German Resistance to National Socialist Rule: Achievements and Shortcomings

Grimald

Ad Honorem
Nov 2011
5,908
Hercynian Forest
This thread is meant to deal with the achievements and shortcomings of the German resistance against National Socialist rule from 1933-1945. My hope is that we can discuss the issue at hand objectively, and not from a perspective blurred by national prejudice.

Some questions we can discuss:

How significant was the resistance in Germany against Hitler and his gang? In an international comparison, was the resistance movement rather weak, or rather strong? What were the specific challenges of the resistance in the country where the Nazis originated? Why did it ultimately fail, even late in the war (1944/45) when the defeat of Nazi Germany should have been obvious to everybody?

Were there cultural factors that limited the success of German resistance, e.g. a tendency in Germany to accept hierarchies, or a tendency of artists and scientists to remain apolitical?

How was the resistance organized in Germany? Was there an overarching organization, or did it consist in single, rather isolated groups? What was the role of the military? What do we know about individual acts of opposition and resistance?

Which was the most remarkable action of the German resistance in your opinion? When did it come closest to success? Does the German resistance despite its failure have a meaning even today?
 

Grimald

Ad Honorem
Nov 2011
5,908
Hercynian Forest
Let me quote what Antonina asked in a different thread on this forum:

1) How many Germans protested against the escalating policy of persecuting Jews in Germany since 1933?

It's not like the NSDAP government didn't pay any attention to public opinion - eg. in 1941 the euthanasia programme was largely dropped after public protests.


2) The overwhelming support of ordinary Germans for the invasion of Poland is well attested by primary sources (quoted by A.B.Rossino in "Hitler Strikes Poland. Blitzkrieg, Ideology and Atrocity" 2003)

The re-emergence of the Polish state was widely regarded as part of the Versailles offense, its destruction as historical justice.

How many Germans were imprisoned for speaking out against war with Poland?


3) Did any German academicians/scientists protest against the brutal arrest of the academic staff of Cracow University professors? Which German university joined the Italian (even Mussolini's) plea for release of these eminent academicians from Dachau?


4) How many German farmers refused to employ Polish slave-workers?


5) How many Germans were imprisoned/executed for refusing to participate in mass executing Poles? Could you provide a list?


6) In what ways did Germans protest against what was going on in concentration camps located directly in their neighbourhood?




7) In the Third Reich there were 69,314,000 Germans. Nearly 70 million.

How numerous was the opposition to Hitler? What was the organisation? How many members?
...
 

Grimald

Ad Honorem
Nov 2011
5,908
Hercynian Forest
My personal opinion on the German resistance is that it was indeed weak in comparison to other countries. One of the reasons is that from a psychological perspective, it is easier to stand up against a foreign invader than to resist against your own government, especially during war times.

Furthermore, the National Socialists made sure that any opponents to their regime were removed early from the political scene. In part, they did this by incarceration and murder; for example, concentration camps were already set up in 1933. However, in many cases, the threat of being incarcerated and tortured was already enough to silence people.

There was also a quite ghastly phenomenon in the Germany of 1933-1945. Many people who originally were not Nazis showed a behavior that can be described as anticipatory obedience. Although they were not threatened, they gave declarations of loyalty to the new rulers and thus acted as subservient bootlickers. This phenomenon is not specific for Nazi Germany; it can still be observed today in many countries where the rulers change.
 
Sep 2013
1,110
Abu Dhabi
My personal opinion on the German resistance is that it was indeed weak in comparison to other countries. One of the reasons is that from a psychological perspective, it is easier to stand up against a foreign invader than to resist against your own government, especially during war times.

Furthermore, the National Socialists made sure that any opponents to their regime were removed early from the political scene. In part, they did this by incarceration and murder; for example, concentration camps were already set up in 1933. However, in many cases, the threat of being incarcerated and tortured was already enough to silence people.

...
I agree that from historical perspective it's interesting to investigate the aspect of the resistance to Nazi rule within Germany.

However, in the light of repeated attempts of determination by that method whether Germans as a nation were guilty as a whole or not, depending on *judges* getting (or not) convinced if Germans resisted Nazi dictatorship fiercely enough or not enough at all, this is totally absurd.

People suggesting that ordinary population could stand chances to somehow protest or resist bloody brutal regime which took over the state of Germany entirely, should look at the dictatorship regimes of present day, and how successful people are in overthrowing these far less dangerous dictators (compared to Hitler of course) even nowadays, and not 100 years ago.

But having said that, we shouldn't also fall into illusion that Hitler regime didn't have a popular support. It had.
 
