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The leaders of Nazi Germany created a large number of different organizations for the purpose of helping them stay in power. They rearmed and strengthened the military, set up an extensive state security apparatus and created their own personal party army, the Waffen-SS.
Working towards the FuhrerEdit
The government of Nazi Germany gradually formed into a process known as "working towards the Führer". Although Adolf Hitler was the undisputable ideological force behind the Third Reich, as leader of the country, he was very lazy, especially in the pre-war years, spending much of his time relaxing in his mountain retreat. Therefore, a system of government was formed whereby leading Nazi officials were forced to interpret Hitler's random speeches and rants on government policies, often based on chance overhearings, or off-the-cuff remarks, and turn them into legislation. This created an elite of ambitious Nazis, all of whom were desperate to win the approval of the Führer, and all of whom despised one another. Any government member could take one of Hitler's comments, and turn it into a new law, of which Hitler would casually either approve or disapprove when he finally heard about it. This became known as "working towards the Führer", as the government was not a co-ordinated, co-operating body, but a collection of individuals each trying to gain more power and influence over the Führer. This often made government very convoluted and divided, especially with Hitler's vague policy of creating a multitude of often very similar posts. The process allowed more unscrupulous and ambitious Nazis to get away with implementing the more radical and extreme elements of Hitler's ideology, such as antisemitism, and in doing so win political favour. Protected by Joseph Goebbels' extremely effective propaganda machine, which portrayed the government as a dedicated, dutiful and efficient outfit, the dog-eat-dog competition, and chaotic legislation was allowed to escalate out of control. Historical opinion is divided between "intentionalists" who believe that Hitler created this system as the only means of ensuring both the total loyalty and dedication of his supporters, and the complete impossibility of a conspiracy; and the "structuralists" who believe that the system evolved by itself, and was a serious limitation on Hitler's supposedly totalitarian power.
Through staffing of most government positions with National Socialist German Workers' Party (Nazi Party) members, by 1935 the German national government and the Nazi Party had become virtually one and the same. By 1938, through the policy of Gleichschaltung, local and state governments lost all legislative power and answered administratively to Nazi party leaders, known as Gauleiters, who governed Gaue and Reichsgaue.
The organization of the Nazi state, as of 1944, was as follows:
It has to be considered that there is little use talking about a legislative branch in a totalitarian state, where there is no separation of powers. For example, since 1933 the Reichsregierung (Reich cabinet) was enabled to enact Reichsgesetze (statute law) without respect to the constitution from 1919.
Most of the judicial structures and legal codes of the Weimar Republic remained in use during the Third Reich, but significant changes within the judicial codes occurred, as well as significant changes in court rulings. Most human rights of the constitution of the Weimar Republic were disabled by several Reichsgesetze (Reich's laws). Several minorities such as the Jews, opposition politicians and prisoners of war were deprived of most of their rights and responsibilities. The Plan to pass a Volksstrafgesetzbuch (people's code of criminal justice) arose soon after 1933 but didn't come into reality until the end of World War II.
As a new type of court, the Volksgerichtshof (people's court) was established in 1934, only dealing with cases of political importance. From 1934 to September 1944 5, 375 death sentences were passed by the court. Not included in this number are the death sentences from July 20, 1944 until April 1945 which are estimated at 2,000. Its most prominent member was Roland Freisler who headed the court from August 1942 to February 1945.
After the war, some surviving jurists were tried, convicted, and sentenced as war criminals.