Using evidence from five people who lived through the rise of National Socialism, this programme looks at why Germany fell into the hands of Hitler.
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GERMAN SPEECH ON RADIO
CRACKLE AND HISS
It's like a...like a fire, like a blazing fire,
the news spreading across Germany - Adolf Hitler, Chancellor of the Reich.
A million hearts burning up with joy.
We can see banners glowing blood-red,
and in the centre of each one the symbol of our hope, the crooked cross,
the swastika - look at that!
January 30th, 1933.
Nazi Brown Shirts salute their Fuhrer, their leader, Adolf Hitler.
His rise seemed the answer to many people's dreams.
We will have a new Germany!
We can see thousands of blazing torches streaming up the Wilhelmstrasse,
long columns of Brown Shirts, victors in a painful struggle.
The Brown Shirts were the foot soldiers of the Nazi movement.
Years later, one of them, Fritz Muehlebach, described his memories of that extraordinary night.
We were - I don't know - just laughing, you know.
We sang. We shouted "Heil!" till we were hoarse.
I mean - Adolf Hitler, leader of Germany. We couldn't believe it!
When the news came through on the radio, we ran to a meeting house.
They were handing out torches.
When we marched, the police guarded OUR path. After so many years, the streets were finally ours.
Yeah! Heil Hitler! Heil Hitler!
But not every German joined the Brown Shirts in their celebration that night.
For they knew that now in power, the Nazis would allow no opposition
and all those that stood against them, Hitler had promised to destroy.
Our enemies say,
we Nazis are intolerant, that we are somehow un-German,
because we refuse to cooperate with other political parties.
I want to make one thing quite clear. They're right. We ARE intolerant!
And I have set myself one task -
namely, to drive those other parties out of Germany!
Hitler's rise to power would cause death and suffering on a scale rarely seen in history.
Yet on January 30th, 1933,
many millions of Germans welcomed Adolf Hitler as their saviour.
CRIES OF "HEIL HITLER!" AND "SIEG HEIL!"
Three years earlier, 1930.
Fritz Muehlebach returns to the northern dock town of Hamburg after a spell at sea
and finds Germany in a terrible state.
There was no work to be had -
Germany, the worst-hit country in a worldwide depression.
In the streets, chaos, and the police unable to keep order.
From every direction,
parties promised they had the solution.
Communist, Social Democrat, Nazi - 35 parties in all.
But right from the start, it was Hitler's Nazis that caught Fritz Muehlebach's eye.
They were like, smarter than the other parties. Communists, Social Democrats.
The Nazis had uniforms and their boots were like jackboots - always shining.
It was impressive.
And then, one night I'm down the docks,
and I sees this fight - well, this fella getting beaten up.
I goes in to help him, gets meself a torn ear.
It turns out he's this Brown Shirt. He says, why don't you come along to a meeting?
That's how I got started.
Over the next few months, Fritz went to many Nazi party meetings.
He heard speakers,
he watched slide shows, he read pamphlets.
And he shared a room with the Brown Shirt he'd rescued.
From Werther, he learned why, according to the Nazis, Germany was in such a mess.
He learned how, according to the Nazis, Germany would recover.
Hey! I've got something for you. Have you ever read the Bible?
The Bible? No.
Well, you should. Here.
-Yeah. My Struggle.
By Adolf Hitler. Well, it's my Bible, anyway.
1924, Landsberg Prison, he wrote that.
They locked him up for speaking the truth. Can you believe that? And in prison, he writes this.
And now, I give it to you.
So - enjoy.
"My Struggle" - "Mein Kampf".
It's a mishmash of autobiography, history and racist venom.
It covers everything from Hitler's blind hatred of the Jews to his love of boxing.
But like no other source, it explains the roots of Nazism.
It dates the decline of Germany from 1918,
the surrender that ended the First World War.
'The German army will cease fire immediately
'and then surrender, in good condition, 5,000 field guns, 25,000 machine guns, 3,000 trench mortars,
I'd never cried since the day I'd stood at my mother's grave,
but now I couldn't help it.
Was it all in vain, the deaths of two million heroes?
I dug my burning head into my pillow and wept.
Back home in Germany, revolution.
The Kaiser, Germany's all-powerful ruler, had fled.
In his place, democracy -
politicians chosen by popular vote.
For many soldiers defeated at the front, Hitler amongst them,
it seemed this revolution back home had cost Germany the war.
I mean, do you think the army couldn't have won that war?
They were stabbed in the back.
Right. Betrayed by cowards, politicians, Jews back home.
They didn't care for our honour, and all the shame our country's suffered since.
The criminals of November 1918. It's them who's caused it all.
