Hitler and the Nazis: Evil on Trial (2024) s01e02 Episode Script

The Third Reich Rises

In August 1934,
William L. Shirer was briefly in Paris,
working for a news service,
and there was a lot going on in Paris,
but he really wanted to be in Berlin.
He got a call from an editor
with the Universal News Service,
and they were looking
for somebody who could speak German
and could be their new man in Berlin.
So he leaves Paris,
and he and Tess, his wife,
take the train to Berlin.
We arrived at the Friedrichstraße Bahnhof
at ten this evening.
Our introduction to Hitler's Third Reich
was probably typical.
All he had been reading about
were events going on in Germany.
Hitler coming to power,
what's gonna happen there.
He thinks it's very ominous, and he thinks
if you're a foreign correspondent,
this is the place to be.
The first persons to greet us
on the platform
were two agents of the secret police.
I had expected to meet
the Gestapo sooner or later,
but not quite so soon.
Didn't question him in any great depth,
but they served notice
that they had their eye on him,
so he better be careful.
And thereafter, he was on his guard.
I think it was a wake-up call.
My grandfather was trying to get
what was really happening in Nazi Germany,
and he got his first taste
right at the train station.
And then within about ten days
of arriving in Berlin,
he was sent to the 1934 Nuremberg rally,
which was quite an education.
It's then that he starts to question
how this mass movement came about
and how it captured
the German people so effectively.
I got my first glimpse of Hitler
as he drove by our hotel
to his headquarters.
His face, which was rather flabby,
had no particular expression.
I expected it to be much stronger,
and I wondered what there was
in his almost-modest bearing,
in his rather common look,
that unleashed
such hysterical acclaim in the mob.
They looked up at him
as if he were a messiah.
Adolf Hitler!
Of one thing I became sure.
All of us in the West,
our political leaders
and our newspapers above all,
had underestimated Adolf Hitler
and his domination of this land
and its people.
18 MARCH 1946
have a secret political police.
After the war,
my grandfather came back to Germany
to report on the Nuremberg trials.
The great irony is that Shirer
had been in Nuremberg in 1934
and saw one of the huge Nazi rallies.
And now jump ahead 11 years.
These very same leaders
are in a criminal court,
being charged with war crimes.
Marshal, are the defendants in the dock?
Your Honor, all defendants are present.
Hermann Goering was one
of those in the docket,
and Goering was essentially
Hitler's number two.
Robert Jackson,
the chief American prosecutor
at the Nuremberg trial,
is very much a practical
and fairly politically-minded lawyer.
He's a New Deal Democrat.
During the trial, he engages
in a cross-examination of Hermann Goering.
You are perhaps aware
that you are the only living man
who can expound to us
the true purposes of the Nazi Party
and the inner workings of its leadership.
I am perfectly aware of that.
You, from the very beginning,
together with those
who were associated with you,
intended to overthrow,
and later did overthrow,
the Weimar Republic.
That was, as far as I am concerned,
my firm intention.
The new era
in the National Socialist movement
commences with Hitler's parole
from prison in December 1924.
With the return of its leader,
the party took up
its fight for power once again.
Hitler comes out of prison into a Germany
which is really politically
much less favorable terrain for him
than it had been
in the crisis year of 1923.
Hitler was really a crisis politician.
He needed a crisis
to be able to get oxygen.
By late 1924, when he comes out,
things have stabilized,
the economy is doing better,
the political system is settling down.
Between 1924 and 1929,
this period is often described
as the Golden Age of the Weimar Republic.
The good life slips into view,
even if it isn't quite reachable
for the majority of people.
The Weimar Republic was
a progressive liberal democracy.
We have relative political stability.
We also have a thriving cultural sphere.
Filmmakers, cabaret.
We think about abstract
and expressionist artists,
the Bauhaus architectural movement.
Germany was becoming more accepted
in the international arena,
so she wasn't a pariah anymore.
And so there's this quite liberating
and modernizing aspect to the 1920s.
Women's legs came
into the open for the first time,
but their heads stayed undercover.
Women were able to vote
for the first time.
There are sex reform movements
with individuals like Magnus Hirschfeld,
who did studies about homosexuality
and was conducting
some of the first transgender surgeries
in the Weimar Republic.
And so you see
all of this dynamism emerging.
But on the other hand,
the Nazi Party, Hitler in particular,
recognizes that there are
so many German citizens
that are distrustful
of this fledgling democracy
that is supposed to be
this new beacon of hope,
but it rather is a beacon
of disillusionment for many.