Last edited:
Dec 2011
1,369
Belgium
Grimald,

for a French forum about WWII I am doing research for Fascism in Europe and the interpretation of Nazism.
I agree that the resistance was minimal in the beginning of WWII and before it was more from "Leftist" circles (I mean between 1933 and 1940).
Some interesting book about the behaviour of the Germans during the Nazi period I found some days ago:
The "Hitler Myth": Image and Reality in the Third Reich - Ian Kershaw - Google Books
They haven't the book in our local library and of course I am sad that the Google book only starts on page 159...

Did a study for the former history messageboard of the BBC about the resistance but that is all well known material and I don't think it is that what you ask?
[ame]http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/German_Resistance_to_Nazism[/ame]

What I see from Kershaw's book is that the turning point was the Battle of Stalingrad...
Some parallels with Pétain's Vichy France? The turning point the obliged employement of the French citizens...a big push for the resistance, while many in hiding...

Kind regards and with esteem,

Paul.
 
Oct 2013
357
Pennsylvania
This thread is meant to deal with the achievements and shortcomings of the German resistance against National Socialist rule from 1933-1945. My hope is that we can discuss the issue at hand objectively, and not from a perspective blurred by national prejudice.

Some questions we can discuss:

How significant was the resistance in Germany against Hitler and his gang? In an international comparison, was the resistance movement rather weak, or rather strong? What were the specific challenges of the resistance in the country where the Nazis originated? Why did it ultimately fail, even late in the war (1944/45) when the defeat of Nazi Germany should have been obvious to everybody?

Were there cultural factors that limited the success of German resistance, e.g. a tendency in Germany to accept hierarchies, or a tendency of artists and scientists to remain apolitical?

How was the resistance organized in Germany? Was there an overarching organization, or did it consist in single, rather isolated groups? What was the role of the military? What do we know about individual acts of opposition and resistance?

Which was the most remarkable action of the German resistance in your opinion? When did it come closest to success? Does the German resistance despite its failure have a meaning even today?
When Hitler came to power, Germany had been devastated by WWI and by the depression. Their economy was a shambles. Their military was hindered by the terms of the Versailles Treaty. Their national pride was gone. Hitler got the economy working again. He built up the armed forces by deceiving the Western powers. He brought pride back to the people again.
MOST Germans accepted the fact that a price had to be paid for this. SOMEBODY had to be blamed for the problems that the country had had. Not only were the Jews blamed but also liberals like the leaders of the trade unions. Scapegoats were found. When things were going well. there was no need for a resistance movement. From '39 to '41, the war went tremendously well. Britain was alone. Russia was retreating with loss after loss after loss.
Resistance movements were very hard to set up. There were eyes and ears everywhere. Children were taught to inform on their parents. Neighbors informed on neighbors.
As you know, the closest that the resistance got was the bomb that Von Stauffenberg (spelling) set off. If it had not been moved, it probably would have killed Hitler.
 

Black Dog

Ad Honorem
Mar 2008
9,990
Damned England
The problems of resistance to the Nazis were many.

1. Too many people had vested interests in what the Nazis did: many men rose to power or wealth via the Nazis. Many owed their position to them.

2. The realisation that losing the war would not, judging by WW1's end, be good for Germany, not least when the Allies were unwilling to accept anything but unconditional surrender. This also explains why Germany fought on when so many knew that the war was lost even by 1942.

3. Last but not least: the extent to which the Nazis subverted and took over the State: it was almost impossible to separate the State from the Nazi apparatus of state. The difficulty lay in overthrowing one without damaging the other. There was plainly no political, democratic, opposition and anyone who schemed against the Nazis could have been- and were- instantly accused of treason against the German state. Opposing Hitler is one thing: treason against one's own country is another.

Another factor is the almost total lack of support for resistance within Germany by the Allies: Helmuth James Graf von Moltke (Abwehr officer) is a case in point. He made several attempts to contact British officials via friends in England, but was rebuffed each time. He was also central to the Kreisau Circle, a movement dedicated, primarily, to discussing what to do after Hitler. Whilst they were fervent opponents of Nazism and came from diverse backgrounds, they were unable to do anything to actually achieve that. This did not stop the Gestapo from hanging most of them.
 