In 1919, these same so-called criminals signed the Versailles peace treaty on Germany's behalf.
They accepted war guilt.
They agreed to pay out vast sums for war damage,
despite the desperate state of Germany's war-torn economy.
When years of suffering followed -
inflation, food shortages, hunger -
many Germans were quick to point the finger of blame.
-The factory owners.
-Right! Fat cats! Bleeding the workers dry!
We say no-one earns more than 1,000 marks a month. No-one!
-Right. The old enemy.
When they do something, they don't do it for Germany - do you see?
They're not Germans!
Politicians, right. What is this democracy?
We never used to have democracy. We had strong leaders!
The Kaiser, eh? We never voted for him!
And was Germany ever so weak under the Kaiser?
I spit on freedom.
It's the patriotic thing to do!
What was happening was like...
I don't know - like fog, you know, clearing.
Suddenly, it all made sense.
I mean, we never talked about politics when I was a kid.
But Werther, well, he'd go on for hours.
And it was all so right!
You've got all these parties, and no one party's got enough votes to rule.
So, they do deals. They're always selling out.
But the Nazis, right from the start, they're saying that's not the German way.
Right from the start, the Nazis wanted an end to democracy.
They wanted all power back in the hands of one man -
and that one man, they felt, should be Adolf Hitler.
He'd drifted from the army to politics.
He'd gathered support in the beer halls of Munich.
But his time was not yet right.
When 4,000 Nazi Brown Shirts rose in rebellion in November 1923,
their weapons arrived without firing pins.
Hitler was imprisoned, wrote Mein Kampf,
and the first chapter of Nazi history was over.
MUSIC: "Mack The Knife"
Germany in the late 1920s.
Music, theatre, cinema,
Enormous energy, eaten up seeking serious pleasure.
These were the years Fritz spent at sea.
Not that the good times were for working-class lads like him.
Meanwhile, Hitler saw the nightclubs and found them shameful.
He began to see himself as some hero of old,
his mission, to slay the monster of democracy.
Our public life today
encourages this wallowing in pleasure.
We must clean away this filth,
this plague, and we must clean it away ruthlessly and without wavering.
Hitler's problem was simply persuading Germans they needed some knight in shining armour.
But then, on October 24th, 1929,
Wall Street crashed.
The worldwide depression that followed hit Germany hardest of all.
With some satisfaction, Hitler realised his day had come.
Never in my life did I feel such contentment,
to see hard reality open the eyes of so many millions of Germans, deceived for so long.
In three years, German production halved.
Thousands of small businesses collapsed.
Unemployment rose to six and a half million.
17 million - a third of the population - were supported by the dole.
I'd just got back from sea. Laid off. It was terrible.
You looked around at all that misery.
Men just hanging round on street corners.
Queues down the labour exchange. You thought, "This is hopeless. I won't get a job."
'Those in work had had their wages cut. It was just depression.
-What is it?
'Just total depression.
'And it wasn't just the workers. Those with money and savings -
'middle-class folk - were frightened they'd lose everything.
'Prices going up, banks closing their doors...
'And when they looked at the government to do something...'
Social Democrats have walked out of Parliament.
They say they can't agree to cut the dole.
How can we afford to pay every man the dole? It's nonsense.
So we have a new government. Every day we have a new government.
Who would have democracy, when it makes us so weak?
In the face of depression, and with democracy on the point of collapse,
the German people looked for new solutions.
In working-class areas, where the poverty was worst,
the Communists attracted six million new members.
They called on workers to rise and take over factories, banks and businesses.
It had happened in Russia in 1917.
The Russian middle classes - factory owners, bankers, landowners,
had been wiped out or forced to flee abroad.
Not surprisingly, most middle-class Germans saw Communism as the worst threat of all.
We'll keep it under our pillow.
If the Communists should come for us at night...
Into this confusion,
the Nazis emerged as something new.
The years since prison had changed Adolf Hitler.
No longer the shuffling figure of the early newsreels,
now he was uniformed, impressive.
Policy had changed too - no longer to seize power but to win votes legally.
They'd play their part in the democratic process,
then destroy it from the inside.
By now Fritz Muehlebach was himself a Brown Shirt, like Werther.
Their job was to hand out leaflets, spread the word,
and, by whatever means available, fight the Communists.
I remember one Communist rally.
100 of us Brown Shirts got in, in ordinary clothes.
For half an hour, we'd just sit there. Then someone slips a stick of cordite on the stove.
BANG! Smoke everywhere. Windows shattered.
So, we stand up,
put on our caps, swastika armlets, and give the salute.
The Reds starts shouting.