Outside of Berlin,
large numbers of Germans
are living in small communities,
rural communities,
where the artistic experimentation,
the innovation, the sexual experimentation
of Weimar Berlin
is utterly foreign to them,
and indeed,
they are somewhat hostile to it.
It's a group of people who feel shunned.
So if we want to make
a contemporary analogy,
we can see
the forgotten people in America.
There is a sense that the system
has dealt them a bad hand.
And Hitler taps
into a fundamental disillusionment
with the Weimar Republic,
and this is a concept
that he will return to repeatedly,
even after he is in power.
And the army of unemployed starts to grow.
One, two, three million, four million,
five million, six million, seven million!
One of the lessons that Hitler learned
from the failure
of the Beer Hall Putsch in 1923
was that you could not overthrow
the Weimar Republic by direct force.
So he decided to focus,
when he was released,
on gaining electoral support.
It was a two-pronged approach
to seize power in Germany,
through violence
and through the ballot box.
The Nazi leader promised the German people
a way out of their misery.
He was rescuing them
from the political chaos and impotence
of the Weimar Republic.
A Nazi government, he declared,
would refuse to pay reparations.
In fact, it would tear up
the Versailles Treaty,
and, Hitler promised,
it would put business back on its feet
and see that every German had a job.
Millions of confused, desperate Germans
were deceived by this propaganda.
Joseph Goebbels is the man
who was completely in charge
of putting out this message,
and he really enters history
in a big way in 1926
when Hitler sends him to Berlin
to be the Nazi Party boss for Berlin.
What the Nazi Party did
under the influence of Joseph Goebbels
was to project an image
of ceaseless activism.
He does this so well
that eventually Hitler names him
to be the party's
nationwide propaganda chief.
Joseph Goebbels was the wily, glib,
club-footed minister of propaganda.
Most of the men around Hitler
couldn't stand him.
He was too devious even for them.
But Hitler, to whom he was utterly loyal,
appreciated his devotion, his talents,
and his ability to get things done.
Goebbels had a few key insights,
which he was able
to turn into very effective propaganda.
He uses the storm troopers
to go out and commit violence,
beat up communists
and other political opponents,
which is going to attract headlines,
and it does attract the headlines.
People were pleased to see,
"At least someone's doing something
to keep those communists,
those Reds, in order."
And here, Goebbels turns out
to be an instinctive advertising genius,
and he understood
that all media is good media,
all coverage is good coverage,
even if it is hostile coverage
in the liberal or left-wing press.
As he said repeatedly in his diary,
"The main thing
is they're talking about us."
Joseph Goebbels understood early on
that in order for the Nazi Party
to utilize and harness Hitler's strength,
the public image of Hitler
needed to be massaged.
After 1924,
in order to appeal to more voters,
Hitler spends a considerable effort
on crafting his own image
as Germany's future leader,
as the savior of the German nation.
He would get his photographer,
Heinrich Hoffmann, to photograph him
making various gestures and various poses.
And he would really tweak the gestures
so that they were conveying
exactly what he wanted to convey.
He was really conscious of himself
as playing a role.
Hoffmann's photographs show
that it's all calculated.
Hitler began,
with the assistance of Goebbels,
to choreograph his speeches.
So the typical Nazi event
in a beer hall or in a meeting hall,
you would see everybody gathered,
and they'd wait.
And he'd be half an hour late,
building up the expectation.
And then finally, he would come in
to cheers and massive applause.
And he'd stand there
and wouldn't say anything.
And once he'd got them all listening,
start speaking very slowly.
He'd then get going.
And build the whole thing up
to a massive climax.
He'd be drenched in sweat,
making violent gestures.
The future of the German people
lies with us alone!
And then there's overwhelming cheers
and shouts of "Sieg Heil."
It was very powerful.
He'd have the whole audience
eating out of his hand by the end,
and there's no other politician in Germany
who can even come close to that.
Joseph Goebbels was actually the engineer
of what we would now call the Hitler myth.
This is the idea
that Germany needed a savior.
Goebbels created an image of Hitler
that was larger than the man himself.
Rather than promoting the Nazi Party
and the party program,
he elevates Hitler as the answer.
The man is the answer
to Germany's problems,
not the man's platform.
But the rise and triumph
of Nazism was not inevitable.
Hitler had been leader
of the Nazi Party for some time.
He was recognized as a great speaker,
and yet, he and his party scored
less than 3% of the national vote
in 1928 general Reichstag election.
Hitler wasn't preordained
as Germany's dictator.
There are many larger, wider forces
that bring him to power.