Pendennis

Ad Honorem
Mar 2013
3,386
Kirkcaldy, Scotland
I agree with most previous posters.The indigenous Geramn opponents of Nazism -the Communists and Social Democrats in Germany were scooped up early and incarceated in concentration camps. But let us never forget that the Stalinist German KPD led by Ernst Thalmann & co paid the price of slavishly obeying Stalin's self preserving 'Socialism in One Country ' doctrine where Stalin's Comintern ordered the KPD NOT to use armed Resistance to Hitler within Germany.
Imagine too how Communist leader Ernst Thalman must hve felt in Buchenwald when the 1939 Nazi Soviet Non Agression act was signed-and all the other German Communists in KZ'S. (Thalmaan was mudered in a KZ but I think he was still alive in 1939.
Then you had Commie turncoats like the revolting Nazi show trial judge who presided at the July 1944 bomb plot conspiators trials-Roland Freisler-who was a Communist originally having been ''converted ''to Bolshevism while a Pow in Russia in W.W. One.
When you consider that the Nazis-just 29 days before the war ended in 1945-hung one of 20th century Europe's greatest theologians -Dietrich Boenhoeffer-in Flossenburg KZ then no wonder many ordinary Germans followed the path of least resistance and conformed.
Never forget either that many of the officers in charge of the murderous Einsatzgruppen death squads had University Doctorates and Degrees -one had two PHD's and was known as ''Doctor-Doctor''-my point?-for ambitious, intellectually able, German males with no scruples Nazism was a guaranteed means of social and economic advancement.
Witness too, the brutal fate of the Quixotic resister Sophie Scholl and her''White Rose'' circle for simply distributing leaflets criticsing theThird Reich.
It pains me to say this too, but the 20th July 1944 bomb plotters like Von Stauffenberg and Von Stulpnagel and Fabian Scablendorff-brave noble men all-
were also fantasists because thay seemed to think that the Western allies would drop their alliance with the Soviets if only they-the plotters- got rid of Htler and his gang but that was total cloud cuckoo land thinking
Churchill and Roosevelt rightly insisted on Unconditional Surrender because the people of both Britain and the USA-given their heavily popagandised committent to total victory by 1944- would not have supported any right wing Baron Von Munchausen fantasy of letting the same Generals who had happily served the Third Reich thus enabling the Holocaust to proceed in the light of their military victories between 1940-43 and were uncrtitical of the Nazi regime when it was was winning- from becoming allies. and the right wing modern latter 21st century revisonist tubes who try to argue there was the slightest posibility or even slightest desirability of halting the war in 1944 before Nazi Germany was totally crushed-or swithching sides from the Soviets should be dismissed as the delusional cretins that they are.
 
Aug 2011
7,045
Texas
How significant was the resistance in Germany against Hitler and his gang? In an international comparison, was the resistance movement rather weak, or rather strong? What were the specific challenges of the resistance in the country where the Nazis originated? Why did it ultimately fail, even late in the war (1944/45) when the defeat of Nazi Germany should have been obvious to everybody?
I've always thought the resistance to Nazi rule was always significant (If memory serves, at least 4 dozen domestic attempts or more were made on Hitler's life, half of which came before the war started. Intro here: [ame="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Assassination_attempts_on_Adolf_Hitler"]Assassination attempts on Adolf Hitler - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia[/ame]). However, the significance for whatever resistance group was offset with the depth of disorganization and ever present fear amongst them in being caught by the Gestapo. That disorganization and fear came about i think, that the more organized they were then the easier it is for them to be infiltrated and subsequently fall. Hence, they were to remain perpetually weak for the duration of Nazi rule.

Were there cultural factors that limited the success of German resistance, e.g. a tendency in Germany to accept hierarchies, or a tendency of artists and scientists to remain apolitical?
I think deep down we need to recognize that it is a tendency, not specific of Germans, for any majority of human, citizen and believers to accept or tolerate hierarchies; Some without question, given the ebb and flow of political power.

How was the resistance organized in Germany? Was there an overarching organization, or did it consist in single, rather isolated groups? What was the role of the military? What do we know about individual acts of opposition and resistance?
Isolated groups, i would say, very.... very isolated from one another. The military being no different than it's civilian counterparts & from what i understand didn't get on board with resisting Hitler's form of Naziism until it was to late in the game. After 1942 IIRC?

Individual acts. Non-violent, Sophie Scholl and her brother Hans White Rose group. Violent means, Clas von Stauffenberg and Johann Georg Elser as being the most remarkable in my mind.

Which was the most remarkable action of the German resistance in your opinion? When did it come closest to success? Does the German resistance despite its failure have a meaning even today?
The July 20 bomb plot was the closet "a" (not "The") resistance group ever came to achieving success in ridding Germany of Hitler.
 

Grimald

Ad Honorem
Nov 2011
5,908
Hercynian Forest
1. Too many people had vested interests in what the Nazis did: many men rose to power or wealth via the Nazis. Many owed their position to them.
This is a factor many people underestimate. In 1933 or 1938, people actually lived in the present, not in the past. They were living their lives and were willing to make a career. They did not know what was to come; the future was open. They could either go with the mainstream and succeed, or oppose and fall back. There were opportunities, and they took them, because they thought that life was short and they only had one. They made compromises in order to succeed.

If we are honest, everybody who makes a career will have to make compromises, also moral ones - just maybe not to the extent that was required in the 1930s in Germany. Then again, the opportunities were bigger. Which man with an only average talent would not be happy if he was made university professor, or if he could make millions? His Jewish colleague would anyway be removed, even if he himself would not take his position.