Nazi Party

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With the outbreak of war in 1939, the party to some extent came back into its own, particularly after 1941 as the war dragged on and the military situation began to turn against Germany. As Hitler withdrew from domestic matters to concentrate on military matters, civil administration ground to a halt, and the German state became more disorganized and ineffective. The Gauleiters, who were nearly all old-guard Nazis and fanatical Hitler loyalists, took control of rationing, labour direction, the allocation of housing, air-raid protection, and the issuing of the multiplicity of permits Germans needed to carry on their lives and businesses. They served to some extent as ombudsmen for the citizenry against a remote and ineffective state. They agitated for the removal of the remaining Jews from Germany, using the shortage of housing in German cities as a result of Allied bombing as a pretext. As the Allied armies closed in on Germany, the Gauleiters often took charge of last-ditch resistance: Karl Hanke's defence of Breslau was an outstanding example. In Berlin the teenagers of the Hitler Youth, under the direction of their fanatical leader Artur Axmann, fought and died in large numbers against the invading Soviet armies, as part of the Volkssturm.

The Army was the last area of the German state to succumb to the Nazi Party, and never did so entirely. The pre-1933 Reichswehr had banned its members joining political parties, and this was maintained for some time after 1933. Nazis of military age joined the Waffen-SS, the military wing of the SS. In 1938 both Defence Minister Blomberg and the army chief of staff, General Werner von Fritsch, were removed from office after trumped-up scandals. Hitler made himself Defence Minister, and the new Army leaders, Generals Franz Halder and Walther von Brauchitsch, were in awe him. Nevertheless, Halder supported unsuccessful plans to stage a coup and remove Hitler from power during the 1938 crisis over Czechoslovakia, and again in 1939. Brauchitsch knew of these plans, but would not support them. The ban on Nazis joining the German Army – traditionally a stronghold of Protestant/monarchist conservatism opposed to any mass political movements – was lifted in 1939. A number of generals, notably Walther von Reichenau and Walter Model, became fanatical Nazis. It was not until 1944 that a group of officers opposed to the Nazi regime staged a serious attempt to overthrow Hitler in the 20 July plot, but they never had the full support of the officer corps. The German Navy was always loyal to Hitler; its commander, Karl Dönitz, was Hitler's designated successor in 1945.

By 1945 the Nazi Party and the Nazi State were inseparable. Its most fanatical members either killed themselves, fled Germany, or were arrested. The rank-and-file then burned their party cards, and sought to blend back into German society. By the end of the war Nazism had been reduced to little more than loyalty to the person of Adolf Hitler, and his death released most Nazis from even this obligation. In his Political Testament, Hitler appointed Bormann "Party Minister", but nominated no successor as leader of the party – a recognition that a Nazi Party without Hitler had no basis for existence[citation needed]. The Flensburg government that assumed power over the remnants of the Nazi state upon the death of Hitler on 30 April 1945 could be viewed as the last gasp of National Socialist politics in Germany, although it was concerned with little more than ensuring the surrender of as much of the German armed forces as possible to the Western Allies rather than to the Soviets, and even this government of contingency ceased to exist when its members were arrested by the British on 23 May 1945, with its entire existence having spanned less than a month.

Although the Nazi Party for all practical purposes ceased functioning after May 1945, it was not formally dissolved by the Allies until 20 September 1945. This appeared in Article 38 of the "Agreement Between Governments of the United Kingdom, United States of America, and Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, and the Provisional Government of the French Republic on Certain Additional Requirements to be Imposed on Germany," which reads: "The National Socialist German Workers' Party (NDSAP) is completely and finally abolished and declared to be illegal." This ban has remained in place in Germany to the present day. The Allies also began an extensive process of denazification to remove former Nazis from the administration, judiciary, universities, schools and press of occupied Germany. There was virtually no resistance or attempt to organize a Nazi underground. By the time normal political life resumed in western Germany in 1949, Nazism was effectively extinct except in certain political fringe groups which garnered little support. In East Germany, the new Communist authorities took their vengeance on any former high-ranking Nazis that they could find, and the survival of any kind of Nazi movement was out of the question.

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