WORLD FUTURE FUND
NAZI GERMANY - GOVERNMENT STRUCTURE
MINISTRIES AND PARTY ORGANIZATIONS
The books listed on this page provide insight into the activities and workings of some the most important ministries and organizations of the Third Reich. Each section offers the name or names of the leaders associated with the ministry or organization, as well as a small description of the ministry or organization in question.
It is important to note that administrative power in the Third Reich was exercised within a complicated parallel structure of Nazi Party organizations and official government ministries. Rarely were the responsibilities of a given ministry clearly delineated vis-à-vis the corresponding Party organization. Rather, the bureaucratic structure of the Nazi regime was marked by competition and overlapping responsibilities. In the case of education, for example, the Education Ministry and the Hitler Youth competed for influence. Similarly, the German Labor Front and the Ministry for Labor (not listed below) vied against one another in the industrial workforce. The constellation of Party and governmental agencies also changed with frequency during the twelve years of Hitler's reign. For example, organizations such as the Gestapo and the Police, which were originally under the authority of the Ministry for the Interior, or under various regional and state authorities, were gradually absorbed into the SS. Jurisdictional complications often caused conflicts between ministers that were only resolved when Hitler himself was called upon to make a decision. Retaining a close and favorable relationship with Hitler thus was the best way to accumulate power in the Third Reich. Conversely, competition between powerful ministers and party leaders kept ultimate power concentrated in the hands of Adolf Hitler.
In assembling the information for this page, it became apparent that research on the bureaucratic power-structure and administration of the Nazi State has not been adequately researched. After a promising start in this direction in the 1950s and 1960s, professional scholarship on this subject has all but disappeared. In certain places below we have made an effort to identify subjects about which more research is needed. We hope that in pointing out the areas we will stimulate scholarship on these subjects.
NOTE: A BRIEF STATEMENT OF PUBLICATIONS PRINCIPLES
The World Future Fund serves as a source of documentary material, reading lists, and internet links from different points of view that we believe have historical significance. The publication of this material is in no way whatsoever an endorsement of these viewpoints by the World Future Fund, unless explicitly stated by us. As our web site makes very clear, we are totally opposed to ideas such as racism, religious intolerance, and communism. However, in order to combat such evils, it is necessary to understand them by means of the study of key documentary material. For a more detailed statement of our publications standards click here.
REICH MINISTRY FOR PROPAGANDA & PUBLIC ENLIGHTENMENT
(REICHSMINISTERIUM FÜR PROPAGANDA UND VOLKSAUFKLÄRUNG)
Reich Propaganda Minister: Dr. Joseph Goebbels (1933-1945)
Created in 1933 during the first year of the Third Reich's existence, The Reich Ministry for Propaganda and Public Enlightenment was responsible for shaping and controlling public opinion in Germany. Its primary public organs were newspapers, such as the Völkischer Beobachter, films, and radio broadcasts. The ministry however was also deeply involved in creating public events, sponsoring art shows, and arranging political rallies, meetings, youth groups, and any other activity which could be used to reinforce the ideology of the Third Reich. Although government controlled propaganda was already common in many countries by the 1930s, the Nazi regime took the use of propaganda to new heights. The leader of the ministry, Dr. Joseph Goebbels, was one of the few leading Nazis who held an advanced degree. He was an able organizer and probably the best orator in the Third Reich after Hitler himself. Goebbels remained the Reich Leader for Propaganda and Public Enlightenment until the very end, when he and his wife were shot by an SS firing squad following the poisoning of their children in the Führerbunker in Berlin.
RADIO, NEWS, SPEECHES & GENERAL PROPAGANDA
ART, FILM, ARCHITECTURE
REICH EDUCATION MINISTRY (REICHSERZIEHUNGSMINISTERIUM)
Reich Education Minister: Bernhard Rust (1934-1945)
The Reich Minister for Education was a cabinet post inherited by the Nazis from the Weimar system upon their assumption of power in 1933. Hitler appointed a loyal Nazi, Bernhard Rust, to the post of Education Minister in the spring of that year. Rust and the ministry's purpose during the Third Reich was to bring public education in Germany into line with Nazi ideological tenets. Throughout the 1930s Rust's ministry actively purged the ranks of German academics and teachers of Jews, Communists, Pacifists, Socialists, and other opponents of the regime. Rust then filled these vacancies with fervent Nazis. Other efforts to "Nazify" the educational system included the introduction of rabidly nationalist and racist curricula in the humanities and sciences. Despite the extensive measures implemented to alter public education in Germany, Rust's impact on the educational system was generally considered disappointing. Because of this, the Education Ministry worked with the SS and Hitler Youth to establish National-Political Education Institutes (NAPOLA). The children educated in these institutes were to provide the new leadership cadre of the Reich for future generations.
