Social Achievements in the Third Reich 1933-1939
By Stephen Mitford Goodson
Housing for the people received top priority in the Third Reich. During 1933-1937 more than 1,458,179 new houses were built to the highest standards of the time. Each house could not be over two stories high and had to have a small garden for growing flowers or vegetables, as Hitler did not want people to lose contact with the land. The building of apartments was discouraged. Rental payments on housing were not allowed to exceed 1/8 of an average worker's income.
Interest-free loans of up to 1,000 RM (Reichsmark) were paid to newly married couples for the purchase of household goods. The loan was repayable at 1% per month, but for each child born, 25% of the loan was cancelled. Thus if a family had four children, the loan would have been considered paid in full. The same principle was applied in respect of home loans, which were issued for a period of ten years at a low rate of interest. The birth of each child also resulted in the cancellation of 25% of the loan up to the fourth child when the loan was cancelled.
Farmers also benefited. Between 1933 and 1936 more than 91,000 farmsteads were built in Germany. In 1935 the Farm Inheritance Law was introduced. It ensured that all farms bigger than 15 acres could only be transferred by family inheritance.
All trade unions were united into one organization called Deutsche Arbeitsfront (German Labor Front). Workers' rights were protected by a Tribunal of Social Honor, which laid down conditions of employment. These regulations were superior to any comparable legislation in the world at that time -- and even to this day. As a result of the harmonious relationship between employer and employee, strike action vanished. The taxation of workers, particularly those with families, was sharply reduced.
The Reishsarbeitsdienst (National Labor Service) was formed in 1934 under the leadership of Konstantin Hierl. It was originally set up to combat unemployment. It later became compulsory for all men aged 18 to 25 to serve for a period of six months. Its members were drawn from all classes of society. It provided services for various civic, agricultural, and construction projects. One of its principal aims was to instill Kameradschaft (Comradeship).
The Organization Mutter and Kind (Mother and Child) provided for the welfare, health, safety and financial support of expectant mothers and mothers with children. Their needs were provided for at over 30,000 local centers, kindergartens, and nurseries. Kindergeld (child money) was paid to mothers of insufficient means.
On July 14, 1933 the law for the Prevention of Hereditarily Diseased Offspring was passed. This law promoted the propagation of valuable, innately healthy children, while preventing the offspring of hereditarily diseased persons, who placed a heavy burden on the community.
The Jungvolk (10 to 13 year-old boys), the Hitlerjugend (14 to 18 year-old boys), the Jungmudelbund (10 to 13 year-old girls), and the Bund deutscher Mudel (14 to 18 year-old girls) were organizations established to build character and to prepare youngsters for citizenship and nationhood.
Sports and recreation were actively encouraged. All large commercial and public concerns were provided with recreation yards, sports grounds, swimming pools, modern canteens with smoking-free rooms.
In August 1936 the Olympic Games were held in Berlin and were a resounding success. Germany was the most successful nation winning 100 medals, including 41 gold.
Holiday camps were provided at subsidized rates, while sea trips on large cruise ships to foreign destinations were made possible through the Kraft durch Freude (Strength through Joy) program. These voyages were restricted to workers earning more than RM300 a month, with those earning RM200 or less receiving preference. The British Government would not allow these ships to dock in England for fear that their downtrodden workers would learn the truth about working conditions in Germany.
Most Christian denominations were tolerated in Hitler's Germany, and the two main churches, the Evangelical Lutheran and the Roman Catholic were subsidized by the state. On September 10, 1933 Hitler concluded a concordat with the Vatican.
Since churches concentrated on spiritual matters, rather than worldly affairs, worshippers returned in increasing numbers to their church. During the Third Reich 640 new churches were built. It was not uncommon for a pastor or priest to conclude his service with the words "Gott segne den Fuhrer" (God bless the Leader).
In the winter of 1933-1934 a major relief work, known as the Winterhilfswerk, (Winter Help Works) was undertaken to assist the millions of poor and unemployed people. Those persons who had a job were asked to donate a small portion of their wages to unemployed in exchange for a glass or a wooden tag. On the first Sunday of each month families with an income would have an Eintopfgericht (a one pot dinner) and donate the money saved on fuel, etc. to the needy, who would enjoy a hot meal in a large communal kitchen. Over 17 million unemployed persons, casual labourers, widows and orphans were supported by these charitable efforts of the people.
Regarding crime, one of the first acts Hitler undertook was to disarm the police and remove their rubber truncheons. He did this so that the people would feel less threatened and be more sympathetic to the role of the police. At the same time the laws regarding the private ownership of weapons were relaxed. Criminality soon dropped to very low levels, while drug offenses were unknown.
The protection of animal rights was a major concern of the National Socialists, who passed a law to that effect, namely the Reichstierschutzgesetz (Reich Animal Protection Law). The Reichsnaturschutzgesetz (Reich Law for the Protection of Nature) was promulgated on June 26, 1935. It was one of the most advanced laws of its time and included the Dauerwald (long-term) concept which is still used today for the restoration of forests.
(Source: The Barnes Review, Issue # ?)