposition inside to the Nazi Regime during the Second World War. The Gestapo steadily tightened its grip, and people were aware that even grumbling in public could lead to arrest and then possibly torture or imprisonment in a concentration camp, or death.

Main Body: This being so, there was resistance.

The Catholic Church. Most notably, the Catholic Archbishop of Munster, Clemens von Galen, led a successful campaign to end euthanasia of mentally-disabled people. The Nazis had killed 70,000 disable in Germany by August 1941, von Galen’s denunciatory sermons did not stop the murders, but the rest of the 200,000 committed had to be in secret. The Government never dared to arrest or punish von Galen.

Partly inspired by von Galen, The White Rose group was formed by students at Munich University. They published anti-Nazi leaflets, but were discovered and executed in 1943.

The Edelweiss Pirates were violent opponents. They daubed anti-Nazi slogans, sheltered deserters and beat up Nazi officials. In 1944, the Cologne Pirates (the Edelweiss Pirates based in Cologne) killed the Gestapo chief, so the Nazis publicly hanged 12 of them.

There were Protestant opponents. For example, Dietrich Bonhöffer, took part in the 1944 bomb plot and was executed.

Above all, there was the Kreisau Circle of army officers and intellectuals who tried to bomb Hitler in 1944. Their failure led to 5,000 executions.

Conclusion: Much can be made of these opponents. However, they were limited in number and influence. Even without the Nazi Terror of the War years, the correlation of forces was against opposition. Between 1939 and 1942, it seemed that Hitler was winning the War. Why remove a winner? After 1942, the Allies decided that only “unconditional surrender” of Germany would be acceptable. This undercut the rationale of resistance. The Kaiser had been forced out in 1918 in the hope that this would get better terms from the Allies. In the last half of the Second World War why risk your life to get rid of the Nazis when Germany was to be destroyed in any event?

© 2017, seangabb.

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