1930's Europe Question

I hope there’s a factual answer to this question. Mods feel free to move this if it’s in the wrong place.

It’s the mid 1930’s, you live in either Germany or Italy under a brutal fascist regime, but you’re not Jewish, Catholic, Homosexual, Educated or a Gypsy. You own a small business in town… say a butcher shop.

Except for the fact that there’s no democracy and some of your friends keep disappearing, is your day to day life really any different? You can come and go as you please, but you have to be careful what you say about the government… especially in front of people you don’t know well.

Did the average Joe suffer greatly under fascism, as long as they didn’t cause trouble?

Nope. For everyday people, life was ok. In fact, it might have been a little bit better. Sucks if you were a member of a targeted group, but otherwise… that’s how the Fascists stayed in power. Blame a minority group.

… and carry big guns. I assume there was a certain amount of fear that everyday people had to deal with. After all, without a strong police force some upstarts might try and overthrow the dictator and return democracy.

OK’s a little subjective. Plus, “better” than what?

Totalitarian regimes placed a number of restrictions on ordinary people, not just the targeted groups the OP mentioned.

Some examples: Travel restrictions. Not just anyone could go anywhere they wanted to. It could be difficult to go abroad, and some totalitarian countries placed specific restrictions on internal travel (not sure if fascist Germany or Italy did this though). Price controls and government allocation of resources: you couldn’t always just set your prices the way you wanted to, or even accept the types of payment you wanted. The government might decide that meat should never be sold for more than a certain price (to be fair, democratic governments have also imposed price controls at many times in history), and that only certain forms of payment can be accepted. Or the government might restrict the sale of certain items (e.g. you can only sell beef to the SS or the Army, everyone else can’t buy it). These things cause many to form black markets for items restricted in supply or price.

Another example would be corruption: members of the Nazi Party wouldn’t just worry about whether you were saying bad things about the government; they were often in it for personal gain. If you didn’t treat these Nazis like preferred customers, they may have been able to get back at you using Party connections. Also, the power of large industries greatly increased due to the relationship industrialists had with the Nazis, so you wouldn’t have been able to deal with them on equal economic terms either - monopolies would be granted & such. Not to mention the ease for a totalitarian government to declare eminent domain over your property (how did all those autobahns get to be so straight?) Once the Nazis were no longer accountable to the people, they could get away with lots of corruption.

Social laws also had an impact: you couldn’t listen to “degenerate” music like jazz or see “degenerate” art on display (although this apparently backfired once when the Nazis displayed “degenerate” art for people to scorn, but instead it turned into the most popular art show in town - I don’t recall all the details).

I wouldn’t say life was bad for the average German in the 1930s, but it certainly was worse and more complicated (think ‘annoying’ rather than ‘suffering’) than it would have been under a freer, more democratic regime. Probably a lot of Germans went along with it because it was relatively so much better than conditions in the 1920s when so many were unemployed and starving.

This is all IMHO, of course.

Important nitpick…educated people were not persecuted per se. There were plenty of scientists, composers, scholars, and other intellectuals who acquiesced themselves to the regime and continued their work. The scientists Stresemann and Hahn succeeded in splitting the atom, IIRC, an achievement which, fortunately for the Allies, was not capitalized on.

Mostly, intellectuals got into trouble only if they belonged to one of the targeted groups, or engaged in political reistance.

Life in a Fascist state was much more sinister than is obvious.

For instance, your self pitying teenager could turn you in for any number of reasons and declare you to be a closet anarchist.

The same appled to a competitor--------one who owed you for money loaned------ a malicious wife or husband-----or a mother-in- law who couldn’t mind her own business.

Once taken in you were forever incommunicado-----and often died of old age before ever seeing a court room.

It was a system based on fear-----and it made the most of it-----and so did a lot of it’s citizenry!

A happy life it WASN"T.

And,to top it ll off, the gummint controlled the exit visas !

Once somebody put the tar brush on you--------you were Guilty------and in denial.


Unions were banned or taken over by the corporate state. I seem to remember reading that you could not change jobs without permission from your employer. Anyone who complains is *ipso facto * a communist and can be punished by laws which ban communism. Neat, huh.

A bosses dream regime.

I htink totalitarian states are, in general, established and continued because the majority of the population either:
[li]Believe them preferable to the alternatives[/li][li]Don’t wish to get into trouble with the government or their fellow citizens[/li][li]Don’t care one way or the other[/li][/ul]
The Nazis originally had a quite a bit of popular support, just like the communists in Russia and China, and plenty of other totalitarian regimes.

People’s lives may have been more or less unpleasant, but in general they probably believed they would have been more unpleasant under an alternative political system, and certainly more unpleasant if they acted in a ‘subversive’ fashion.

Ezstrete and wevets have listed some of the typical difficulties of life in a Fascist or Communist state, but all these have to be put in context. If they came along with an adequate bread ration and you had recent personal experience of going hungry on a daily basis, you might think them a fair trade. Similarly in North Korea people suffer a great deal but the propaganda they hear tells them that in other countries ordinary people have to sell their children’s eyes to the rich in order to buy rice - they may believe they have the better deal. Also, you may not have noticed much difference anyhow given that the previous regimes weren’t exactly ideal.

