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ERIC Number: EJ765189
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2005-Feb
Pages: 19
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: N/A
ISSN: ISSN-0018-2745
Teaching the Nazi Dictatorship: Focus on Youth
Pagaard, Stephen
History Teacher, v38 n2 p189-207 Feb 2005
Students immediately think they understand this aspect of the Hitler regime, one in which the "Fuehrer" "says," or dictates, and his minions follow. Their usual view of Hitler assumes a tireless leader who works around the clock to supervise--through the secret state police (Gestapo) and other institution--every detail of German life. The second concept students may think they understand is totalitarianism, the systematic Nazi attempt to exert total control over the lives of Germans. Students may also share a commonly held view that dissent in any form was stifled and that concentration camps were an essential part of totalitarian Germany, 1933-45. However, recent scholarship suggests that the tight organization and "well-oiled machine" for which the Nazis are famous simply do not apply to the Hitler regime. In this article, the author cites several evidences that Germany under Hitler's governance was extraordinarily chaotic and confusing. Perhaps the most surprising aspect for students to grasp today is Hitler's amazing lack of interest in serious governmental work, meetings, administration, and bureaucracy. His daily routine involved very little dictating on the Stalin model, particularly when he was away from Berlin in the Obersalzburg, Bavaria. How, then, was Germany actually governed under this supposedly totalitarian tyrant? Studies of the Third Reich in the 1950's and 1960's put Hitler's dominating personality at the center of analysis. This "intentionalist" school of historians is best exemplified by Hugh Trevor Roper, who portrayed the dictator as "the complete master" of Germany who consistently carried out the "Weltanschauung" outlined in his autobiography, "Mein Kampf." By the 1980's a new interpretation had appeared, sometimes called the "structuralist" or "functionalist" approach. Historians such as Martin Broszat emphasize Hitler's disinterest in the day-to-day operation of the Nazi government, and depict Hitler as a "weak dictator." They portray Hitler as having far less control of the Nazi state than had been assumed and, indeed, as being incapable of creating an efficient government. Because of these new perspectives on the Nazi regime, the author provides teaching suggestions for the study of the Nazi dictatorship. (Contains 37 notes.)
Society for History Education. California State University, Long Beach, 1250 Bellflower Blvd, Long Beach, CA 90840-1601. Tel: 562-985-2573; Fax: 562-985-5431; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Opinion Papers
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: Germany