Running about like a load of rats on heat, making for the door, so...
we smash the chairs, like we've been told,
and armed with the chair legs, we go for them.
Do as much damage as you can before the police arrive.
It was all quite deliberate. The Nazis wanted chaos in the streets.
Chaos showed the failure of democracy.
It made their solution more attractive.
You wear it in public?
I've got one for you too, if you want it.
-They've no respect for the law, you know. They're just bullies.
-Yes. At least they're not gutless.
And if they're not afraid to take on the Communists, we shouldn't be ashamed to say thank you!
Hitler polled just 800,000 votes.
In 1930, he polled six and a half million.
The Nazis, from nowhere,
were now the second largest party in the country.
The grateful middle classes had much to do with it.
But that doesn't explain Fritz Muehlebach, working class,
unemployed - he had nothing to fear from the Communists.
They left school. No factory, no workshop gave them a job.
And now the Nazis promise work and bread.
For this, they storm into working-class areas,
because they are without work and without hope.
Fritz lived on eight marks, 40 pfennigs a week unemployment benefit.
Five marks on rent,
one mark on sausages bought from a stall outside the labour exchange,
two on bread and basics,
ten pfennigs on insurance paid to the party in case he got injured fighting Communists,
and 30 pfennigs on tobacco.
And 90 per cent of his troop were unemployed, like him.
But to say they joined the Nazis out of desperation -
no work, no hope - that's only half the story.
Straight up, I can't tell you how wonderful it feels,
how wonderful it's always felt to wear this uniform,
being like a soldier of the Nazi movement,
with this vision, you know - a man, a leader, lifting us out of the gutter.
And going to meetings - everyone's, like, together,
all thinking the same.
It was the most wonderful thing I'd ever experienced.
All because of Adolf Hitler.
All because of what he offered us.
What he could do for us.
I mean, we just listened, like...
HITLER SPEAKS IN GERMAN
the German people finding their inner strength once more...
After all these years,
Germany spat on by the Allies,
us feeling bad about the war, the shame of Versailles,
and now this man says, "Come, Germans,
"re-find your strength."
I'd never heard anything so beautiful.
the Nazis had nothing.
Their vision was of national revival
through obedience to a strong leader.
But only Hitler had skill
and charisma enough to play this role of saviour.
In July '32, Hitler took thirteen and a half million votes,
a third of the total.
In January '33, as leader of the largest party in Germany,
he was made Chancellor.
Within a month, he'd had the Communist Party banned.
Freedom of speech, freedom from arrest, he'd sweep away.
The transformation of Germany into a Nazi one-party dictatorship
And if now we've got to do things that some people don't like,
it seems to me you've got to take the rough with the smooth.
Hitler was given us by God - that's what I think.
Being part of him - following, no questions - that's the only way to get Germany out of the mess.
No more nonsense. Really do something!
And that's what we're going to do.
I'll tell you what my first impressions were.
Quite charming. Half-timbered houses.
Window boxes with petunias and geraniums blooming on every sill.
Little girls with ribbons in their hair.
Little boys with aprons stitched in bright colours.
If there was poverty, I confess I didn't see it.
It was heaven.
And everywhere... everywhere you went - music.
Nora Waln, an American, lived in Hitler's Germany from 1934 to 1938.
For most Germans, these were good years -
a time of growing prosperity.
Hitler's Nazis had promised national revival
and they boasted enormous popular support.
I was to stay in Bad Godesburg in western Germany.
The day that I arrived, the Fuhrer himself was in town -
There were swastika flags hanging out of every window,
crowds, three, four, five thick, lining the roads,
and this bubbling enthusiasm.
It was contagious.
One woman turned to me, a perfect stranger, and said,
"He is my mother and my father. He keeps me safe from all harm."
Germany, in these years, was gripped in a cult of the Fuhrer -
The Nazis urged Germans to put their differences aside, to rally behind Hitler,
trusting in the glorious future of their country and the fact that Hitler could do no wrong.
It was terribly exciting, like a festival.
And the welcome that I got was warm, embracing.
I don't know what I was expecting, quite, but certainly not such generosity.
I was to stay in lodgings used by a professor I knew, a professor of music.
The couple who owned the place were young and enthusiastic. Typical, it seemed to me, of this new Germany.
-What a lovely house!
-Thank you. Come through.
The town's full. It's the best tourist season we've had in years.
It's you foreigners. Curious to see if Germans are as bad as they say?
-You have got a room for me?
-Yes, we got your letter.
Hello. I'm Frau Trutz. You must call me Ursula. And you've met my husband, Erich.
-Professor! Frau Waln is here!
-It's not a big room.
-I don't need much.
-You can see across the square.