To specifically answer the OP, so long as you toed the party line, recited the appropriate catch-phrases when prompted, did as you were told, and generally didn’t stand out then you were unlikely to catch it in the neck. Lots of queues and forms and regulations, and an occasional event you had to ‘not see’ if you wanted to remain lost in the herd, but not too bad.

Until some nutter in charge started a war, or you became aware of just how much nicer things were for the folks over the border, of course. Then things change.

After 9/11, travel to foreign countries is a lot more regulated now, even to Canada and Mexico.

So kind of like dairy prices in the US (but there it is a price floor).

American politicials have a looooong history of using offices for personal gain.

Remind you of any (or all) of the largest corporations in the US?

Kelo v New London, Conn

Howard Stern, Baba Booy

Stresemann? The only Stresemann I know from that period was Gustav Stresemann, the Weimar Republic Finance Minister. Otto Hahn was a radiochemist; his chief scientific partner was the physicist Lise Meitner, who was Austrian and Jewish. I think you may mean Fritz Strassman, another chemist.

Hahn and Strassman were the first to show that bombarding uranium with neutrons caused it to split into two other elements. By careful separation and radioactivity analysis, they proved that the residue from the bombardment had to be different from uranium or any other isotope or element above uranium. They did this by chemical methods.

Meitner added immeasurably to this discovery by proposing the underlying physical mechanism that allowed an atom to split in two. Her work also confirmed the energy and elementary particles that would be released. She was aided in this work by her nephew, the famous physicist Otto Frisch.

Meitner and Frisch, being Jewish, were forced from Germany. Meitner made it to Sweden; Frisch went to England and then the US, where, at Los Alamos, he supervised experiments that tested the critical mass of U235.

So Hahn and Strassman did the experiments, but Meitner and Frisch explained why. An example, though, that totalitarian regimes have some very fundamental flaws.

Nobody has said anything about the USSR. In some ways it worked better. They never made a systematic crackdown against Jews. Instead, they simply cracked down against everyone. If you were important to the government, they made an exception, of sorts. You worked in a combination prison/laboratory. You were fed well, allowed to speak with other “inmates”, and you did your job. You just didn’t have any opportunity to go anywhere outside your prison. Of course, if you misbehaved, you were sent to the gulag to think things over.

This system worked, after a fashion. It produced the A-bomb and orbital rockets (helped by massive espionage). On the other hand, it produced Lysenko, which put modern Russia several decades behind in molecular biology.

That, in the end, is the real conflict between totalitarianism and science. Hitler’s Germany failed to build the A-bomb, though they had many of the best scientists and chemists of the day, because Hitler thought that sort of physics was “Jewish science” and didn’t give it any priority. Stalin’s Russia though that genetics and Darwinism was akin to Fascism, and rejected it as scientific theory.

More on this. I could go on about several different countries, but I’ll use Germany for now.

In the post-war period, Germans did not particulaly want democracy. To put it mildly, their democracy sucked. It was bitter, antagonistic, and filled with complete fools (ironically, they also had a many brilliant statesmen, all of whom were wholly overwhelmed). It did not work. It was quite incapable of controlling the thuggish Communists, who had immediately launched a sometimes-bloody but limited civil war. The Army wasn’t loyal to it, partly because it was considerably older and more respected than the civilian government! Add that to massive eocnmic woes and the fact that the government had been saddled with the blame for the (probably unfair) Versailles Treaty, and Germans genuinely hated the government.

Enter the Nazis. They took power by three tacks:

  1. Using massive street demonstrations and targeted violence to show how useless the civvie government was. Their arch-nemeses, the Communists, helped them out with this, because both groups held this goal.
  2. Present themselves as an authoritative alterative to the current political climate, by making all other choices look futile.
  3. Plaing on racial hatred. I put this one last because, despite its popularity and later inport, it was probably least important in ensuring their victory.

Thus, the Nazi programme as designed to appeal to Middle-class Germans who were often desperate but anti-Communist. They put their faith in the Nazi’s out of sheer lack of any reasonable alternative. The Kaiser wasn’t coming back (and did they want him to?), the democrats were generally incompetent, and the Communsits were Communists.

I would say that they wanted order and stability more than they wanted democracy. The pre-war Imperial German government was a democracy, after a fashion, but it was always dominated by the Kaiser. The Germans didn’t complain because their economy was booming, with the benefits proceeding down into the working class.

They also had pride/chauvinism in their country. That blinded them to some basic facts. The result was an unjust and disastrous war.

In only four years, they went from order, prosperity and grandeur to chaos, near-starvation, and ignomy. The government was overthrown without anything stable in its place. The army, rather than supporting the government, actually blamed the government for giving up. The provisions of the Versailles treaty both bankrupted and humiliated the people, and the government was linked to the treaty.

It was a mess, regardless of what you think about the treaty. The Allies were wise not to repeat the process after WWII.