Research Note: While the general subject of education in the Third Reich has been well-studied, practically nothing has been written on the history and activities of the Education Ministry itself. Similarly there is no available biography in either German or English of Bernhard Rust. Lastly, only a single general history of the NAPOLA exists and this is in French. No general history of the NAPOLA in either English or German exists.
NAPOLA (NATIONALPOLITISCHE ERZIEHUNGSANSTALTEN)
HITLER YOUTH & ASSOCIATION OF GERMAN GIRLS (HITLERJUGEND UND BUND DEUTSCHER MÄDEL)
Reich Youth Leader: Baldur von Schirach (1932-1945)
Founded before Hitler was named Chancellor in January 1933, the Hitler Youth expanded quickly after the Nazis came to power. Its mission was to fully train German youth in a manner consistent with the National Socialist worldview. This training included lessons in folklore and racial history, as well as physical fitness, outdoor activities, such as hiking and camping, shooting, glider piloting, and athletic competition. The HJ was also a training organization for Germany's future soldiers. Boys would also participate in military-style exercises (directed by German Army officers) and they would receive lectures on the importance of camaraderie and obedience. In contrast, girls would be taught the importance of motherhood and the racial community. Both girls and boys were given distinctive uniforms and organized along paramilitary lines.
Beginning at the age of ten boys would enter the Deutsche Jungvolk (German Young People) while girls would enter the Jungmädelbund (Young Girls Association). They would remain in these organizations until the age of 14 when boys would formally enter the Hitler Youth and girls the Association of German Girls. In 1936 membership in the Hitler Youth and Bund Deutscher Mädel was made mandatory. That same year 90% of German ten-year-olds were listed as members of the Hitler Youth. Armed Hitler Youth units were also formed and deployed in combat during World War II.
The leader of the Hitler Youth was Baldur von Schirach, whose mother was an
American. Schirach was tried by the Allies at Nuremberg for crimes against
humanity and membership in a criminal organization. He was found guilty
and sentenced to twenty years in prison. Schirach was released from
Spandau Prison in 1966 and he died in 1974.
BUND DEUTSCHER MÄDEL
BALDUR VON SCHIRACH
REICH JUSTICE MINISTRY & PEOPLE'S COURT
(REICHSJUSTIZMINISTERIUM UND VOLKSGERICHTSHOF)
Reich Justice Minister: Franz Gürtner (1933-1941), Otto Georg Thierack (1942-1945)
Chief of People's Court: Otto Georg Thierack (1936-1942), Roland Freisler (1942-1945)
Upon coming to power in 1933, Hitler selected Franz Gürtner, a member of the German National People's Party (DNVP) to serve as Justice Minister. Following his appointment, Gürtner oversaw the Nazification of the Justice Ministry and the German legal profession as a whole. As part of this process, judges, lawyers, and legal staff of "questionable" political and/or racial backgrounds were dismissed from their positions. Nazi ideological notions were also introduced into the body of German law. Gürtner also actively participated in creating the so-called "State of Emergency Law" (Staatsnotwehrgesetz) which provided a legal basis for the purge of the NSDAP that was carried out in June 1934 (See section on the SA below).
Gürtner died in 1941 and was replaced as Justice Minister in 1942 by Otto Georg Thierack. Thierack had been head of the German People's Court, the Volksgerichtshof, since 1936. Under Thierack, the People's Court became little more than a show court for trying persons who violated Nazi laws, including crimes against the race (i.e., Miscegenation). With Thierack's rise to Justice Minister, his seat as head of the Volksgerichtshof was filled by Roland Freisler. Freisler, an ardent Nazi, was known for his ruthlessness and shrill defense of Nazism. He is best known for presiding over the numerous show trials that followed the attempted assassination of Hitler on July 20, 1944. Freisler was killed in the Volksgerichtshof during an Allied bombing raid in 1945. For his part, Thierack was arrested by the British. He committed suicide while in British custody in 1946.
Research Note: While a great deal has been written and published on the law and the legal profession in the Third Reich, next to nothing has been published on either Franz Gürtner or Otto Thierack. This problem is particularly acute concerning English language scholarship. It currently appears that there are no biographies of Gürtner, Freisler, or Thierack in English. Similarly there is no history of the Justice Ministry or the Volksgerichtshof.