-Hello, Frau Waln!
Tonight there is a festival for the Fuhrer. Singing and dancing... And you will have a splendid view.
-You're too kind.
-No, never too kind. We want you to enjoy your stay.
Nora's description of life in Germany, published in 1939,
is full of everyday accounts of love for the Fuhrer.
She found people endlessly keen to explain how grateful they felt.
It's like Germany is a ship that was broken on the rocks
and, by gift of God, in Hitler we have a leader who can repair and steer that ship. Eh, Erich?
Do you...worship him?
-"Worship" is too much.
-Some people do. I heard, the other day, at Berchtesgaden, near Hitler's house -
-these old women actually ate the gravel where he'd stood!
-It's like they're under a spell.
But you don't know what it was like before Hitler.
We have every reason to be thankful.
Before Hitler, Germany had been deep in economic depression.
Before Hitler, unemployment had stood at 7 million.
Before Hitler, Germany was a democracy
but too many parties had split the vote so governments were weak and unable to solve the crisis.
Hitler offered dictatorship - all power in the hands of one man,
and Germany was quick to accept Hitler's terms.
The people say we are civilised and yet millions are out of work. What is that?
It's sick. No-one should be denied a right to work. Nor should anyone who CAN work be allowed to be lazy.
Work and bread. These are the Fuhrer's blessings.
HITLER SHOUTS IN GERMAN
Putting Germany back to work was Hitler's first and most pressing problem.
But because he was all-powerful, he had the clout to carry out large-scale work programs
like building Autobahns - motorways to link the nation together.
By 1935, unemployment had fallen to just two million.
By 1939, it was gone.
My landlord, Erich, worked for the German Labour Front.
He had business all round Germany and once I went with him to see what they had achieved.
And it was remarkable.
We saw labour camps - not for wage-earners, but for young people, 18-19 years old -
to teach them the value of work,
to get their hands hardened.
You saw them marching with their spades like guns, or singing as they dug ditches, reclaimed land...
If you spoke to them, sometimes you felt they resented being there. But not often.
There was, I think, a pleasure involved.
-'Erich would say...'
-You must understand. Work shouldn't just be earning a wage and going home.
That's drudgery. We believe there's a beauty in labour. You do a job well and it gives you happiness.
It was like the Nazis were shaking people into feeling good about what they did. You had to work.
You had no choice. You were organised. You were there for the state to use.
And they milked you for your labour, no question. But then, at the end of the day, they said...
"See what we have achieved." And it WAS! It was pretty impressive.
The work programme was vast and triumphal.
Hitler had promised a Germany reborn. He said he was building for a state to last a thousand years.
He'd rebuild Berlin on a magnificent scale.
There'd be an assembly hall in every city, a swimming bath in every village,
a house and garden and car for every worker.
Much of this was pure fantasy.
But enough was achieved to pump German pride.
'Confidence. That's what it was.'
Everywhere. And a great sense of German-ness.
National costumes, parades, music... And even if you found it all a bit funny...there was so much GOOD.
'You could leave your door unlocked, or your washing on the line.
'No-one dropped litter. Young people offered you their tram seat.'
And yet...I didn't believe it. Not one hundred per cent.
Or at least, I questioned it.
In America, I had heard so much bad of Nazi Germany - violence, brutality...
I wondered if I was seeing... if I was being ALLOWED to see... the whole picture.
'Tens of thousands of books were cast into the flames while Hitler's Nazis stood by with fixed bayonets.'
Newsreels like this fueled the image many foreigners held of the Nazis' rise to power.
'No such act of barbaric vandalism has been recorded in modern history.
'As the bonfires leapt, the crowd danced and hurrahed in an ecstasy of mad emotion,
'as stories of wanton beatings and bullyings in the darkened streets added to the terror.'
Such pictures were seen around the world.
Hardly surprising Nora was suspicious.
It's you foreigners. Curious to see if we Germans are as bad as they say, eh?
The truth Nora had to find out for herself.
Early in my stay,
I was reading the German papers.
Problems all over the world - unrest in France, misery in Russia, a shipping strike in California.
In Germany, all is rosy. A Nazi Party squabble gets a paragraph. Then I picked up the British paper.
'As an American, I was still allowed foreign news. And lo and behold - Germany is the headline.'
"Hitler crushes Brown Shirt revolt.
"No pity for Hitler's friends shot, he says, for treason.
"Hitler's Chief of Staff executed."
'It was the Night of the Long Knives. June 30th, 1934.'
Hitler had butchered 400 top Brown Shirts, the very men who helped him grab power in the first place -
just a mockery of lawful government.
And the German papers so carefully censored.