When the stock market crashes
in the United States in October 1929,
it causes a global depression.
The depression is particularly severe
in Germany.
A significant part of the German economy
is backed by loans
from American investors
and American banks.
After the Wall Street crash,
they withdraw their loans from Germany,
triggering a major economic crisis.
Mass unemployment,
companies going bust, banks failing.
All of this seemed
to be the last straw to many people.
It is when people don't have
a means to fend for themselves
and their own family,
they drift to the fringes,
to both the Nazi Party
and the Communist Party.
What Hitler and the Nazis do
is quite clever though.
They decide
they're gonna go in at low levels
and infiltrate
on this local, really grassroots basis.
They send their people to organize
and to get involved in community groups,
even things like local clubs,
citizen groups, choral societies.
May he feed the British with his "Times"
The Nazis have a message
which is anti-immigrant, anti-globalist,
highly nationalist, highly populist.
And it's starting to resonate,
for the most part
in Protestant rural areas.
Farms were going bankrupt at that time
because of imports of food.
With no depression,
there would have been
no Nazi electoral success.
The Nazis projected youth,
vigor, determination,
and so people turned to them
in large numbers.
In the Reichstag elections
of September 1930,
the Nazis score now, for the first time,
a spectacular election success.
Their vote climbs
to 18% of the national vote.
And from that moment on,
the Nazis really have moved
to the center stage of German politics.
The Leader has the floor.
A great era
has dawned.
And we are not only the witnesses to it,
but the creators of it.
There were lots of first-time voters,
and they voted for the Nazis,
young people and women in particular.
Previously, women had not voted
as much as men.
Hitler is attested to have had
some sort of magnetic effect
on German women.
To what extent this magnetism
was primarily physical or sexual,
I have my doubts, to be honest.
I think it was a mixture
of an infatuation
with Hitler's paternalism and power.
Hitler never has an official girlfriend,
an official partner, an official spouse,
because part of his propagandistic message
is that he has no time
for a regular marriage,
that he is married to the German nation.
But in 1931, rumors abound
about his relationship
to his niece Geli Raubal.
Geli Raubal,
the 23-year-old daughter of his sister,
was 19 years younger than Hitler.
Hitler wanted her to be an opera singer
and gave her voice lessons,
and for a time in Munich,
they lived together.
Speculation was rife in the press
whether Hitler had
had a sexual relationship with his niece.
It seems that the relationship
was a very tormented one.
Hitler was very domineering
and wanted Geli to appear in certain ways
and act in certain ways.
She seems to have felt
that he was dominating her
and ruining her life, and had trapped her
in a role she didn't want to be in.
And where this ultimately led to
is that she committed suicide
by shooting herself with Hitler's pistol
in Hitler's own apartment in Munich.
The press is very vibrant
in Weimar Germany,
so this is all over the news.
It's hard to imagine a more lurid scandal
really hitting Hitler
at this critical time.
But did Geli Raubal's suicide
dent Hitler's popularity
among German voters?
No, it did not.
Hitler was riding a wave of popularity
because his policies coincided
with the nationalist aspirations
of the German people.
The Nazi Party was going from strength
to strength in the elections of 1932,
the year after Geli Raubal's suicide.
Early 1932,
President Hindenburg's term of office
came to an end.
And so he stood for re-election.
By this time, he was in his eighties,
and Hitler stood against him.
Hindenburg belonged to the past, he said.
MARCH 1932
Hitler projected himself
as young, vigorous, and modern.
The 1932 campaign was called
"The Leader over Germany."
Hitler crisscrossed Germany by airplane
to reach as many people as possible.
Other politicians at the time in Germany
wouldn't have used an airplane.
The Nazis embraced
all kinds of modern technologies,
and they begin using
sound amplifying techniques.
That allows Hitler to reach more people
with this own voice.
Economically, the three parties,
Center, Social Democracy, and Communism,
quickly brought the German nation down.
If you look at all the posters
which they stick up
on advertising columns and town walls,
the Nazi use of slogans
was very effective.
You reach so many more people
if you simply give them
a simple visual message,
such as a picture of Hitler.
Hindenburg has been re-elected
president of the Reich.
Germany breathes a sign of relief.
The whole world breathes a sigh of relief.
Hindenburg was re-elected
with a 53% majority.
Hitler's bid for the big prize failed.
But were there not other paths
to political power?
Hitler pondered the question
as the year 1932 faded out.
One important thing that happens
is that the Nazis become,
for the first time,
the largest party in the Reichstag,
by far the largest party.
