BBC The Nazis A Warning From History (1997) s01e02 Episode Script

Part 2

The Nazis were obsessed with images of order.
In their museums, exhibits like this glass man showed how the perfect human body was ordered into one interlocking whole.
Through their parades and pageants, they sought to show how one individual human being was but a part of the ordered national community.
But in Germany, the Nazis only created an illusion of order.
On January 30th, 1933, Adolf Hitler became Chancellor of Germany.
Chief among those who rejoiced at this were the Nazi Storm Troopers, the party's paramilitary wing led by Hitler's old party comrade, Ernst RÃhm.
(MILITARY BAND PLAYS) (SINGING) In '33, you thought it was the beginning of a new, German, wonderful period.
It was a true, enthusiastic movement in the people, except the people who were, by their hearts, socialists, and were, from the beginning, prosecuted and had to emigrate or went in concentration camps.
One knew of these concentration camps.
We said, "So what? The Communists would have done the same thing.
"This is a revolution.
" First to be imprisoned in this revolution were the Nazis' political opponents, Communists and socialists, who were rounded up and thrown into hastily-built concentration camps.
Hermann GÃring boasted that scores were being settled, all in an atmosphere of chaotic terror, as one Nazi Storm Trooper admitted.
"Everyone is arresting everyone else, "avoiding the prescribed official channels.
"Everyone is threatening everyone else with protective custody.
"Everyone is threatening everyone else with Dachau.
"Every little street-cleaner today feels "he is responsible for matters "which he has never understood.
" Amongst the first to suffer was Josef Felder, a Social Democrat MP.
He was sent to the newly-opened Nazi concentration camp outside Munich, Dachau.
Josef Felder was released from Dachau after 18 months.
The majority of those imprisoned here in 1933 were released after less than a year.
The regime here was brutal.
Beatings and psychological torture were commonplace.
But the Nazi extermination camps were not yet born.
The camps were a tool of oppression, not yet of systematic murder.
In 1933, to many Germans, they were an acceptable part of the Nazi revolution.
The closest is the French Revolution.
To be a French nobleman in the Bastille was not so agreeable, either.
So people said, "This is a revolution.
"It was an astonishing, peaceful revolution, but partly it is a revolution.
" And that sort of thing.
The concentration camps, everybody said, "The English have invented them in South Africa with the Boers.
" You know People couldn't look ahead.
It's impossible for somebody in '33 to look ahead to '45.
You can't.
It was only 12 years, but it seems to be too much to look ahead for 12 years.
But Germans only had to look fewer than 12 weeks into Hitler's chancellorship to see what the status of the Jews would be in the new Nazi state.
On April 1st, 1933, the party organised a boycott of all Jewish shops, which lasted one day.
The Nazis had made the Jews scapegoats for the loss of World War One, and much else besides.
In those early months of the Nazi reign, German Jews also fell victim to the Storm Troopers' violent attacks.
In 1933, the Storm Troopers came and took my father away.
Together with many other Jews in Nuremberg, they were taken to a sports stadium with a lot of grass.
They were made to cut the grass with their teeth by sort of eating the grass.
But I found that out afterwards.
My father never talked about it.
They used to humiliate them to show them that they were the lowest of the low.
Simply to make aa gesture.
Nazi Storm Troopers made other violent gestures.
In 1933, together with sympathetic students, they organised burnings of unsuitable books, particularly those by Jewish authors.
(SINGING) RÃhm wanted his Storm Troopers integrated into the regular German army.
The army was horrified.
Hitler sympathised with the revolutionary zeal of RÃhm and his Storm Troopers, but by the summer of 1934 he knew that their power had to be curbed - and not just curbed to please the army.
RÃhm had made a more dangerous enemy than the army leadership.
Heinrich Himmler, ambitious for power, and still technically working to RÃhm in the Nazi hierarchy, plotted his downfall.
He concocted a story that RÃhm was plotting a coup, and Hitler believed him.
On June 30th, 1934, when RÃhm was on holiday in Bavaria, he was arrested and taken to a nearby prison.
Two days later he was shot.
The armed forces were grateful, glad to see the power of the Storm Troopers moderated.
In gratitude, they volunteered to swear an oath of allegiance to Hitler - the man who, on Hindenburg's death, was not just Germany's Chancellor but also her head of state.
(TROOPS REPEAT) Somebody was reading, and we had to lift our arm, and at the end say, "That's my oath.
" (INTERVIEWER) And how seriously did you take this oath? Very serious.
