Many people had voted for Hitler because he had promised to end unemployment. Once the Nazi Party came to power everyone had to work. Between 1933 and 1939, unemployment fell from six million in 1933 to 100,000. Trade unions were banned and wages were fixed and not up for negotiation.
Workers lost their rights and were often sent to work on heavy manual labour schemes for low pay. However, people who worked hard were rewarded by being sent on holiday to workers’ camps. This was part of the campaign to control every aspect of life in Germany. The Nazi Party established its own trade union, the DAF.
The government began to build motorways, schools and hospitals. In defiance of the Treaty of Versailles, the Nazis also began a re-armament programme aimed at supplying tanks, aeroplanes, guns and ships for the military. Not only did it lead to a boom in steel and manufacturing industries, it was very popular with people who felt that the treaty had humiliated Germany.
The size of the armed forces was increased, with all males between 18 and 25 years having to complete two years of military service. In addition, men between 18 and 25 years of age had to undertake six months of compulsory duty in the National Labour Service. In return for pocket money, food and accommodation, they had to carry out heavy outdoor work and take part in military drill and instruction.
Anyone who refused to work was branded ‘work-shy’ and sent to a concentration camp for correction. The police rounded up beggars, Roma and those deemed criminals. In 1933 alone, 500,000 people were sent to concentration camps for work training.