The Nazis actually get the most votes
that they will ever get
in a free election,
just below 38% of the vote.
However, the Nazis
still can't form a government
because to become chancellor
under the constitution,
the president has to ask somebody
to be chancellor,
and President von Hindenburg
flat-out refuses
to name Hitler chancellor.
Hindenburg is a field marshal in the army.
He's a Prussian aristocrat.
Personally, he finds Hitler
quite distasteful.
He dismisses him
as the "Austrian Corporal,"
and something of an upstart.
So Hindenburg really has
nothing but contempt for Hitler.
By the end of 1932,
German democracy,
the Weimar Republic, is in paralysis.
The left and the right and the extremes
are blocking each other.
The governing coalition
constantly falls apart.
In 1932, we have
three different chancellors,
or three times that the government fails.
The most historically significant
is Franz von Papen.
Franz von Papen realizes that he does not
have the backing of really anyone,
except for Hindenburg, the president.
What is more, is that because
of the polarization of German society,
where communists and Nazi brownshirts
are clashing in the streets,
where civil war seems
to be a real possibility,
Papen knows the only man
on the political right
that can control
the brown-shirted mobs is Hitler.
The Nazi movement might have melted away,
and Hitler would be nothing
but a footnote in history
if Franz von Papen had not come up
with the idea
of forming an alliance with Hitler,
to bring Hitler into government,
with Papen as chancellor,
and to sell this to Hindenburg.
Von Papen was part of this group
of conservative politicians
who wanted to overthrow Weimar democracy,
to get rid of the Communists
and the Socialists,
to really create
an authoritarian government
dominated by conservatives.
Von Papen's motivation
to bring Hitler into government
was to co-opt the Nazis.
He thought that bringing Hitler
into a coalition government
would tame the Nazis.
But von Papen
was completely out of his depth.
Hitler dug in his heels.
He refused to enter
any coalition government
unless he would be appointed chancellor.
Eventually, von Papen and Hitler agree
that Hitler will be chancellor
of a coalition government,
in which the Nazis are in a minority.
Von Papen hopes that this calculation
will convince Hindenburg,
who has been reluctant
to appoint Hitler Reich chancellor,
to give the final yes.
President von Hindenburg grudgingly agrees
to create an administration
with Hitler as chancellor
and Papen as vice-chancellor.
Many historians thought that Hindenburg
had lost his marbles because he was old,
but for Hindenburg,
a far-right government was preferable
to any involvement of the political left.
And it is this common ground
between the traditional right
and the new far right
that helps bring the Nazis into power.
Hitler and the Nazis
were not elected into power.
They were handed power
by traditional elites.
They created a cabinet
on January 30th, 1933,
with Hitler as chancellor
and just two other Nazis in the cabinet.
When the deal was concluded,
Papen notoriously said,
"We've got Hitler into a corner."
"We'll make him do what we want."
There's never been such a misjudgment
in the whole of history.
18 JUNE 1946
At this time, did you think
that Hitler personally,
and that Hitler's aims
and intentions and personality,
were a good thing for Germany
to have as chancellor?
Perfectly simple question.
I want a straight answer.
Did you think it was a good thing
to have Hitler, as you knew him then,
as chancellor of Germany?
To that, I can say only
that the coalition which I formed
on behalf of the Reich President
was a forced solution.
There was no question
as to whether it was good or bad.
We had to accept it.
January 30, 1933.
Hitler is named chancellor.
And in a torchlight parade,
his followers pay pagan homage
to the undisputed master of Germany.
Storm troopers and the SS
parade through the streets of Berlin,
carrying torches,
singing nationalist songs.
No one who was in Berlin at that time
and saw it would ever forget it.
There is a picture showing Hitler
standing next to Hindenburg
on January 30th, 1933.
What is going on in Hitler's mind?
Hitler doesn't know how exactly
he and the Nazi Party
will consolidate power,
but one thing is sure for him,
and that is never to leave
the Reich chancellery again,
never to surrender power again.
The principles
of the authoritarian government
which you set up
required, as I understand you,
that there be tolerated
no opposition political parties
which might defeat or obstruct
the policy of the Nazi Party.
You have understood this quite correctly.
We had had enough opposition by then.
It was now time to stop engaging
in opposition and finally build up.
After you came to power,
you regarded as necessary,
in order to maintain power,
that you suppress all opposition parties?
That is correct
We found it necessary not to permit
any more opposition, yes.
Hitler, as a very shrewd
technician of power,
understood that to preserve his own power,
it would be necessary
to eliminate any organization
that could possibly someday
be a seedbed of opposition.