I was so shocked. I wanted to speak to someone.
So I launched into this spiel at Professor Moritz, the musician who kept the lodgings upstairs.
His reaction I will never forget. This extraordinary phrase - "Still! Sprich durch die Blume!"
Shh! Speak through a flower!
'I didn't know what he meant.
'And then it dawned on me.'
Speak through a flower. Say only good things.
If you must talk of the Fuhrer, then it must be because you wish to praise him.
Or else do not speak at all.
'He blocked the keyhole with putty.'
He stuffed a pillow round under the door and pulled out the telephone.
You cannot be too careful.
And I think it was only then that I realised how terrified some people were.
Let me tell you a story.
Maybe you'll learn more what it feels like to live in this Germany now.
The other week, I go to a shop and say to the shopkeeper, "How's business?"
Just small talk. Stupid thing to say. His wife goes, "Pah!
"Business? It's bad! It's nonexistent!"
We don't notice, but...
another customer's come in.
Yesterday, I go back to the shop.
I say to the shopkeeper, "How's your wife?" He says, "They've taken her away for re-education.
"Somebody heard her grumbling. She said business was bad, so they turned her in."
Maybe he thought it was me. In Germany these days, you trust no-one.
Those that didn't fit in in Hitler's Germany
had reason to fear.
The Nazis allowed no opposition.
Political parties that once had stood against them were banned.
Their leaders left the country or stayed to face harassment or arrest.
It was all legal but only because Hitler now was the law.
TRANSLATION: "We Nazis have conquered Germany.
"But to restore this country completely we need discipline and we need order.
"So I will deal ruthlessly with anyone who would stop me.
"I won't have ignorant, mislead, insignificant people shot,
"but those really responsible will, in all cases, be crushed to earth!"
In March 1933, the first concentration camps appeared -
brutal prisons run by Heinrich Himmler's black-shirted SS.
Here German citizens were sent for any act of political opposition -
maybe just writing an anti-Nazi slogan on a wall
or keeping a banned book
or telling a joke at the expense of some party official.
The secret police, the notorious Gestapo, carried out the arrests.
And working hand-in-hand with them,
the tens of thousands of ordinary Germans committed or just spiteful enough to tell on their neighbours.
You don't dare say anything out loud against the Nazis.
Say, in a street car, you never give your opinion to anyone you don't know.
You never do anything that's forbidden. If people say, "Heil Hitler", YOU say "Heil Hitler."
I knew of people who turned in their neighbours.
I knew of people who turned in their neighbours, convinced they were doing the right thing. It's a system.
Everyone's stuck in the Nazi web. It's quite devilish because... no-one trusts one another.
In 1941, in the war, I was in hospital.
In the bed beside me, there was a mother with a newborn baby.
And foolishly she said, "More cannon fodder."
She never even made it home.
They arrested her in the hospital.
From Professor Moritz, Nora learned the darker side of recent German history...
How German Jews were being victimised, how trade unions had been banned,
how, despite the economic boom, with no-one to argue their case, workers' take-home pay had fallen.
How the professions were being stripped of non-Nazis:
civil servants, doctors, teachers, judges...
losing their jobs unless they toed the Nazi line.
Many refused. One such was Professor Moritz himself.
Oh, I thought you knew! He's not allowed to give lectures any more.
-He has a few private students, that's all.
-He never told me.
And day by day, his private students desert him.
-He should have retired long ago. He's got money. He can still pay the rent.
-But he was one of the best!
-Why would they sack him?
-It isn't usual to question acts of government here. It's close to treason.
But didn't ANYONE protest? His friends at the university?
They took a petition to the Ministry, who told them that presenting a petition was a serious act.
-All but two had the sense to leave.
-And the two that stayed?
They were beaten senseless.
One was a fine organist at one of our biggest churches. I've heard that his hands are ruined.
So much for my cheerful, festive Germany.
It made me so angry. I remember standing there on the stairwell, my hand clutching the banister...
And I just wanted to SCREAM at her! "Stop it! Stop it! Stop the broadcasts! Halt the parades!
"Tear down the banners, all red like blood. Stop the chanting!
"And please, please, treat this insane man who thinks he's Fuhrer in some asylum somewhere!"
But she just fixed me with this infinitely reasonable smile.
You mustn't judge ours as a bad government. We need to be ruled hard until things are sorted out.
We'd have gone Communist if the Nazis hadn't saved us.
And the Fuhrer is good and fine to all who willingly obey.
And he knows that we must be united
in order to regain our place among the strong nations of the world.
"To regain our place among the strong nations of the world." Hitler's seductive promise.