I mean, a soldier This accompanied my life till the very end.
I mean, er oath is oath.
There's no doubt that I can't break it.
Otherwise I'm meant to commit suicide if I planned something else.
But thisthisthis is very serious, the oath, for a soldier.
With RÃhm dead, Hitler appeared to have restored order.
Revolution on the streets had subsided.
With his hold on power secure, Hitler would come here to relax in the mountains above Berchtesgaden in southern Bavaria.
In 1938, a tea house was built on top of the high Obersalzberg so that Hitler and his guests could enjoy the view.
Hitler's house was lower down the mountain.
A complex of buildings grew up around it.
This was the official guest house.
But all that remains of Hitler's own house, the Berghof, is rubble.
The building was demolished to prevent it becoming a memorial, and quick-growing trees planted to obscure the famous view.
When Hitler stayed here, as well as when he was in Berlin, the Nazi regime revolved around him.
His personality determined the way in which Germany was governed.
His was not the regime of a workaholic.
Hitler was indolent, as those who worked closely for him discovered.
Hitler appeared shortly before lunch, read through the newspaper cuttings of Reich Press Chief Dietrich, and then went in to lunch.
when Hitler stayed at the Obersalzberg, it was even worse.
There he never left his room before two in the afternoon, then he went in to lunch.
He spent most afternoons taking a walk.
In the evenings, straight after dinner, there were films.
In the 12 years of his rule in Germany, Hitler produced the biggest confusion in government that has ever existed in a civilised state.
I've sometimes secured decisions from him - even ones about important matters - without his ever asking to see the relevant files.
He took the view that many things sorted themselves out on their own if one did not interfere.
A different picture of Hitler was projected here at the vast complex of stadiums built in Nuremberg for the party's annual rally.
(ECHO OF MASSED VOICES) What the public saw of Hitler in Nuremberg in the 1930s was a confident and strong leader whose oratory promised a new, dynamic and powerful Germany.
Heil, mein Jugend! Heil, mein Führer! (CHEERING) He was meant to be seen as the all-powerful, all-knowing leader who prevailed over a system of total order, but the contrast between image and reality was a stark one.
Far from it being a very orderly structure of command, in fact it was very disorganised and rather chaotic.
It is really quite a remarkable system, if you can call it a system at all, where there is no collective government, but yet where the head of state actually doesn't spend all his time dictating.
Wochenend und Sonnenschein Und dann mit dir im Wald allein Weiter brauch' ich nichts zum Glücklichsein Wochenend und Sonnenschein! Hitler and the Nazis created a unique and peculiar form of government.
Hitler was surrounded by acolytes who knew that their future depended on pleasing their Führer.
They strove always to be near him, accompanying him on whatever trips took his fancy.
Tief im Wald nur ich und du Der Herrgott drückt ein Auge zu Denn er schenkt uns ja zum Glücklichsein Though Hitler had little interest in regular hours of work or the detail of policies, he had visions of what he wanted for Germany.
As Hitler talked in an endless monologue, ambitious Nazis listened to him closely.
Wochenend und Sonnenschein Und dann mit dir im Wald allein Then, on their own initiative, they tried to think of ways in which his vision could become a reality.
They made up the policy and said they were acting on the will of the Führer.
From the first, Hitler openly said he didn't have detailed policies.
(CHEERING) But Hitler was open in saying what he wanted from the German economy - weapons to build a new German army.
Rearmament became his economic priority.
The Nazis increased the army's budget so much in their first year of power that the army wasn't even able to spend all of it.
The Nazis also promised to rid Germany of unemployment, and they did - mainly through work creation schemes like the autobahn building programme.
But building armaments and autobahns could only be a short-term solution to Germany's economic problems.
It would take time for these inflationary pressures to be felt.
And so, for the moment, everything looked rosy, especially when Hitler ordered troops into the demilitarised portion of Germany, the Rhineland.
There was little international protest.
Germans saw all this as one more sign that they were regaining self-respect.
Nazis organised pageants to entertain, like the Nacht der Amazonen, the Night of the Amazons, held in Munich in the 1930s, celebrations in which only those the Nazis considered racially pure could participate.
But if you didn't fit the Nazi image of the perfect German, life was very different.
Here in Munich, the same city where the Night of the Amazons was held, the Nazis demolished one of the biggest synagogues in Germany.
They said they wanted the space for a car park.
The Jews were excluded from German life.