Above all, everyone must understand
that there is no life without law,
and that there is no law without power.
I have set myself a goal,
namely to sweep the 30 parties
out of Germany!
They set about destroying
first the Communist Party,
then the Socialist Party,
then all of the other political parties,
and the SA is the instrument
they used for it.
The SA, they kidnapped
Communist officials.
They kidnapped
Social Democratic Party activists.
They beat them, they torture them,
some cases, they murder them,
and they drive them either into exile
or into retiring from politics
for fear for their lives.
With this kind of police crackdown,
Hitler creates a situation
where there is civil war-like strife
that allows him to claim
that he is the only man
who acts in the name of law and order,
at the same time
that he is constantly feeding the flames.
27 FEBRUARY 1933
On the night of February 27th,
the German parliament building in Berlin,
the Reichstag, suddenly caught fire.
The updraft into the dome
pulled the fire up.
Soon, a huge blaze was raging.
There was one person arrested
at the scene of the fire.
He was a 24-year-old Dutchman,
a journeyman stonemason
named Marinus van der Lubbe.
Marinus van der Lubbe
was a young anarchist.
He tried to set fire
to a number of public buildings,
but failed completely.
Struck it lucky with the Reichstag.
But the question that has remained
ever since for 90 years is,
was van der Lubbe
a sole culprit, so to speak?
Did he set the fire by himself,
or was he an instrument
in someone else's conspiracy?
And if so, whose conspiracy
was he an instrument in?
Goering and Hitler rushed
to the site of the Reichstag fire,
and Hitler starts screaming,
"This must have been
the work of the communists."
Marinus van der Lubbe was somebody
that the Nazis could and did
paint propagandistically
as an agent of communists.
The Communists, for their part,
claimed that the Nazis
had started the fire themselves
in order to seize power.
Marinus van der Lubbe was put on trial.
Charged with setting fire
to the Berlin Reichstag building,
hands manacled after eight days
before the court,
is Marinus van der Lubbe.
The case has stirred up controversy
all over the world.
Van der Lubbe, communist or Nazi agent?
The world awaits the answer.
Why would the Nazis choose
a non-German non-communist
like van der Lubbe to be the fall guy?
Why burn down the Reichstag?
I think there's no convincing evidence
that it was a Nazi plot.
However, the most recent research
from historians
came to light in the 1990s.
There was physical evidence found
which pointed to the use
of some kind of petrochemical accelerant.
Marinus van der Lubbe did not have
any kind of accelerant with him.
I think it does suggest
that someone else had to be involved.
There's been a lot of speculation
about the whodunit.
Who set fire on the Reichstag?
I find this debate of little consequence.
What matters is what the Nazis do
with the fact that fire
has been set to the Reichstag.
Hitler persuaded Hindenburg
to introduce a suspension
of civil liberties by decree
on February 28th
in order to stop the possibility
of a socialist-communist revolution.
The Reichstag fire is the moment
when the Nazis seize the opportunity
to set aside all civil rights in Germany.
The Reichstag Fire Decree basically says
that they have the power
to put people in jail
without any kind of judicial oversight,
that people no longer have
a freedom of speech or assembly.
The Reichstag Fire Decree is one
of the founding texts of Nazi terror.
And this is the first fundamental step
in the creation of a durable dictatorship
in Nazi Germany.
Just a few weeks after the Reichstag fire,
Hitler presents the parliament
with a piece of legislation
that invites them
to vote themselves out of existence.
The Enabling Act gives
the Reichstag's lawmaking powers
to Hitler's administration
for a term of four years.
So now he has in his hands
the whole lawmaking power
of the German Parliament.
Because he needs a two-thirds majority,
he casts the Socialists and the Communists
as the main enemy.
When the parliament meets
on March 23rd,
the Communist deputies
are prevented from attending.
It's an atmosphere
of terrifying intimidation.
The burning of the Reichstag Building,
one unsuccessful attempt
within a large-scale operation,
is only a taste
of what Europe would have to expect
from a triumph of this demonical doctrine.
Hitler was citing
the attack on the parliament building
as the prime piece of evidence
that the only way to stave off
a communist revolution in Germany
would be to outfit him
with ultimate power.
And the parliament complies.
The Reich Government views
a further session of the Reichstag
as an impossibility.
Gentlemen, may you now decide
for yourselves between peace and war!
I had thought that all men and women
of the Western world
valued personal freedom
above all else in life.
