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National Socialism: Rise and Rule

Michael Wildt

Michael Wildt is a trained bookseller and worked for Rowohlt Verlag from 1976 to 1979. He then studied history, sociology, cultural studies and theology at the University of Hamburg from 1979 to 1985. In 1991 he completed his doctorate on the subject of "On the way to the 'consumer society". Studies on Consumption and Eating in West Germany 1949-1963 ”and then worked as a research assistant at the Research Center for the History of National Socialism in Hamburg. From 1997 to 2009 he worked as a research assistant at the Hamburg Institute for Social Research and completed his habilitation in 2001 with a study on the leadership corps of the Reich Security Main Office. Since 2009 he has been Professor of German History in the 20th Century with a focus on the Nazi era at the Humboldt University in Berlin.

His main research interests are National Socialism, the Holocaust, the history of violence in the 20th century and notions of social and political order in modern times.

Contact: mailto: [email protected] «

Peter Krumeich, Employee at the chair of Professor Wildt, contributed to the development of the content of the magazine and, in particular, in coordination with the editorial team, was responsible for the image research for this magazine.

Immediately after the seizure of power in 1933, the persecution of political opponents, Jews, Sinti and Roma, homosexuals, "anti-social" and "hereditary diseases" began. In particular, the crackdown on the Jews became radicalized and reached a preliminary climax in the pogrom of November 9, 1938.

After he tried to report property damage to the police, the Jewish lawyer Dr. Michael Siegel driven through the inner city of Munich by SA troops. The sign hanging around him reads: "I will never complain to the police again". (& copy Federal Archives, Image 183-R99542 / Photo: Sanden, Heinrich)


In the first phase of the Nazi regime, the terror was directed primarily against political opponents, primarily communists and social democrats. Thousands of members of the opposition were interned and mistreated by local SA groups in “wild concentration camps”. Here the new rulers settled some old accounts from the times of street fighting and let their years of resentment against "the Reds" run free.

In Berlin-Köpenick, for example, in June 1933 an SA commando encountered resistance from a young Social Democrat who shot three SA men. The SA then planned a systematic act of violence against SPD supporters in this district. She arrested over 500 men in the neighborhood and tortured them so brutally that 91 of them died. Some of the corpses were fished days later from surrounding waters.

However, this phase of revolutionary arbitrariness had to reach its limits, because the Nazi leadership wanted to keep the monopoly of force firmly and centrally in hand in any case. The political police and the concentration camps were the two decisive instruments of rule for the persecution of the opponents.