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East Germany Table of Contents

East Germany

Internal Resistance

Because of the efficiency of the SS, resistance against the Nazi regime was extremely difficult. Moreover, the Germans lacked a strong tradition of resistance to authority. Resistance against the Third Reich, although not a unified movement, nevertheless existed from 1933 to 1945 and assumed many forms, including the refusal to say "Heil Hitler," bad workmanship, factory slowdowns and strikes, sabotage, subversive radio transmissions, distribution of leaflets, and planning of assassinations and coups. Many German professionals and artists turned to "inner emigration," a form of passive resistance in which they pursued their careers without adopting the party line; those who publicly opposed the regime lost their livelihood and were imprisoned or executed.

Resistance, limited in 1933 to members of the SPD and KPD, did not initially include the appeased middle class. Most of the leftist opposition was eliminated by 1934. The Red Band, (Rote Kapelle), a designation given by the Gestapo to various resistance groups, continued to operate in Berlin up to 1942, when it was eliminated. Consisting of members with various political beliefs and from all social classes, the Red Band provided the Soviet Union with military information and maintained contact with prisoners of war and forced labor.

After the enforcement of Gleichschaltung, some members of German churches, illegal political parties, middle-class youth, university organizations, the civil service, and the military continued to resist the Third Reich either actively or passively. There was, for example, a military-civilian plot to remove Hitler from office if, in the event of a firm stand by France and Britain, war broke out over the issue of Czechoslovakia. The Grosse Organisation and the Kreisauer Circle coordinated military resistance within the Third Reich. Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg, who had ties with both of these organizations, attempted to assassinate Hitler and effect a coup on July 20, 1944. The coup was planned in cooperation with the civilian resistance and was supported by a large number of generals and field commanders. The news of Hitler's survival of the bomb blast spread, and the SS halted an attempt to secure key government offices. Approximately 5,000 conspirators, including 2,000 military officers, were subsequently executed. The celebrated national hero, General Erwin Rommel, whose participation in the conspiracy was concealed from the public, was forced to take poison.

Data as of July 1987