GESTAPO (GEHEIME STAATSPOLIZEI)
Gestapo Leader: Hermann Goering (1933-1936); Heinrich Himmler (1936-1939); Heinrich Mueller (1939-1945)
When the Nazis assumed power in 1933 practically every German state (Land) in the country already had a political police force in place. These police forces were typically dedicated to observing and acting against leftist political organizations. In April 1933, Hermann Goering, in his capacity as Minister President of Prussia, authorized the creation of an umbrella organization for the secret police, the Gestapo. In 1934 leadership of this organization in Prussia was assumed by Reinhard Heydrich. It was not until 1936, however, that the Gestapo throughout Germany was unified under the rubric of the SS and the command of Heinrich Himmler. For the rest of the Third Reich's existence the Gestapo remained an office subordinated to the SS. Gestapo headquarters was placed under the command of Heinrich Mueller and combined with the other SS secret services into the Reichssicherheitshauptamt (Reich Main Security Office: RSHA) in September 1939. Mueller remained head of the Gestapo until his presumed death in Berlin in 1945. Hermann Goering was put on trial by the Allies at Nuremberg, but he hanged himself in his cell before he could be convicted. Heinrich Himmler was captured by the British while traveling under an assumed name. He poisoned himself soon after his capture.
Reich Leader SS: Heinrich Himmler (1929-1945)
Reich Labor Leader: Dr. Robert Ley (1933-1945)
A veteran of the First World War and a member of the Nazi Party since 1923, Robert Ley was selected by Hitler in May 1933 to head the new German Labor Front (DAF). As head of the DAF, Ley was responsible for supervising the destruction of Germany's powerful trade unions. Ley then oversaw the integration of Germany's industrial workforce into the state-sponsored German Labor Front. For those employed in the industrial workforce membership in the DAF was mandatory. The members of the DAF wore uniforms and were organized along paramilitary lines. They also participated in Nazi Party rallies and they were actively exposed to the ideology of the Nazi Party via training programs and lectures. DAF work crews were responsible for constructing Germany's system of Autobahns and the factory that produced the first Volkswagen, as well as for building numerous other public works projects, and extensive western military fortifications. The DAF was also the first organization of its kind anywhere in the industrialized world to pioneer the notion of leisure time for industrial workers. The first vacations ever taken by many German families were organized through the "Kraft durch Freude" or "Strength through Joy" (KdF) program. Similarly, the first automobiles owned by many German families were procured through the pathbreaking KdF.
Robert Ley's influence remained high throughout the 1930s. His organization also produced ideological reading materials, such as the Schulungsbrief journal. During the war, however, Ley steadily lost power to the Armaments Ministry, led first by Fritz Todt and then Albert Speer, and the office of Fritz Sauckel, the General Plenipotentiary for Labor Deployment. In 1945, Ley was captured by the Allies and prepared for trial for war crimes. However, before he could be brought to trial Ley hanged himself in his cell at Nuremberg.
Research Note: To this point research on industrial labor in Germany has largely focused on two areas: opposition to the Nazi regime carried out by clandestine groups within the workforce and forced labor by foreign nationals brought into Germany during the war. Very little academic work has been published on the DAF, however. There is likewise only one biography of Robert Ley available in either English or German. Work on both of these subjects is needed.
SA Chief: Ernst Röhm (1924-34); Viktor Lutze (1934-1943)
Until the summer of 1934, the Sturmabteilungen or Storm Sections, of the Nazi Party were by far the most powerful segment of the NSDAP. Their leader, Ernst Röhm, was a veteran of the First World War and a member of the Nazi Party from an early date. The ranks of the SA were filled with men from lower middle and working class backgrounds who clamored for social-political and economic change in Germany. Rabidly anti-Communist, anti-Socialist, and antisemitic, the SA carried out street battles against Leftist militia organizations throughout the 1920s and early 1930s. The violent agitation of the SA was in large part responsible for creating an atmosphere of chaos in the streets of many German cities. Nazi propagandists blamed this chaos exclusively on the Communists and then claimed that the NSDAP was the only party which could restore order.
Once in power, however, the SA began to cause trouble for Hitler. The beating, murder, and intimidation of political "opponents" caused considerable concern among respectable Germans who assumed that the rise of Hitler to power would bring order. Military officers who feared that the SA would supplant the Reichswehr also threatened to seize control of the state in a coup d'etat if the SA was not disbanded. Lastly, the SA represented the left-wing of the Nazi Party, the so-called "socialist" part of National Socialism, and they demanded the implementation of economic reforms now that the NSDAP was in power. Faced with these difficulties, Hitler devised a plan with SS Chief Heinrich Himmler and Reinhard Heydrich to decapitate the SA and render it harmless. On the night of June30, 1934 the SS put this operation into action and the leadership of the SA, as well as hundreds of other people the Nazis considered problematic, were arrested and executed. Ernst Röhm was among those murdered, following his arrest during a homosexual affair. Röhm's replacement as head of the SA was Viktor Lutze, a compliant follower of Hitler. Under Lutze, the SA remained in existence, but its numbers steadily dwindled as SA men were drafted into the Wehrmacht. Lutze was killed on the Eastern Front in 1943.