When I came to live and work in Berlin
soon after Hitler came to power,
to my surprise,
I found that few Germans seemed to mind
that their individual liberties
had been taken away,
and they seemed strangely unaware
how Hitler was tricking them.
William Shirer is part
of that generation of newshounds
who traveled the world and reported back
to the United States what was happening.
He was puzzled. That was part
of the fascination that led him
eventually to write
Rise and Fall of the Third Reich.
This whole notion that there was
a collective madness in Germany,
and he couldn't understand it.
Shirer was contemptuous of Hitler,
but he was nonetheless fascinated
by what they were doing
and how Hitler in particular
was able to hoodwink people.
My grandfather would sit there
at the dinner table,
and he made sure to tell us,
"What happened there can happen here,
and you have to be vigilant."
"You cannot be complacent."
The worst thing to him was complacency.
In the wake of the Reichstag fire,
tens of thousands
of real or suspected political opponents
of the Nazis are arrested.
So many people are arrested
that there is not enough space
in existing prisons,
and a new site,
which becomes synonymous with Nazi terror,
is being created.
March 1933.
The Nazis open the first
purpose-built concentration camp,
which opens in the town of Dachau,
which is just outside of Munich.
It's Heinrich Himmler who opens Dachau.
That comes under his purview
as head of the SS.
The SS started off
as just a bodyguard force
for Nazi politicians.
Under the authority of Himmler,
it eventually becomes
a huge, powerful bureaucracy
that controls the police,
the concentration camps,
and all of the institutions
of Nazi persecution.
If you had met Himmler in person,
you wouldn't have been
overly impressed by him.
He was quiet, bespectacled, and pedantic.
It's almost ironic
that so many of the Nazi leaders,
if you think of Hitler, Goering,
Himmler, and Goebbels,
not one of them looked
like the classic Nazi ideal of an Aryan.
No one was blond or particularly athletic,
but Himmler is extremely obedient
to Hitler.
He is also driven by ambition,
and he is ruthless.
There's nothing secret
about these early camps,
about Dachau or the camps that followed,
like Oranienburg, north of Berlin.
Newspapers report
the opening of concentration camps.
There's even newsreel footage.
Line up! Get to work!
Prisoners have been instructed
by the guards to tell reporters
that they are being treated well,
that they get enough food.
Nazi propaganda presents
a sanitized version
of the concentration camps
to a German
and to an international public.
These are not the same as the death camps
in the Second World War.
Most of the prisoners
of the early concentration camps
are released after a few months.
Himmler talks often about them
as re-education camps,
where prisoners will be turned
to good German national comrades.
This is far from the reality.
The reality is that many
of these political opponents
were tortured, they were murdered.
There was no real re-education occurring.
There was only a sense
of basically silencing these individuals.
At this point,
Jews really do not constitute
a very large component of people
interned in these concentration camps,
unless they were part
of a political organization,
trade unions, and so on and so forth.
But remember, this is a government
that is openly anti-Semitic.
If you go back
to Hitler's political memoir Mein Kampf,
the Jews occupy a particular place
in the Nazi racial imagination.
On the one hand, they are inferior,
but for the Nazis
and for Hitler in particular,
the Jews are particularly powerful.
They're the behind-the-scenes forces
manipulating communism on the one hand
and global capitalism on the other hand.
So in this sense, the Jews are
simultaneously subhuman and superhuman.
This is, of course, absurd.
But things are bad for Jews in Germany
beginning in 1933.
Hitler and the Nazis begin making life
very difficult for Jews economically.
Goebbels orders a nationwide boycott
of Jewish businesses on April 1st, 1933.
In one bold and grandiose sweep,
we have driven the country's enemies
to the wall.
At ten o'clock this morning,
the boycott began!
Suddenly, in front of any business
that was run or owned by somebody
that the Nazis identified as Jewish,
you would have several storm troopers
blocking their way.
They chanted things like,
"Germans defend yourselves.
Don't buy from Jews."
Nazi anti-Semitic propaganda,
anti-Jewish propaganda,
did not necessarily meet
a fertile breeding ground
among the German people
because for the German people,
the extremist ideology
of Nazi anti-Semitism
wasn't of primary importance.
Some of the more violent claims
of Nazi propaganda
did not go down
as successfully as Goebbels planned.
The boycott was, in fact,
a rather embarrassing failure
for the regime
despite the intimidation of the SA,
and the regime gave up on it
and backed away from it the next day.
What is clear
is that this massive level of violence
from the SA, the storm troopers,
left people uneasy.
