Aristotle Historical Teachings

Why did Hitler lose the Second World War?

How could Hitler whose army had triumphantly strolled down the Avenue des ChampsÉlysées, after only a seven week campaign, lose the Second World War? How could the coordinated combination of his infantry, mechanized forces and air superiority be defeated in battle? How did the German army, who were fanatical believers in Hitler’s dream, surrender to the Allies?

Hitler could have won the Second World War. Dr Andrew Roberts, a British historian and journalist highlights the strategic mistakes of Nazi Germany, which led to their ultimate defeat in 1945.

Inquiry Questions

Is the presented a reliable author, and why?

What were the driving forces for Hitler’s expansion into Russia?

How does Roberts define Hitler? As an ideological driven politician or a cunning military strategist? Provide specific examples of either description presented in the speech.

Explain and provide examples of the conflict between Nazi ideology and the military tactics of the Wehrmacht?

What are the differences and similarities between the SA, SS and Gestapo?

SA EmblemThe SA – De Sturmabteilung: Paramilitary organization

  • The SA was founded in Munich by Hitler in 1921 out of various roughneck elements that had attached themselves to the fledgling Nazi movement, most commonly largely of ex-soldiers, that battled leftists in the streets in the early days of the Weimar Republic
  • SA men were often called “brownshirts” for the colour of their uniforms
  • SA men protected Party meetings, marched in Nazi rallies, and physically assaulted political opponents. Temporarily in disarray after the failure of Hitler’s Munich Putsch in 1923, the SA was reorganized in 1925 and soon resumed its violent ways, intimidating voters in national and local elections
  • From January 1931, it was headed by Ernst Röhm, who harboured radical anti-capitalist notions and dreamed of building the SA into Germany’s main military force
  • During the early days of the Nazi regime, the SA carried out unchecked street violence against Jews and Nazi opponents. But it was eyed with suspicion by the regular army and by the wealthy industrialists, two groups whose support Hitler was trying to secure.
  • On June 30, 1934, the Night of the Long Knives (die Nacht der langen Messer), Hitler, using SS forces, carried out a “Blood Purge” of the SA leadership. Röhm and dozens of SA leaders were summarily executed

SS EmblemThe SS – Schutzstaffel: Disciplined, Elite Racial Force

  •  Schutzstaffel (which means ‘defence force’), was originally created in 1925 by Hitler, to act as his personal bodyguard, however their role expanded in 1929, under the leadership of Heinrich Himmler
  • Under Himmler, who saw the SS as an elite force, the party’s “Praetorian Guard,” he introduced strict educational and physical standards, with all SS personnel selected on the principles of racial purity and unconditional loyalty to the Nazi Party, exemplified by their slogan “My Honour is Loyalty”
  • In the early days of the SS, officer candidates had to prove German ancestry to 1750. They also were required to prove that they had no Jewish ancestors
  • Between 1925 and 1929, the SS was considered merely a battalion of the SA and numbered no more than 280 personnel. On January 6, 1929, Adolf Hitler appointed Heinrich Himmler as the leader of the SS, and by the end of 1932, the SS had 52,000 members.
  • The SS carried out police functions, and it dealt with all internal opponents of the regime. It was responsible for the deportation of people from conquered lands and for the racial polices carried out in these conquered territories. It was involved with the enslavement of foreign labour and the illegal use of prisoners of war. It ran the concentration camps and in later years became the instrument that carreid out Hilter’s racial policy

Flag of Gestapo

Gestapo – Geheime Staatspolizei: Secret state police

  • The Gestapo was responsible for the internal security of the Reich. It was made up of men from the political forces of the various German states, and they were charged to investigate and suppress all anti-state activities.
  • When the Nazis came to power in 1933, Hermann Göring, then Prussian minister of the interior, detached the political and espionage units from the regular Prussian police, filled their ranks with thousands of Nazis, and, on April 26, 1933, reorganized them under his personal command as the Gestapo.
  • Himmler was given command over Göring’s Gestapo in April 1934 and on June 17, 1936, was made German Chief of Police with the title of Reichsführer. Nominally under the Ministry of the Interior, Germany’s police forces now were unified under Himmler as head of both the SS and the Gestapo.
  • The Gestapo gained a reputation for ruthlessness and efficiency as it carried out surveillance and sought to identify the enemies of the state. Its headquarters at Prinz Albrecht Strasse in Berlin, to which all other Gestapo offices reported, was the most feared address in the Reich. Its methods were brutal and it was a key part of the overall terror system that stretched from the streets to the concentration camps.
  • The Gestapo operated without civil restraints. It had the authority of “preventative arrest,” and its actions were not subject to judicial appeal. Thousands of leftists, intellectuals, Jews, trade unionists, political clergy, and homosexuals simply disappeared into concentration camps after being arrested by the Gestapo.
  • In the Nazi state citizens were encouraged to report on each other, and the Gestapo depended very much on denunciations (as German population was 69 million, controlled by 15,000 Gestapo personnel) or reports from irdinary Germans for the bulk of its work
  • By the time the Second World War broke out, the Gestapo employed only 45,000 people, although these people certaintly controlled networks of informers. It was these informers from the general population, ordinary citizens who kept the terror state functioning.

Structure of Nazi Police State.png

Similarities and Differences

The great majority of the German people accepted the Nazi state and authority of Hitler’s leadership. The major aim of propaganda was to reinforce this acceptance and to maintain it. However, because Nazi Germany was a totalitarian state, those who would not accept Nazi rule or who actively opposed the movement had to be dealt with.