Research Note: To this point there is no decent history of the SA in English, from its foundation in the 1920s through to its end with the collapse of Nazism in 1945. Several histories focused on the life and demise of Ernst Röhm do detail the rise of the SA. However, little reading is available on the SA following its purge in June 1934. Similarly, there is no biography of Viktor Lutze in any language.
REICH INTERIOR MINISTRY (REICHSINNENMINISTERIUM)
Reich Interior Minister: Wilhelm Frick (1933-1943); Heinrich Himmler (1943-1945)
Under the leadership of Wilhelm Frick until 1943, the Interior Ministry was the administrative body which oversaw much of the so-called "Gleichschaltung" of government ministries, professional organizations, German states, and other groups in society. The term Gleichschaltung, meaning "to bring into line" does not translate neatly into English. In this context it may best be understood as "Nazification," a term which includes the reorganization of administrative power to enhance and reflect the influence of the Nazi Party. Elements of the process of Gleichschaltung included the passage of new laws, including race laws, the suppression of political parties other than the NSDAP, the reorganization of the relationship of the German states to the federal government, and the incorporation into the Party of all kinds of social groups (e.g. youth, veterans, women's, etc.). In essence, the Ministry for the Interior established and maintained the legal structure of the Nazi dictatorship.
Trained as a lawyer and a former member of the radical right-wing Freikorps, Wilhelm Frick was the perfect man for the job of Nazifying German society. Frick was a long-time Nazi who had taken part in the abortive putsch in November 1923. He had also served for a time as chief of the political police in Munich. It was in Munich that Frick had come in contact with Hitler. For his part in establishing the criminal Nazi regime, Frick was tried at Nuremberg by the Allies. He was convicted and hanged in October 1946.
Research Note: While several biographies of Frick and histories of his ministry exist in German, there are no equivalents in English. In fact, information about the activities of the Interior Ministry in English is practically non-existent, with the result that very few people (including many scholars) know much about the ministry.
REICH CHANCELLERY/NAZI PARTY CHANCELLERY (REICHSKANZLEI/PARTEIKANZLEI)
State Secretary of the Reich Chancellery: Hans Heinrich Lammers (1933-1945)
Deputy Führer of the NSDAP: Rudolf Hess (1933-1941); Martin Bormann (1941-1945)
Despite the importance of his office, very little has been written about Hans Heinrich Lammers. When Hitler formed his first cabinet in 1933 he surprised many people by asking Lammers to join the new government as State Secretary. Lammers, a trained jurist, was new to the Nazi Party, having joined only in 1932. Prior to that Lammers had been an avowed nationalist and member of the Stahlhelm veterans' organization. In his capacity as State Secretary, however, Lammers proved to be an able and reliable representative as Hitler's liaison between the various ministries of the government. Lammers also played a crucial role creating legislation, including the Nuremberg Race Laws, that established a legal foundation for the Nazi State. Lammers also acted as a filter through which all kinds of legal and administrative information pertaining to the ministries passed to and from Hitler. As State Secretary, Lammers was present at many important meetings on Nazi policy, including the so-called "Euthanasia Program" to eliminate the mentally ill and physically handicapped.
Lammers' position in the Reich Chancellery was mirrored by that of Rudolf Hess and later Martin Bormann as head of the Party Chancellery. Once in power, the NSDAP retained a bureaucratic organization and hierarchy which paralleled that of the official German state. The Deputy Führer theoretically wielded power nearly equal to that of Reich Marshall Goering, who maintained his position as the official number two man behind Hitler until late in the war. As Deputy Führer, Hess and then Bormann oversaw the official finances of the Führer's office and exercised administrative power in Hitler's name. In order to gain access to Hitler, practically every official in the Reich had to go through either Hess or Bormann. Curiously, the office of Deputy Führer steadily lost power and influence under Hess. Bormann, however, reversed this trend and became very active in administering Hitler's personal calendar and making decisions in Hitler's stead. He continued this process of accumulating power until the very end of the war.
Hans Lammers was eventually tried at Nuremberg by the Allies in 1949. He was convicted and sentenced to twenty years in prison, although he only spent two years behind bars. Lammers died in 1962. Rudolf Hess was also tried and convicted at Nuremberg. He spent the rest of his life in Spandau Prison, until he committed suicide in 1987. Bormann was killed in Berlin during the Soviet assault on the city in 1945.