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. Laurence Rees and Robert Gellately appear to reach a consensus on the limited role played by the Gestapo and also highlight that a degree of compliance and active engagement by the German people assisted this component of the regime. However, Gellately provides the more convincing argument in acknowledging the drawbacks of denunciations, and, in turn, offers a more nuanced argument on the subject, suggesting that it should not be circumscribed into a binary issue of simply ‘yes’ or ‘no’, but that to look at the popularity of the Nazi regime is to understand the unique differences within the population.
The Appeal of Popular Policy
The second subject the three historians explore is that of the conditions preceding the Nazis coming to power, and how such conditions might have made the party seem more appealing, stimulating a popular positive attitude towards the party. Not only do the historians focus on the circumstances of Weimar Germany and how this may have made the country ripe for making a popular regime of the Nazis, they also explore how the Nazis themselves exploited these conditions, and what measures were taken by means of popular policy to also produce a population that liked their regime.
All three historians reach a mutual agreement on the history of Weimar Germany, noting that it was in the midst of turmoil and chaos. Gellately states that, ““most were weary of the Weimar experiment in democracy, with the endless elections, lawlessness in the streets, the long lines before welfare offices” and that, “there was a sense of hopelessness”. Burleigh expresses a similar sentiment: that Germany was a ‘country in the depths of economic disaster’.
However, where the historians begin to differ is their arguments in how such conditions led to a widespread popularity of the regime. In particular, the evidence they draw upon and the decisiveness of their arguments vary. Whilst Burleigh and Gellately draw upon and interpret specific statistics, Rees relies heavily, almost wholly, on interviews and draws his conclusions from there.
Both Burleigh and Gellately make reference to the huge unemployment factor affecting Nazi Germany when the regime first takes power and cite the statistic that, a corrected total of up to eight million unemployed, nearly 40 per cent of Germany’s blue and white collar workers were without work, and an estimated three million more were unemployed, and that nearing 1937, ‘jobs and incomes bounced back and hope was restored’.
We may surmise, therefore, that Gellately believed that the German people were suddenly thankful to this regime that lowered the unemployment rate to below 1%. But his statement is too sweeping and too broad
. Though it is true that where unemployment was reduced the party became more popular, particularly areas in which the autobahn was being made, it is wrong to suggest that this led to consensual adoration for the regime. Indeed, the Nazis were able to achieve such statistics by ridding Jews of German citizenship (so they were not in the accumulation of unemployment) in conjunction with their policies.
 Gellately, R, ‘Backing Hitler’, pg 10
 Gellately, R, ‘Backing Hitler’, pg.10
 Burleigh, M, ‘The Third Reich’, pg.155
 Gellately, R, ‘Backing Hitler’, pg. 11
 Gellately, R, ‘Backing Hitler’ pg.13
 Voth, Voitlander, ‘Nazi pork and popularity: How Hitler’s roads won German hearts and minds’
Image Credits: rarehistoricalphotos.com