The storm troopers had made themselves
unpopular with Germans
in the year that had gone by
for their increasingly lawless violence,
and Hitler positioned himself
as the champion of law and order.
In the middle of 1933,
there were millions of storm troopers.
It's an enormous, uniformed,
violent, thuggish organization.
The young men coming into the SA
tend to be from disadvantaged backgrounds.
It was difficult being a young person
in the Weimar Republic.
It was very competitive to get places
in universities and schools
and apprenticeships, certainly jobs.
And so there is a generation of young men
that has fallen through the cracks,
and many of them end up in the SA.
Ernst Röhm, the leader of the SA,
sees himself as a political soldier.
Röhm was completely loyal
to Hitler on a personal level.
He was gay,
didn't make much of a secret of it.
Hitler didn't care at all about this.
He was perfectly fine with Röhm being gay.
He said on one occasion,
"The SA is not a finishing school
for upper-class girls,"
which was his way of saying
these are tough fighters.
They do what they do,
but the point is that they are there
to be tough fighters.
Röhm and his SA, his brownshirts,
were absolutely vital in trying
to establish Nazi rule by force.
After Nazi seizure of power,
Röhm was looking around
for some kind of new role for his SA.
There were no opponents to fight anymore.
There were no clashes with other parties,
they had been closed down.
Röhm is increasingly frustrated
with his place in the Nazi regime.
He wants the SA to become
the core of a real people's army
and a real National Socialist army.
Not an army
of monocled, aristocratic officers.
This was a serious threat
because Germany's army
was restricted to 100,000 men max
by the Treaty of Versailles.
The army objected very strongly
and began to threaten Hitler
with a military coup d'état.
As we move into 1934,
the rivalry between the SA and the army
is becoming a huge headache for Hitler.
Hitler is confronted with a choice.
"I can have the army,
or I can have the SA."
And if the goal is this long-term plan
to wage aggressive war,
it's better to have a professional army
than it is to have
a bunch of drunken thugs
with brass knuckles and pistols.
He knows he needs to limit Röhm's power
if he's gonna maintain support
from the regular army.
Hermann Goering and Heinrich Himmler
have started to make
an alliance at this time.
This is typical of relations within
the upper echelons of the Nazi regime.
There was a lot of petty jealousy,
a lot of feuds,
a lot of jockeying for position.
And both Goering and Himmler
are perceiving the SA as a threat.
And so Goering and Himmler together,
ultimately, really push Hitler
in the direction of lashing out
against Röhm and the SA.
Finally, on June 30th,
Hitler and the SS now take
decisive, drastic action
all over Germany.
In Munich and in Berlin,
a number of prominent SA leaders
are rounded up,
and many of them are summarily shot.
This, as it sounds,
is a very traumatic and bloody affair
known as the Night of the Long Knives.
The wave of violence spread much further
than the storm trooper leadership.
Hitler chose the opportunity
to pay off some old scores.
He was always a man of violence
violent visceral hatred against people
whom he conceived of as his opponents.
Vice Chancellor Franz von Papen
is put under house arrest.
This is the moment when von Papen's days
as a kind of master manipulator
behind the scenes
come to a screeching halt.
It becomes very clear to him
that if he tries
to manipulate Hitler in any way,
that he'll be killed.
Hitler himself travels
to a town outside of Munich,
a place called Bad Wiessee,
where Ernst Röhm and the SA leaders
were meeting.
Hitler stormed through the hotel,
pistol in hand.
The SS then burst into their rooms
in the hotel,
shouting that there'd been
an attempted coup.
Hitler himself tells Röhm
that he is guilty of treason.
They were arrested,
protesting their innocence
and their allegiance to Hitler.
They'd no idea what was going on.
Ernst Röhm is taken to Stadelheim Prison
in Munich.
What must have gone on in Hitler's mind?
He owed so much of his career,
so much of his success, to Röhm.
Röhm is given a pistol,
and he is told, "You know what to do."
Hitler said he should shoot himself,
or be shot.
For Röhm, of course,
this must have been an incredible shock.
He's been Hitler's first soldier
for years.
He's led this movement which has fought
Hitler's battles for years.
Röhm refuses to shoot himself.
When the SS came back into his cell
Röhm bared his chest,
and he was shot by the SS.
The Night of the Long Knives
is a turning point
in the history of Nazi Germany.
Around 100 people were shot.
The Nazis were prepared, as a government,
to murder their political opponents.
Goebbels wheeled out
a propaganda offensive
that said that Röhm
had been planning to take over.
