Book Review: Hitler's Compromises: Coercion and Consensus in Nazi Germany

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by Nathan Stoltzfus

New Haven: Yale University Press, 2016. Pp. xiv, 416. Illus., notes, biblio., index. $40.00. ISBN: 0300217501

Hitler Wielding the “Carrot and Stick”

Prof. Stoltzfus (Florida State) argues convincingly that, in significant contrast to his Soviet counterpart Stalin, while dealing harshly with outright resistance, Hitler was quite willing to tolerate some degree of dissent from his policies, at least from those who were ethnic Germans.

In making his case, Stoltzfus discusses a surprising number of cases in which Hitler, rather than – like Stalin – merely using brute force and terror to impose his policies on Germany, resorted to a carrot and stick policy, preferring to massage the masses as it were, and push people not wholly willing to cooperate with the new regime in the directions he wanted them to go. Stoltzfus even presents examples of Hitler’s curbing the actions of some of his more ideologically determined followers in the process.

In one such instance which Stoltzfus discusses, Protestant clergy who were unwilling to join the “Reich Church” were usually not disturbed, although they also did not necessarily reap the benefits showered on their counterparts who joined the regime’s religious institution. This use of “soft” power, allowed Hitler to “coax” those with some doubts about the regime into fuller cooperation or at least non-opposition. Using this approach Hitler was able to consolidate his power and move on to ever more radical policies. Of course when necessary there was no question that Hitler was willing to use the stick.

Stoltzfus’ innovative insights – arguably controversial – into Hitler’s management of opposition will be of interest to any student of the Third Reich or of authoritarian and totalitarian regimes in general.

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Reviewer: A. A. Nofi, Review Editor   


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