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Gleichschaltung [coordination]

The basic idea behind the National Socialist regime was embodied in the slogan "Ein Volk, Ein Reich, Ein Fuhrer" (One people, one state, one leader). The new word "gleichschaltung," [literally "equal attitude", synchronising] was an exceedingly popular word in Nazi Germany. Literally translated, the word means "coordination." It was used to denote a forceful conversion by the Government, for its own purposes, of any organisation or group. Hardly any phase of social life, whether industrial, political, religious, athletic or cultural, has escaped the gleichschaltung decrees of the Nazi Government. The Nazi policy of Gleichschaltung (standardization) was an attempt to rid the country of independent institutions. During the Third Reich, almost every public institution and instrument of policy had been altered to serve Nazi purposes (Gleichschaltung), so all such institutions and instruments were subordinated to the Party. Newspapers, schools at every level, banks, courts, publishing houses, theatres, museums, radio stations, and government offices were all coordinated. Political parties ceased to exist. Even the German Red Cross had been corrupted.

The Reichswehr supported Hitler in the consolidation of the new regime. They looked on 'neutrally'; i.e., supportively, as he first suppressed the left, then eliminated the bourgeois parties, centralized the political and administrative structure of the Reich and so appeared to realize the political ideal of an authoritarian, centralized state. For twelve years, the Nazi government strove to achieve a society based on the principle of Gleichschaltung, forced synchronization, in which all aspects of life -- familial, communal, professional, religious, and governmental -- fell under a centralized, pyramidical governmental system of control and coercion.

In order to place the complete control of the machinery of Government in the hands of the Nazi leaders, a series of laws and decrees were passed which reduced the powers of regional and local governments throughout Germany, transforming them into subordillate divisions of the Governiment of the Reich. Representative assemblies in the Laender were abolished, and with them all local elections. The Government then proceeded to secure control of the Civil Service. This was achieved by a process of centralization, and by a careful sifting of the whole Civil Service administration. By a law of the 7th April 1933 it was provided that officials "who were of non-Aryan descent" should be retired; and it was also decreed that "officials who because of their previous political activity do not offer security that they will exert themselves for the nationd state without reservation shall be discharged." The law of the 11th April 1933 provided for the discharge of "all Civil Servants who belong to the Communist Party."

Similarly, the Judiciary was subjected to control. Judges were removed from the bench for political or racial rensons. They were spied upon and made subject to the strongest pressure to join the Nazi Party as an alternative to being dismissed. When the Supreme Court acquitted three of the four defendants charged with complicity in the Reichstag fire, its jurisdiction in cases of treason was thereafter taken away and given to a newly established "People's Court," consisting of two judges and five officials of the party. Special courts were set up to try political crimes and only party members were appointed as judges.

In their determination to remove all sources of opposition, the NSDAP leaders turned their attention to the trade unions, the churches, and the Jews. In April 1933 Hitler ordered Ley, who was then staff director of the political organization of the NSDAP, "to take over the trade unions." Most of the trade unions of Germany were joined together in two large federations, the "Free Trade Unions" and the "Christian Trade Unions." Unions ontside these two large federations contained only 15 percent of the total union membership. On the 21st April 1933, Ley issued an NSDAP directive announcing a "coordination action" to be carried out on the 2nd May against the Free Trade Unions. The directive ordered that SA and SS men were to be employed in the planned "occupation of trade unjon properties and for the taking into protective custody of personalities who come into question." Similarly, on the 3d May 1933, the NSDAP press service annonnced that the*, Christian trade unions "have unconditionally subordinated themselves to the leadership of Adolf Hitler." In place of the trade unions the Nazi Government set up a Deutsche Arbeits Front (DAF), controlled by the NSDAP, and which, in practice, all workers in Germany were compelled to join. The chairmen of the unions were taken into custody and were snbjected to tratment ranging from assault and battery to murder.

In their effort to combat the influence of the Christian churches, whose doctrines mere fundamentally at variance with National Socialist philosophy ancl practice, the Nazi Government proceeded more slowly. The extreme step of banning the practice of the Christian religion was not taken, but year by year efforts were made to limit the influence of Christianity on the German people, since, in the words used by Bormann to Rosenberg in an official letter, "The Christian religion and National Socialist doctrines are not compatible."

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Page last modified: 11-07-2011 02:54:09 ZULU