He said the storm troopers were degenerate
because Röhm was a homosexual,
and there were various others
in the storm trooper leadership
who were exposed by Goebbels
as homosexuals.
As long as they were useful to him,
Hitler was quite fine
with their homosexuality.
As soon as they weren't useful to him,
then he was shocked.
What mattered to him
was not personal loyalty.
The only thing that mattered to Hitler
was to secure his own political survival
and the survival of the Nazi regime.
In that hour, I was responsible
for the fate of the German nation,
and was thus the Supreme Justice
of the German people!
After that, the storm troopers were
a much diminished, much less powerful,
much less important body.
And by presenting himself
as being decisive,
brutal, but decisive,
Hitler tapped into this Hitler myth,
into this leadership myth,
of being the kind of person
who will place himself above politics
by doing what's right for Germany,
by maintaining order,
establishing peace, moving on.
In this context,
the Nuremberg party rally of 1934 is held.
The Nuremberg rallies
had begun in the mid-'20s
as an annual Nazi ritual
to gather the faithful
and renew their enthusiasm
for the political task of the movement.
Triumph of the Will was the film
that Leni Riefenstahl made
of the 1934 Nuremberg party rally.
Leni Riefenstahl had started off
as a film actress,
and then she moved into directing.
Hitler was very much a fan,
and he was very enthusiastic
about the idea of having her make
a very elaborate film
about the Nuremberg party rally.
Lots has been written
about Nazi propaganda,
about how Goebbels was able
to brainwash the masses.
But Triumph of the Will
gave the rest of the world
a window into what this might look like.
Triumph of the Will opens
with Hitler flying above the clouds
and descending to Nuremberg,
rather like Christ descends
as the Son of God on to humanity.
Riefenstahl's film is perhaps
the greatest example of the Hitler myth.
Hitler as the savior of the German nation.
And the 1934 Nuremberg rally comes
at a particularly interesting
and important moment
because it's literally just weeks
after Night of the Long Knives.
So it's taking place in
a really transformed political atmosphere
and a still somewhat tense
political atmosphere.
September 9th.
Hitler faced his SA storm troopers
for the first time since the bloody purge.
SA and SS men
a few months ago,
a dark shadow fell across our movement.
In a harangue to 50,000 of them,
he absolved them from blame
in what he called the Röhm Revolt.
There was considerable tension
in the stadium,
and I noticed Hitler's own SS bodyguard
was drawn up in force in front of him,
separating him
from the mass of brownshirts.
We wondered if one
of the 50,000 brownshirts
wouldn't pull a revolver,
but not one did.
Those who believe
that a crack has appeared
in our movement are mistaken.
It stands as firm as this stone here!
-Hail Victory!
Hitler's communication
with his audiences was uncanny,
holding them completely in his spell.
In such a state, it seemed to me,
they easily believed anything he said,
even the most foolish nonsense.
Adolf Hitler had come a long way
from his hungry days as a tramp in Vienna.
The 1934 Nuremberg party rally
marks the completion
of the Nazi consolidation
of power in Germany.
Long live the National Socialist movement!
Long live Germany!
Hitler, of course, is called a madman.
He's called all sorts of extreme things.
But if you look
at the steps that he takes,
almost like chess pieces on a board,
he was very clever
and actually very successful.
Hitler has eliminated political enemies,
murdered the SA leadership.
In August 1934,
Reich President von Hindenburg dies,
and almost immediately,
Hitler declares himself head of state,
head of government.
Hitler was now supreme leader,
known now as "the leader," der Führer.
And this is the beginning
of the Nazi regime,
the so-called Third Reich.
Hitler adopted the name the Third Reich
because he wanted to echo
the greatness of German history.
The First Reich, the Holy Roman Empire,
when Germany dominated so much of Europe.
The Second Reich,
created by Bismarck and Kaiser Wilhelm I.
Of course, World War I intervened
and destroyed that,
and Hitler wanted to recreate Germany
as the Third Reich.
This third great empire
that was going to dominate all of Europe
for a thousand years.
Nuremberg was
the best possible introduction
to the nightmarish world
Adolf Hitler was beginning to create
in his adopted land.
I began to comprehend
it did not matter so much what he said,
but how he said it.
In such an atmosphere,
every lie pronounced
is accepted as high truth itself.
The new Germany would be strong
but peaceful,
wanting only justice and equality.
It was a theme
I would hear the dictator dwell on
dozens of times in the following years.
But it already began
to have a hollow sound for me.
What Hitler really meant,
it would become clear,
to me at least,
was that Germany would keep the peace
while preparing for war.
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