The Versailles Treaty had left Germany weak. If Germany rearmed, the Allies could invade.
Hitler had called their bluff.
He pulled out of disarmament talks. He brought back army training for all German men.
And in 1936, he marched into the Rhineland,
a buffer with France where no German troops had been allowed since 1919.
'The first actual pictures to reach this country of the German troop movement
'which have caused the biggest political sensation of recent times. Where does it all lead?
'To a new war? Or to a surer peace?'
Hitler talked of peace often. It wasn't a contradiction.
He said he was arming Germany not for war, but defence.
Like the hedgehog, Germany would be secure but threaten no-one.
Many European leaders found this reasonable. Ambassadors were sent to shake Hitler's hand.
Meanwhile, Germany stockpiled arms, built submarine bases, and secretly trained bombers in Russia and Spain.
He wants war. Why can't they see that?
He thinks 1918 is unfinished business.
So childish! It would be laughable if it weren't so tragic.
-And are there many who think like you?
I think most would cheer him all the way.
But I'll tell you something.
Each time he takes a gamble - announcing National Service, marching into the Rhineland...
Beforehand, each time, there were arrests.
Pacifists and so on, taken to the camps.
Everyone knows someone who knows someone who's disappeared. Just a little terror.
But would they do this
if they truly believed we all supported them?
But Hitler did have the support of the great majority.
Maybe not for war, not at first.
But Hitler convinced the German people war would make Germany strong.
And after so many humiliations, he fed a deep desire for revenge.
By 1938, the year Nora Waln left for England,
Germany was on a war footing.
They say that their army is the most powerful ever seen. I don't think they're bragging.
When Germans do something, they do it well.
They have a million men trained to fight, more in reserve,
and every resource in Germany at their disposal: arms factories, shipyards working day and night...
miners on 14-hour shifts.
They're cutting down the park railings, rationing the butter... whipped cream...white bread...
Personal freedom sacrificed.
-GRAMOPHONE PLAYS JAUNTY TUNE
-Oh, go on, then. One more. Why not?
-You've learned how good Germany is!
-I hope you have a good journey. It's been great having you here.
-You've been really lovely!
-A wonderful guest!
'The day I left was the Fuhrer's birthday.'
April 20th, 1938.
Parades in every town, just like the day I arrived. Flags, cheering crowds...
But this time, too, tanks and armoured trucks.
I was a bit the worse for wear. The night before, they had sent me off - Erich and Ursula -
toasting me, toasting Germany... toasting Hitler.
-I stayed very quiet.
'I don't think they noticed.'
It's as if the working strength of every man, woman and child
is power concentrated in the Fuhrer's fist! And with that...
he carves our future!
HOW our people forces its way upwards is unimportant.
But the goal...is magnificent!
And you know...I don't think it was the drink that made their faces glow with such radiance.
On the night of April 13th, 1944, I escaped from Germany.
I had been hiding in Freiburg for nearly a year - forged papers, forged ration cards.
Some people I knew put me in touch with a courier.
For a fee he would help you to cross the border to Switzerland.
He took my money, we walked, I don't know how long, I was close to collapse.
And then he left me.
He said, "Follow the stream. There's a customs house.
"There'll be no light, but you'll find it."
I felt...between two worlds.
I'd lost all sense of time and place.
I kept falling, but felt nothing.
And then, at last, I stumbled
and there was concrete, and such a pain in my leg.
-'I was aware of a man coming out of a doorway.'
-Wer ist da?
I asked him where I was.
Sagen Sie mir gleich, wo ich bin.
Seien Sie ruhig. Sie sind in der Schweiz. Warten Sie, ich komme.
And he said, "You are in Switzerland. You are safe. It's all right, I'm coming."
And Germany was behind me for ever.
This is the story of the Nazi persecution of the Jews,
as told through the autobiography of one woman, Elsbeth Rosenfeld.
Elsbeth was Christian, but her father and her husband were Jewish.
Had she been caught escaping, she would have faced arrest, imprisonment, almost certain death,
a fate shared by the many million victims of Nazi racism.
Yes, please, as soon as you can.
She's from Germany, I think.
'The customs man telephoned for a doctor and gave me some brandy, and then we waited.'
He's very busy, but he'll be here as soon as he can.
'I don't know why, he didn't seem to want me to fall asleep,
'so he kept asking questions.
'And I found myself telling him everything.'
The whole story.
Is it too painful to talk about?
No, no. Strangely, quite the opposite.
'Because, you see,
'to tell my story meant I was alive. It meant I knew how the ending went.'
And the ending was me, there, talking to this foreigner.
For so many years I'd been terrified the ending might be...
