Hitler attempted to unite all Germans in a racially pure, classless people’s community known as the Volksgemeinschaft. In this aim the Nazis promised that there would be no political, religious, economic or social divisions. Since these revolutionary ideals were put forward and enforced over twelve years, they were bound to leave some imprint on society, however no regime which failed to last for a generation would have been able to totally transform society. Nazi ideals were often contradictory and often impractical; however, the dictatorship did accelerate a restructure within society.
Many Nazi policies were introduced with the benefit of the working class in mind. The most immediate and valuable benefit which almost all Germans enjoyed was a job by 1936. The Nazis increased the number of training schemes for the unskilled and apprenticeships for working class school leavers, which on average increased most workers earnings by 20 percent by 1939 compared to 1933. Nazi paternalism, directed by organisations such as Strength through Joy and the Beauty of Labour, raised morale and distracted workers from their monotmous work life, increasing the regimentation of their lives.
It allowed workers to appreciate offices and factories which were better heated, illuminated and decorated, and in their free time, they were offered events such as music recitals, art exhibitions, theatre trips, sporting events and even package holidays. Giving the workers holidays and trips, something that they could not usually afford was in an effort to break the social barrier between the working and middle classes. Nazi paternalism was greatly enjoyed by a wide degree of the population, with one in three of the workforce enjoying a state financed holiday.
Despite the Nazi regime efforts, many of the workers had always been ideologically hostile and opposed to the regime. Others were more pragmatic, however became disillusioned since their wages stagnated, and their working hours increased from 40 hours to 46 hours a week between 1936 and 1939. Hitler had nothing but contempt for the German social elite. He believed that the upper classes were patrons of Jewish decadent art, and thought that their lifestyles of dinner parties, gambling, theatre and concerts was degenerate and un-German. The Nazis banned dog hunting since Hitler believed that the culture was too much like the English.
Hitler wanted to break down the monopoly of the old social elite in the army, civil service and high politics. As a result, the Conservative and Nationalist parties were banned in July 1934 and the promotion of able professions was encouraged. Hitler’s efforts on attacking the social elite had some effect since by 1936 the percentage of aristocratic generals had declined from 61 to 25 percent. Many landowners felt as though their traditional status was threatened, and aristocrats resented their obligation to invite the rural society to their hunt balls and parties, believing that their traditional social functions had been lost.
The Nazi regime was unable to abolish the class system in Germany, nor did it attempt real distribution of wealth. Although the dictatorship did create some social dislocation, class prejudice and social distinction managed to survive the Nazi seizure of power. Although Nazi policies did result in some mobility within social groups, fundamentally there was no altering in the existing class structure of society. Hitler did try and promote greater social equality, however the elite class opposed his regime and often many of the working class did too.
Hitler offered many benefits to the working class and the farmers however, even after these benefits the status of farmers continued to decline. Nonetheless there was some upward social mobility for the workers, with the traditional elites merging with the new elites and non party elites such as business and the civil service. The army continued to recruit from the same social groups and education continued to be dominated by the middle class despite Nazi efforts to offer training schemes to the working class.