The Propagander ™ FAQ
Did the Germans Really Support Adolf Hitler?
Before Hitler gained power, his Party was never able to gain a simple majority of support among the German people. In the last free election of the Weimar Republic, Hitler's NSDAP received only 37.4% of the vote. In March 1933, the first after he became Chancellor, he received 43.9% of the vote, and this was after massive intimidation of the electorate by the SA.
However, when Hitler's program of massive public works (the Autobahn, etc.) began to vastly improve the unemployment situation, and Hjalmar Schacht's financial wizardry turned the German economy around, his flair for self-promotion began to gain him much popular support. As conditions in Germany continued to improve--if you weren't a Jew, that is--and these real successes were touted by Goebbels' propaganda machine, his approval rating soared. There is a consensus among historians that if Hitler would have died in 1938, he would today be remembered as the greatest German leader of modern times and would be honored along with Frederick the Great and Bismarck.
Before Hitler began his war, the equivalent of his approval rating (actual polls were not conducted) was probably in the 90's as he had achieved much up until that point. When the war started, Hitler had been right about so many things before then that the people gave him the benefit of a doubt, at least until it became obvious that it would not turn out well.
Official polling was not done during the war, but the Gestapo regularly made internal reports on the public mood, and certain underground opposition groups did the same (the Reports of the Sopade, for example). The most reliable are the reports of the domestic intelligence branch of the SD, the so-called 'Meldungen aus dem Reich'. A close examination of these sources reveal, not surprisingly, that Hitler's approval rating diminished in direct proportion to German losses on the battlefield and the resultant effects on the German people at home.
But at no point did the Germans of those days completely give up on their Fuehrer. When a group of Army officers attempted to assassinate Hitler shortly after the D-Day landings (the July 20, 1944 plot, known as Valkyrie, or simply 'the Bomb Plot'), they received no popular support. Here is documentation of a POLL of Germans taken many decades back. It is from a book by Albert Speer about the Nuremberg criminals who served time in Spandau prison in Berlin for their crimes.
April 11, 1953 Spandau: The Secret Diaries:
Through a clandestine note from his son-in-law, Doenitz has heard the results of a [July 1952] survey . . . . He himself stands at the head of the list of formerly prominent personages [former Nazis] whom the Germans still have a good opinion of. Doenitz has 46 percent; he is closely followed by Schacht with 42, Goering with 37, myself with 30, Hitler with 24 percent. Schirach and Hess lag behind with 22 percent. Seven percent have a bad opinion of Doenitz, 9 percent of me, 10 of Schacht, 29 of Schirach and Hess, 36 of Goering and 47 percent of Hitler.
"Because the German people cherish me in their hearts, I shall soon be getting out," Doenitz observed complacently as he stood beside me today washing his hands. Nevertheless, the letter gave Doenitz no pleasure, for his son-in-law unforgivably passed on the information that he is now as popular as Rommel. In a tone of sharp repugnance, Doenitz commented that Rommel had been nothing but a propaganda hero because he participated in the July 20 conspiracy. Then Doenitz stalked off.
This poll reveals that in 1952, a full 25% of Germans still thought well of Hitler, and only 47% would say they disapproved of him! This is truly remarkable when one considers how soundly Germany had been defeated in Hitler's War. An entire generation of Germans had grown up in the Hitler Youth and many would remain loyal to Hitler long after he was dead. I have not read any polls taken in modern times asking how Germans today feel about Hitler, but one imagines that, since so few of those who were alive during Hitler's day remain, the numbers would be low indeed. One would hope so, anyway.
Conclusion: The German people were overwhelming in their support of Adolf Hitler long past the point where such support was rational.
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Walther Johann von Löpp
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