The 1935 Nuremberg Laws outlawed marriage between Jews and other Germans and declared that Jews were not German citizens.
Other discrimination followed.
(INTERVIEWER) Wasn't it a problem for you that you were working in a system that allowed Jews to be pushed out of this? Out of their position.
To lose their wealth, their property.
Surely this was a great injustice.
How did you feel about that? Anti-Semitic propaganda exaggerated the number of Jews in professions like the law or the theatre.
Nazis never gave the reason why Jews were concentrated in some walks of life - that the Jews had been banned from other careers for hundreds of years.
Thousands of Jews emigrated from Germany during the 1930s, realising that there could never be a safe place for them in German society for as long as the Nazis ruled.
Those who remained always risked the attentions of the secret state police, the infamous Gestapo.
Here in the town of Würzburg lies a clue to how the Gestapo operated under the Nazis.
Almost all Gestapo files were burnt by the Nazis as the Allies entered Germany, but in Würzburg, American soldiers prevented their destruction.
Only recently have the files been studied, and a surprising picture emerges of how the Gestapo functioned.
To start with, far from there being a Gestapo officer on every street corner, there were only 28 secret police officials for Würzburg's nearly one million people.
I think the Gestapo could not have operated without the cooperation of the citizens of Germany.
By that, I mean it would really have been structurally impossible for them to do so.
There were simply not enough Gestapo officials to go around.
Somewhere between 80 and 90% of the crimes that were reported to the Gestapo came from ordinary citizens.
The main job for the Gestapo wassorting out the denunciations.
This seems to have been their preoccupation.
(NARRATOR) The citizens of Würzburg didn't so much have to fear the Gestapo as what their neighbours might tell the Gestapo.
Every German was at risk from denunciation.
A woman who lived in this house on the outskirts of Würzburg in 1938 first came to the attention of the Gestapo when she was denounced by a relative.
She was called Ilse Sonja Totzke, and her Gestapo file lies in the Würtzburg archive.
After years of denunciations and Gestapo harassment, she was sent to Ravensbrück concentration camp, where she died.
Her crime was simple.
She didn't fit in.
She avoided her neighbours and had Jewish friends.
She is put under very general surveillance, not by the Gestapo but by the Gestapo asking her neighbours to keep an eye on her.
what happens is that one neighbour after another, for one reason or another, come forward with information.
But all of it adds up to really one thing.
She may be just too unconventional for her own good.
Of course, what this does is that small-town mentality people keep after her.
They keep noticing her.
And it's fuelled again and again by yet another denunciation.
(NARRATOR) The denunciations in her file contain mostly gossip about her - that she is acting suspiciously and has shady friends - but her file contains little that amounts to firm evidence against her.
One denunciation hints that she may be a lesbian.
It says, "Miss Totzke does not seem to have normal predispositions," in red.
It is signed only "Heil Hitler.
" One denunciation bears the signature of a 20-year-old neighbour, Resi Kraus.
"Since March, 1938, "Ilse Sonja Totzke is a resident next door to us in a garden cottage.
"She rarely has visitors.
"Now and then, a woman of about 36 years old comes, "and she is of Jewish appearance.
"She has always been sympathetic "Miss Totzke never responds to the German greeting 'Heil Hitler'.
"To my mind, Miss Totzke is behaving suspiciously.
" We used to think that the population was manipulated and brainwashed from above.
Now what we're beginning to see by looking at the social history of the kind one sees in these Gestapo dossiers is that the system is actually manipulated from below by lots of people for all kinds of reasons, some of them selfish; some of them - fewer - idealistic.
But what we get now is a dramatically different picture of what the system was like.
Ordinary Germans could influence the Gestapo through denunciations, but no major policy could be successfully instituted unless Hitler blessed it.
So for members of the Nazi élite, the search was always on for a new way of pleasing their Führer.
One way to his heart was to feed his anti-Semitism.
Josef Goebbels, propaganda minister and hater of Jews, sought to do just that.
Goebbels boasted that the Nazis had excluded Jews from German cultural life.
In the autumn of 1938, Goebbels saw a chance to please Hitler more when he heard the news that Ernst von Rath, a German diplomat, had been assassinated in Paris by a Jewish man, Herschel Grynszpan, angry at how his family had been treated by the Nazis.
The Nazi élite were in Munich for the anniversary of the Beer Hall Putsch.
Goebbels asked for Hitler's permission to let loose the Storm Troopers in an act of vengeance against innocent Jews.
