Upward mobility of Nazi party members during the Third Reich

by Matthias Blum and Alan de Bromhead (Queen’s Management School at Queen’s University Belfast)

This paper was presented at the EHS Annual Conference 2019 in Belfast.

 

 

DettenSahmGoeringLippertErnstGoerlitzer
Gathering of high-ranking Nazi officials in Berlin. Left to right: Georg von Detten, Heinrich Sahm, August Wilhelm of Prussia, Hermann Goering, Julius Lippert, Karl Ernst and Artur Görlitzer. Available at Wikimedia Commons.

Members of Nazi organisations climbed higher up the social ladder than non-members in the 1930s and 1940s. This was not due to Nazis being awarded higher-status jobs, but instead to already upwardly mobile individuals being attracted to the movement.

We examined a unique dataset of approximately 10,000 World War II German soldiers that contains detailed information on social background, such as occupation and education, as well as other characteristics like religion, criminal record and military service. The dataset also identifie membership of different Nazi organisations, such as the NSDAP, the SA, the SS and the Hitler Youth.

Comparing the social backgrounds of Nazi members and non-members reveal that Nazis were more likely to come from high-status backgrounds and had higher levels of education. Indeed, the odds of being a member of the Nazi party were almost twice as high for someone from a higher-status background than a low-status one. We also confirm a common finding that Catholics were less like to be Nazi members.

When looking at social mobility between generations, Nazi members advance further than non-members. But this appears to be driven by ‘upwardly mobile’ people – those that showed social mobility early on in their lives – subsequently joining the Nazis. This suggests that ‘ambitious’ or ‘driven’ individuals may have been attracted to the Nazi movement.

Although it is impossible to uncover exactly what motivated people to join the Nazis, our findings suggest that many educated and ambitious individuals from the higher end of the social scale were attracted to the movement. Interestingly, this seems to be the case not just for those who joined after the Nazi party came to power in 1933, but also to members who joined when the party was on the fringes of the Weimar political system in the 1920s.

Our study not only helps us to understand how the Nazi party emerged and came to power in the years before World War II, but also gives us an insight into how extremist organisations form and attract members more generally. It reminds us that we need to think beyond pure ideology when it comes to motivations for joining extremist groups and look at economic and social factors too.

 

For more information on the preliminary findings of the study, please visit: http://www.quceh.org.uk/uploads/1/0/5/5/10558478/wp17-04.pdf

Financing the fight: sovereignty, networks and the French resistance during World War II

by David Foulk (Oriel College, University of Oxford)

This paper was presented at the EHS Annual Conference 2019 in Belfast.

 

Commander_of_Free_French_Forces_General_Charles_de_Gaulle_seated_at_his_desk_in_London_during_the_Second_World_War._D1973
Commander of Free French Forces General Charles de Gaulle seated at his desk in London during the Second World War. Available at Wikimedia Commons.

Under General Charles de Gaulle, the Free French movement represented a different conception of France – free from the defeat that Marshal Philippe Pétain’s armistice and the Vichy regime represented. While metropolitan France had been overrun, subjugated under enemy jackboots, this could not be said for all French overseas territories.

When de Gaulle formed his military movement, in London, there was no indication that those colonies would support his efforts to rally an external resistance movement. But by the end of 1940, some had rallied to his side.

Such actions would fundamentally change the nature of the movement; from a purely martial enterprise, into a state-in-waiting. This raised important questions of sovereignty.

These territories were part of the French empire yet were being driven to support a rebel movement, in the hope of liberating France. Who was to support their economy? What part were they to play, both economically and militarily?

Having been separated from metropolitan French institutions, including the Banque de France, these territories began to experience economic difficulties, including the replacement of used banknotes and the brutal separation experienced, from their chief export markets.

Under the leadership of ‘experts’, supported by the Bank of England and His Majesty’s Treasury, the Free French financial service found a method to finance their cause: one based on British government advances, transnational donations and colonial exploitation.

Their funds supported covert action in France. The Gaullist equivalent of the Special Operations Executive, known as the Bureau Central de Renseignements et d’Action, parachuted containers, filled with weapons, equipment and currency, in francs and dollars, into France.

These groups were created to perform sabotage, diffuse propaganda and establish escape routes for downed Allied airmen and other groups, targeted by the invading forces or Vichy’s civil security. Obtaining finance was a perpetual problem.

Jean Moulin, the former prefect of Eure-et-Loir, was appointed as General de Gaulle’s representative to the internal resistance movements. His role was to act as a coordinator for the three main groups – Combat, Franc-Tireur and Libération. This was achieved through a judicious use of finances, organised by his secretary, Daniel Cordier.

Great stock was placed in Moulin’s powers of political persuasion. His mission was a success and the Mouvements unis de la Résistance was established in January 1943. Without the financial backing of the Gaullist movement, this internal network could not have existed. This did, nevertheless, offer credence to Vichy propaganda, which implied de Gaulle and his movement were under the control of the British government.

American economic support came in the form of Lend-Lease, by supplying the majority of Free French troops with equipment and weapons. Moreover, it was reimbursed, in part, through reciprocal aid.

This entailed French bases providing housing, office and workspace, to help US troops launched operations, notably in New Caledonia, in the Pacific. A delegation of Free French supporters, from within the United States, acted as a financial conduit for funds being sent from other support groups, throughout the world.

The predecessor to the CIA, the Office of Strategic Services, through Allen Dulles, financially supported resistance activity from Switzerland. This briefly allowed the Americans a means of bypassing Gaullist intelligence services. The transnational nature of the financing for the French resistance is underlined.

Using social network analysis, a digital humanities technique that cartographically plots interactions between correspondents, the key figures, from among the financiers of the resistance, are shown in my study.

Through their interactions, financial ties that bound the French resistance to those who drove its economic policy are revealed. Without international support, military resistance in France would have been inconceivable.