CHANTING NAZI SLOGANS
Elsbeth's story begins in 1933.
The Nazis had swept to power. Their stormtroopers
were protected by the government.
One of their favourite excesses, the persecution of Germany's Jews, was now government policy.
There were arrests, beatings. Stormtroopers urged people not to shop in Jewish stores.
It seems so long ago.
I remember...the shock.
Yes, but this explosion of hatred. It was so overdramatic. I couldn't take it seriously.
I was a social worker in the prison services.
I had my hat on, I was on my way out the door and the director phoned. He said,
"You shouldn't come to work any more."
I asked, "Why?" He said, "You wouldn't be safe here any more."
And I remember thinking that was so funny. Of all places, how could I not be safe in a prison?
Was he a Nazi?
I suppose so.
I think that deep down many Germans disliked the Jews, but they kept their hatred bottled up.
And then in '33, pop, the lid came off.
For years the Nazis spread the lie the Jews were to blame for Germany's decline.
Now their policy was to stamp out that Jewish influence.
Books by Jewish authors were burned.
Jewish civil servants, lawyers, doctors lost their jobs and suffered public humiliation.
For Germany's Jewish community, the basic right just to live and enjoy life was suddenly under threat.
They were ordinary Germans through and through,
but now they had been picked out, branded un-German, an enemy within.
Deep down it was jealousy.
The Jewish community was successful. Many German doctors, lawyers, bankers were Jewish.
The Nazis twisted this success.
In their propaganda,
they said it was based on selfishness,
that the Jews had got rich at Germany's expense.
It was all lies, but the propaganda was powerful.
And it fed old hatreds, all long before the Nazis came to power.
When my mother married a Jew, her family would have no more to do with her.
They turned their own daughter away. What a Jew did to them,
I don't know. They saw with blinkers.
So they never got to know my father's family. They were wonderful people, so full of life.
And then when my turn came, just like my mother, I married a Jew.
They were my community.
Siegfried. This is his photograph.
Dead? No, he is in England.
I have heard nothing for so long.
Elsbeth married Siegfried in 1930.
Five years later, such a union would have been impossible.
TRANSLATION: "Marriages between Jews and German citizens, or those of similar blood, are forbidden."
The Marriage Law, one of the Nuremberg Decrees of 1935,
was aimed at protecting the purity of German blood.
The Nazis divided people into racial types.
They said Germans were descended from the Aryan race.
This propaganda film shows Aryans of old -
the Teutonic knights, supposedly the root of all German culture and nobility.
Pure Aryan Germans could be recognised from their blond hair and blue eyes.
It was all a fantasy, but the fantasy was dressed up as science.
Germans were being taught to think of other races as less than perfect.
And the German people bought the lie.
Signs cropped up. "Jews not wanted here."
With the Nuremberg Decrees, this discrimination was set down in stone.
German Jews lost their citizenship.
They lost the right even to call themselves German.
And yet, you know, the funny thing, how losing your citizenship hurts less
than those silly, petty details -
not being able to sit down in a tram,
public benches painted yellow, set aside for Jews only. I would not have sat there for my soul!
-In any case, you're not Jewish.
-But I'm not Aryan either.
Half and half. It was so confusing.
They call it a science. They like to think it's so clear-cut, but...
I had a friend. He was Jewish, but tall and blond.
I went with him past a restaurant. There was a big sign, "Jews keep out!"
And he said, "Watch this."
He strolled in, he flirted with a waitress.
When she brought his food, he said, "Oh, sorry, I didn't see the sign." And he just left,
leaving her shaking in anger.
After Kristallnacht, they took him away.
The Nazis never like to be mocked.
Kristallnacht, the "night of broken glass",
was on November 9th, 1938.
It was a pogrom, an organised attack on German Jews.
Across Germany, 100 synagogues were burned down, 300 Jews were killed.
30,000 were rounded up, mostly men, to spend a week in holding camps.
A taste of worse to come.
Our house was burned down.
I remember walking through the streets, glass under our feet, not knowing where we'd sleep.
It was the morning after. They were still smashing windows.
We had to dodge into the doorways.
There were vans of stormtroopers.
They'd draw up, arrest people and take them to the camp at Dachau.
It was one of the most terrifying days ever.
Where did you sleep?
There was a grocer that we knew.
At first she said, "There is no room, but come in. Wait for my husband."
And then her husband didn't return.
And neither did her son, so there WAS room.
I think that one of the most terrifying things about Kristallnacht
was knowing suddenly there was no more hope.
For so long we said, "It'll be all right."
But now it was like a war had been declared.
In the year that followed, a third of the Jews still in Germany left the country
for America, Palestine, the United Kingdom, anywhere that would take them.