Hitler agreed, and so began Kristallnacht, the Night of Broken Glass.
In the early hours of the morning, they broke the front door down and started to smash the place up.
Hordes of Storm Troopers.
And we had two lots.
One lot just concentrated on smashing things up, and left.
And then the second lot arrived.
Three elderly ladies were living on the first floor with us.
One was dragged out and beaten for no reason except she probably got in the way of something.
I was sort of knocked about, and finally ended up in the in the cellar, where the kitchens were.
In a back room, I was being knocked about.
When I came back, I went upstairs and found my father dying.
I tried, erm as far as I could to, erm artificial respiration, but I don't think I was very good at it.
In any case, I don't think It was too late for that.
I was absolutely in shock.
It was beyond my comprehension.
I didn't know the people.
They didn't know me.
They had no grudge against me.
They were just people who'd come to do whatever they thought they should do.
(NARRATOR) More than 800 Jews lost their lives as a result of Kristallnacht, and as many as a thousand synagogues were destroyed.
what was the reaction of the non-Jews you knew when they heard of your circumstances? You'd been badly beaten up.
Your father had been killed.
Did anyone say what they felt about it? No.
In fact, erm Er The people passing the next morning, ordinary Germans, threw stones at the windows.
Nobody expressed any sympathy? No.
In the aftermath of Kristallnacht, Hitler's popularity did not seem to suffer.
As Hitler never spoke in public about it, it was possible to believe, for those who wanted to, that the responsibility lay with the hot-headed Storm Troopers.
The love affair between Hitler and his followers continued.
(MALE SINGER) In 1938, a new Chancellery was built, symbolising the power and order of Nazi rule.
But inside, Hitler was pursuing methods which resulted in administrative chaos.
The Grand Reich Chancellery was a hive of political infighting and backbiting, as rivals with ill-defined jobs fought against each other for Hitler's favour.
Hitler's working life was organised not by one private office, but by five: the office of the Reich Chancellery, under Hans Heinrich Lammers; the office of Hitler's personal adjutant, under Wilhelm Bruckner; the office of the Presidential Chancellery, under Otto Meissner; on the second floor, the office of the Chancellery of the Führer, under Philipp Bouhler; and finally, the office representing the Führer's deputy, under Martin Bormann.
Although based in another building, Bormann was most often at Hitler's side.
All of these different offices claimed to represent Hitler.
A large portion of their time was spent fighting each other.
One of the more vicious power battles was over access to the mail, to the thousands of letters that arrived each week addressed to "Mein Führer", and which begged favours or blessings from Hitler.
There were trivial letters asking if church bells could be named after Hitler, and serious ones from individual Jews pleading that they should be exempt from the Nazis' discriminatory laws.
Access to this mail meant access to Hitler and a chance to form Nazi policy.
Philipp Bouhler, an ambitious Nazi, managed to gain control over the mail and exploit it to his benefit.
In late 1938 or early 1939, one letter which Bouhler's office showed to Hitler had a devastating effect.
It was from the father of a mentally-disabled child.
He asked the Führer's permission to have the child killed.
Hitler agreed.
He had already ordered the sterilisation of the disabled.
Now this one letter was to be the catalyst to their murder.
Bouhler was authorised to devise a policy for the selection and killing of disabled children within days of their birth.
This form had to be filled in every time a disabled baby was born.
Three doctors read the form.
If they thought the baby should be killed, they each marked it with a cross.
Within months, it was no longer just babies who could be killed, but disabled children as well.
Gerda Bernhardt's brother Manfred was one of more than 5,000 children who suffered as a result of this policy.
Manfred was mentally disabled.
But Aplerbeck was one of the Nazis' special children's units.
By now, two years after the policy had begun, doctors in homes like this had stopped filling in Bouhler's form.
In a typical example of how policies could spiral away, staff here, on their own, selected the children they wanted to kill.
The official record of deaths at Aplerbeck lists Manfred Bernhardt as dying of measles on June 3rd.
That same week, 11 other children died.
Manfred Bernhardt was murdered because he was not wanted in the Nazi's perfect state.
The catalyst that caused his death was a chance letter to Hitler on a subject close to his heart, brought to his attention by an ambitious Nazi.
Any idea in this system could, with the combination of a leader who spoke in visions and enthusiastic supporters anxious to please, grow radically to an extreme almost in an instant.
This was the way Germany was ruled in the 1930s.
Now the world was about to suffer the consequences of the radical way decisions were taken in this Hitler state.

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