National Socialist People's Welfare

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The National Socialist People's Welfare (German: Nationalsozialistische Volkswohlfahrt, NSV) was a social welfare organization during the Third Reich. The NSV was established in 1931 as a local welfare organization; on 3 May 1933, shortly after the Nazi Party took power in Weimar Germany, Hitler turned it into a party organization of the NSDAP. The main offices were in Berlin. The structure of the NSV was based on the Nazi Party model, with local, county (Kreis) and district (Gau) administrations.[1]

Erich Hilgenfeldt, who worked as office head at the NSV, organized a charity drive to celebrate Adolf Hitler's birthday on 20 April, 1931. Following this move Joseph Goebbels named him the leader of the NSV. The NSV became established as the single Nazi Party welfare organ on 3 May 1933.[2] On 21 September in the same year, Hilgenfeldt was appointed as Reich Commissioner for the Winterhilfswerk (Winter Support Programme). Under Hilgenfeldt, the programme was massively expanded so that the régime deemed it worthy to be called the "greatest social institution in the world". One method of expansion was to absorb, or in Nazi parlance coordinate, already existing yet non-Nazi charity organizations. In 1933, Hitler decreed the banning of all private charity organizations in Germany, ordering NSV chairman Hilgenfeldt to "see to the disbanding of all private welfare institutions", which provided the Nazis the means to engage in the social engineering of society through the selection of who could receive government benefits.[3] Hitler had essentially nationalized local municipalities, German federal states and private delivery structures that had provided welfare services to the public.[4]

NSV membership card, 1935

The NSV was the second largest Nazi group organization by 1935, second only to the German Labour Front. It had 4.7 million members and 520,000 volunteer workers. Nazi Party members who were active in communal welfare professionally or as volunteers had to be NSV members.[5]

With 17 million Germans receiving assistance under the auspices of NSV by 1939, the agency "projected a powerful image of caring and support".[6] The Nazis provided a plethora of social welfare programs under the Nazi concept of Volksgemeinschaft, which promoted the collectivity of a people's community where citizens would sacrifice themselves for the greater good. The NSV operated 8,000 day-nurseries by 1939 and funded holiday homes for mothers, distributed additional food for large families and was involved with a wide variety of other facilities.[7]

The Nazi social welfare provisions included old age insurance, rent supplements, unemployment and disability benefits, old-age homes and interest-free loans for married couples, along with healthcare insurance, which was not decreed mandatory until 1941.[8] One of the NSV branches, the Office of Institutional and Special Welfare, was responsible "for travellers' aid at railway stations; relief for ex-convicts; 'support' for re-migrants from abroad; assistance for the physically disabled, hard-of-hearing, deaf, mute, and blind; relief for the elderly, homeless and alcoholics; and the fight against illicit drugs and epidemics".[9] The Office of Youth Relief, which had 30,000 branch offices by 1941, took the job of supervising "social workers, corrective training, mediation assistance" and dealing with judicial authorities to prevent juvenile delinquency.[10]

One of the NSV's premier activities was the Winter Relief of the German People, which coordinated an annual drive to collect charity for the poor under the slogan: "None shall starve or freeze". These social welfare programs represented a Hitlerian endeavor to lift the community above the individual while promoting the wellbeing of all bona fide citizens. As Hitler told a reporter in 1934, he was determined to give Germans "the highest possible standard of living".[11]

During World War II, the NSV took over more and more governmental responsibilities, especially in the fields of child and youth labor. The expenses for the Nazi’s welfare state continued to mount, increasing significantly just before and after the beginning of World War II. In three budgetary years, the funds required by Germany's social welfare programs had more than doubled from 640.4 million Reichmarks in 1938 to 1.395 billion Reichmarks by 1941.[12]

The NSV was also involved in the distribution of soup to the citizens of Warsaw after the city's surrender; Jews were excluded from the effort, which focused on the propaganda value.[13]

After Nazi Germany's defeat in World War II, the American Military Government issued a special law outlawing the Nazi Party and all of its branches. Known as Law number five, this denazification decree disbanded the NSV, like all organizations linked to the Nazi Party. The social welfare organizations had to be established anew during the postwar reconstruction of both West and East Germany.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Brill, Werner (2011). Pädagogik der Abgrenzung: Die Implementierung der Rassenhygiene im Nationalsozialismus durch die Sonderpädagogik [Pedagogics of demarcation: The implementation of racial hygiene in National Socialism via the special pedagogics] (in German). Julius Klinkhardt. p. 314. ISBN 9783781518353.
  2. ^ Michael Burleigh (2000). The Third Reich: A New History. New York City, New York: Hill and Wang. p. 219. ISBN 0-8090-9326-X.
  3. ^ Martina Steber and Bernhard Gotto (2014). Visions of Community in Nazi Germany: Social Engineering and Private Lives. Oxford, United Kingdom: Oxford University Press. p. 2, p. 92.
  4. ^ Michael Burleigh (2000). The Third Reich: A New History. New York City, New York: Hill and Wang. p. 221.
  5. ^ Gruner, Wolf (2009). Öffentliche Wohlfahrt und Judenverfolgung: Wechselwirkungen lokaler und zentraler Politik im NS-Staat (1933–1942) [Public Welfare and persecution of Jews: Interactions of local and central politics in the Nazu state (1933-1942)] (in German). Oldenbourg Verlag. pp. 30–31.
  6. ^ Richard J. Evans (2005). The Third Reich in Power, 1933-1939. New York City, New York: The Penguin Press. p. 489.
  7. ^ Richard J. Evans (2005). The Third Reich in Power, 1933-1939. New York City, New York: The Penguin Press. p. 489.
  8. ^ Götz Aly (2007). Hitler's Beneficiaries: Plunder, Racial War, and the Nazi Welfare State. New York City, New York: Metropolitan Books. p. 50.
  9. ^ Martina Steber; Bernhard Gotto (2014). Visions of Community in Nazi Germany: Social Engineering and Private Lives. Oxford, United Kingdom: Oxford University Press. p. 93.
  10. ^ Martina Steber; Bernhard Gotto (2014). Visions of Community in Nazi Germany: Social Engineering and Private Lives. Oxford, United Kingdom: Oxford University Press. pp. 93–94.
  11. ^ Michael Burleigh (2000). The Third Reich: A New History. New York City, New York: Hill and Wang. p. 247. Interview with Adolf Hitler by Louis P. Lochner, Associated Press correspondent in Berlin.
  12. ^ Götz Aly (2007). Hitler's Beneficiaries: Plunder, Racial War, and the Nazi Welfare State. New York City, New York: Metropolitan Books. p. 163.
  13. ^ Emanuel Ringelblum; Joseph Kermish; Shmuel Krakowski (1992). Polish-Jewish Relations During the Second World War. Evanston, Illinois: Northwestern University Press. pp. 37–38. ISBN 978-0-8101-0963-6. Retrieved 1 March 2011.