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By Hans Mommsen

German resistance to Hitler is a imperative part of the historical past of Nazism. during this textual content, modern historian Hans Mommsen unearths the range of the political goals held through those "other Germans". He analyses the ideologies of the assassination plot of twentieth July 1944, in addition to these of the Kreisau Circle and the conservative, socialist, church and army oppositions. those resistance teams all endeavoured to discover a practicable replacement to Hitler and to accomplish an ethical renewal of politics and society - even though lots of them rejected democracy and had a occasionally ambivalent angle in the direction of the persecution of the Jews.

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Therein lies one explanation of why the active resistance-groups were so extremely isolated. Not only was Gestapo surveillance pretty effective and the population cowed by Nazi terror-tactics, but there was also a psychological barrier to breaking away from the national fraternity so tangibly symbolized by Hitler. It is thus clear that the step from partial criticism of the National Socialist system to out-and-out resistance could only be taken by people who, like the communists and leftwing socialists, were able to resist the pressure of the Hitler-myth, from strong ideological and political convictions; and by others who, due to their social background and position, and also to a deep-rooted national consciousness or an alternative utopian vision, were able in varying degrees to shake off this psychological compulsion.

All this made it impossible to achieve the hoped-for internal transfer of power merely by reshuffling the government and sidelining certain Nazi power-centres such as the SS and the Reich Ministry of Propaganda. Thanks to the Hitlermyth so assiduously built up by Goebbels, there was no institution, other than the dictator himself, which could be called upon to provide legitimacy for a post-coup government, as the monarchy had done after Mussolini’s overthrow in Italy. 8 Stauffenberg’s brilliant attempt, through ‘Operation Valkyrie’,9 to make the army the stabilizing factor in a new order failed, not least because the 28 ALTERNATIVES TO HITLER internal homogeneity of the Prussian-based officer corps had long been lost due to rearmament and war policy.

But when we come to the socialists, it is much harder to make the distinction. With groups working outside the political system, any blanket judgement is bound to be misleading, especially in borderline cases like Ernst von Weizsäcker and Wilhelm Canaris. 18 The power to determine what should be classified as resistance in the narrower sense lay basically with the Gestapo which, even after 20 July was relatively broad and arbitrary in defining the circle of those to be pursued, quite apart from the subsequent wave of arrests in the ‘Storm Operation’ of 22 August 1944, which rounded up thousands of potential opponents of the regime, especially figures from the Weimar Republic.

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