The Nazis made it as hard to leave as it was to stay.
They could take nothing with them and what they left behind was taken by the government.
Other countries put limits on refugees. Queues at foreign embassies stretched round the block.
One of those lucky enough to get an exit visa was Elsbeth's husband, but Elsbeth's papers never arrived.
We had promised that we would never be apart.
We hadn't in all our marriage, not for more than two days.
My husband said, "I won't go without you."
Is that too tight?
But he wasn't strong. He wasn't coping well with the humiliations.
And so I begged.
If I'd known then how long we were to part, I'm not sure that I would have had the strength.
In the two years that followed Siegfried's departure in 1939, Hitler took Germany to war -
against the Allies in Europe and Russia in the east.
For all Germans, the war meant tightening their belts,
but for Germany's Jews, the suffering was the hardest.
This footage is logged as Film Number 28 in the Stuttgart Archives. It was shot
on October 30th, 1941,
as part of a war diary the city had commissioned.
And it shows "Delivery Day" at the Jew Shop.
After the war,
a Stuttgart Jew called Frederick Marks viewed this snatch of film.
He pinpointed the secret policemen caught idling on camera.
But more than that, he questioned their staging of events.
"Any claim that Jews received the same rations
"as the rest was propaganda. We had meat till '42, then that was stopped.
"There were no eggs. If the film shows crates being unloaded, they must have been ordered
"for the camera. And there wasn't any oil, but the film shows plenty.
"Lying is such hard work."
Since 1939, new laws had increasingly hemmed in the Jews.
Shops like these were now the only places where the Jewish community could buy food.
For some, it meant a six-mile walk every day from the outer suburbs.
They weren't allowed on the trams. They weren't allowed radios, pets, typewriters...
They had special identity cards stamped "J" for Jew.
And most humiliating, a law decreed two months before this film was shot
all Jews in public had to wear a yellow Star of David.
I would walk through the streets of Munich with a star on my coat like a leper,
ringing his bell,
Once a woman spat in my face.
You have to look straight through people like that without seeing them
or how could you bear it?
During these months, Elsbeth Rosenfeld was in a ghetto in Munich.
Ghettos were special areas where Jews were kept apart from Aryan Germans.
Elsbeth's was crowded, but comfortable enough - a converted convent, six women to a room.
In the east, in the countries Germany had invaded,
Jews had also been gathered in ghettos.
Here the conditions were terrible.
600,000 ghettoed Jews died
of disease and starvation.
By conquering the east,
the Nazis increased the number of people from "inferior races"
under their control, all to be made to suffer by the German master race.
The gypsies of Hungary and Rumania,
..and the Jews of eastern Europe.
Three million in Poland,
four and a half million in Russia.
Ghettos were one solution,
but by the end of 1941, another final solution had begun -
the mass murder of the Jews of Europe.
Thousands of German Jews from Stettin were taken to Lublin in Poland.
We used to send food parcels and in return we got letters.
And then the letters stopped and the rumours started.
And then in the spring of '42 it was our turn.
We were taken to a barrack at the railway...
and then two nights waiting.
And then from the barracks to a railway embankment.
There were Nazis there. I think they had gathered to see some sort of show -
Jews wailing and begging to stay,
but we had a dignity which made my heart overflow with respect.
And then a whistle.
And then a voice calling my name.
And they told me,
"You don't go.
And I didn't know what to say.
I wanted to go with my friends, whatever they were to face.
But the Nazis wanted me in a ghetto helping.
It was unbearable.
So I went back to my friends and they said, "What did they want?"
I think when they saw the tears streaming down my face, something broke in them too.
All the sorrow they'd held back
and the anger.
They hugged me.
I murmured blessings.
But then again a whistle...
Did you ever hear from them?
None of the Jews taken from Munich in Easter 1942 survived.
Some were shot, others were killed by poison gas.
Elsbeth would have died too.
Instead she went back to the ghetto, stuck it for two weeks and then escaped.
She took off her star, burned her papers.
For two years she stayed indoors hidden, hardly daring to exist.
Then the Jewish Underground helped her to Freiburg and over the Swiss border.
Another two years later, in the chaos of post-war Europe, she was at last reunited with her husband.
In all, six million Jews were killed by the Nazis.
4,000 murders every day
for four years.
Fear is the worst thing we have
and you fight fear, not with hate, but with love.
Nothing good can come of hatred and bitterness, even hatred of the Nazis.
But with so many people I could never make them see it like that.
Using evidence from five people who lived through the rise of National Socialism, this takes a look at why Germany fell into the hands of Hitler and put the Holocaust and atomic bombs into a wider context.