The SS were designed to be a elite organisation unlike the SA. Consisting of mostly ex-soldiers from World War One, the SA were seen as thugs and brutes by the common German people. However, the SS dressed in their more elegant black uniforms,looked impressive, and their its behaviour  was impeccable, as strict discipline was enforced unlike the SA. The SS an organisation that actively sought well educated men, university professors, the social elite within the Nazi Party.

The origins of the three groups is distinctly different. Unlike the SA, however, whose origins derived from the nationalist Freikorps of the post – Great War period, the SS (Schutzstaffel) owed its loyalties to Hitler alone and was neither conceived as, nor permitted to become a mass movement. Similarly the Gestapo functioned with the assistance of networks of informers who assisted in generating the terror state.

Despite their inherent differences, the three groups were integral in Hitler’s rise to power, and establishing the totalitarian police state of Nazi Germany.

Inquiry Questions

How did these three groups work in conjunction to create a German police state? Which do you believe was the most effective and why?

Do you believe that the SA presented a considerable threat to Hitler’s leadership and control over Germany?

What does the Nazi symbol mean?

Nazi Flag in Paris

Nazi occipied Paris. Swstika line the street of Paris which fell to Germans just week after Nazis launched at invasion in 1940.

The swastika has an extensive history. It was used at least 5,000 years before Adolf Hitler designed the Nazi flag. The word swastikacomes from the Sanskrit svastika, which means “good fortune”. The motif (a hooked cross) appears to have first been used in Neolithic Eurasia, perhaps representing the movement of the sun through the sky. To this day it is a sacred symbol in Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and Odinism. It is a common sight on temples or houses in India or Indonesia. Swastikas also have an ancient history in Europe, appearing on artifacts from pre-Christian European cultures. A symbol which in its original form represented well-being, was twisted by Hitler to signify fear, of suppression, and extermination.

Prior to the Nazi adoption of the swastika as its flag, it was commonly used throughout the West. Institutions such as the Boy Scouts, Girls’ Club of America, and companies such as Coca-Cola all used it, as a badge of good fortune. Ironically, it was used by American military units during World War One, but it would vanish Hitler’s corruption of the symbol.

The Nazi use of the swastika stems from the work of 19th Century German scholars, notably Heinrich Schliemann, who translating old Indian texts, noticed similarities between their own language and Sanskrit. Connecting the hooked cross, with similar shapes found on pottery in Germany, Schliemann speculated that it was a significant religious symbol of our remote ancestors. Schliemann concluded that Indians and Germans must have had a shared ancestry and imagined a race of white god-like warriors they called Aryans.

When Adolph Hitler, the frustrated artist, was placed in charge of propaganda for the fledgling National Socialist Party in 1920, he realized that the party needed a vivid symbol to distinguish it from rival groups. He sought a design, therefore, that would attract the masses. Hitler selected the swastika as the emblem of racial purity displayed on a red background “to win over the worker”. As a symbol, it became associated with the synonymous with the concept of a racially “pure” state. By the time the Nazis gained control of Germany, the connotations of the swastika had forever changed.

In spite of its fanciful origin the swastika flag was a dramatic one and it achieved exactly what Hitler intended from the first day it was unfurled in public. Anti-Semites and unemployed workers rallied to the banner, and even Nazi opponents were forced to acknowledge that the swastika had a “hypnotic effect.”

Hitler, wrote in Mein Kampf on the creation of the flag:

“I myself, meanwhile, after innumerable attempts, had laid down a final form; a flag with a red background, a white disk, and a black swastika in the middle. After long trials I also found a definite proportion between the size of the flag and the size of the white disk, as well as the shape and thickness of the swastika.”

During the Seventh Reichsparteitag Congress held at Nuremberg in September 1935, Hitler publicly announced that the red, white, and black swastika flag of the Nazi Party would henceforth be the National flag of Germany.

The swastika would become the most recognizable icon of Nazi propaganda, appearing on  on election posters, arm bands, medallions, and badges for military and other organizations. A potent symbol intended to elicit pride among Aryans, the swastika also accelerated the Nazi’s anti-Semitic agenda which included the September 15, 1936, “Law for the Protection of German Blood and Honor.” These laws revoked the Jews’ citizenship in the Reich. Jews could not vote, marry Aryans, or employ “in domestic service, female subjects of German or kindred blood who are under the age of 45 years. Striking terror into Jews, the swastika, as stated by 93-year-old Holocaust survivor Freddie Knoller,  is a symbol that, ‘for the Jewish people… puts a fear into us.”

Inquiry Questions:

Why are flags are important element in defining national identity? Explain with connection to the National Anthem of Germany 1933 to 1945 (The Deutschlandlied and Horst-Wessel Song). 

How does the swastika embody the ideologies of Nazism? Link to specific examples of Nazism, such as National Labour Front, German Youth and Volksgemeinschaft.


Purpose of Blog

This blog is built on the pedagogy of creating a community of learners who inspire, enhance, and act as mentors for each other. The blog aims to assist both teachers and students in engaging in learning material both within and outside the traditional classroom.

Learning material will be added to the blog regularly in the form of inquiry questions. As students, you will become co-constructors of knowledge, helping your peers to understanding complex historical questions and develop the fundamental historical skills of analysis, interpretation, synthesis and justification. As a teacher I will act as your guide, prompting you to think critically and deeply about the issues, events, and problems of the past.