The Public’s View of the Regime

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Public approval of the Nazi regime can no longer be spoken of in the final two years of the war. Nevertheless, right up to the end, the vast majority of Germans as well as churches and other institutions did not have the slightest intention of actively resisting the regime, party and leadership.

This was also evident in reactions to the attempt to assassinate Hitler on July 20, 1944. Related SD reports recount the general shock at the assassination attempt and how the populace breathed a sigh of relief that the Führer had not been assassinated.

Those in power certainly did remain blind to the bottoming out of public morale after the year turned from 1943 to 1944, as a report compiled on November 29, 1943 for the Party Chancellery clearly reveals:

A greater decline in confidence is observable above all toward the instruments of public leadership. The intermittent efforts to conceal the true picture of serious situations or to trivialize threatening military developments, e.g. “making success out of retreats” or “making territories called valuable yesterday out to be not so significant today” or “invariably filling in periods of waiting and silence with makeshift reports on events in India, about plutocratic excesses in England or America”, had largely undermined confidence in the press and radio still present in the final years of the war. …

The conduct of individual local low and mid-level leaders from state and party also provokes statements of mistrust in the leadership. Although the Reich government’s measures are basically condoned, many daily perceptions give rise among German citizens to misgivings about the executive bodies of the state and party.

The public is noticing, for instance, that bartering and black marketing are becoming more and more pervasive or that the total war propagated by the leadership is not being conducted fairly (e.g. the assignment of female labor, the issues of domestic help, the allocation of residences and above all exemptions from military service) and that some state and party leaders are not fully affected by the restrictions imposed on everyone (Boberach, Meldungen aus dem Reich 15, p. 6065).

The intensification of the external pressure was simultaneously accompanied by a retreat into the private sphere as well as isolation from the outer world and confinement to the most immediate, assuring one’s survival (Thamer, Verführung und Gewalt, p. 724).

Although the influx in the NSDAP did not abate even during the war and the party grew from 870,000 members in 1933 to 6.5 million members in 1943 and 8 million members by the war’s end, the autocratic and corrupt manner of many party officials discredited the reputation of the NSDAP.

At best, the public appreciated the efforts of the “National Socialist People’s Welfare” (NSV). To a certain extent, the NSV, with around 17 million members still in 1943, evolved into a logistics enterprise for evacuations in the second half of the war. Its tasks included the transport and room and board of people endangered and affected by the air war, of the elderly, the infirm, children and mothers. After air raids, it established soup kitchens for the affected populace, organized registration offices for missing persons and did much more.

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