In the Soviet Union a person who was rising in technical management (say, becoming the director of a plant) was usually expected to join the Communist Party as a pre-requisite of getting the job.

I wonder if that was the case in Nazi Germany as well - did technical manager of comparable rank have to join the Nazi Party?

To clarify, I am talking about "soft expectations" here, not about a formal manual that lays down the rules, which afaik did not exist in the Soviet case as well.

P.S. A possible (trivial) answer might be that the Nazis have not properly nationalized the industry, with most plants still remaining in private hands - so a full parallel is impossible. However, I understand that industry was very tightly watched and regulated in Nazi Germany as well - so perhaps the question makes some sense after all.

3 Answers 3


This was true of government, not so much of technical managers. However it is likely that a technical manager would have been a Party member because technocrat types tended to be attracted to the NSDAP because of its ideology of applying "science" to society and government, and its willingness to give power to "experts" to formulate and implement policies. (Sources: Jeffrey Herf, "Reactionary Modernism", Goetz Aly, "Vordenker der Vernichtung")

Because it was helpful to a career to be a Nazi Party member, it was also something the party guarded against. They meant it to be a privilege. Hence never more than 10% of the population were party members, and that only at the very end when they had to spread the joy widely in order to keep the younger adult population engaged in the war effort.

Between the years 1933 and 1937 it was not even possible to join the NSDAP if you were eligible as of 1933, which most adults were. Only on November 5, 1937 did they admit those who had applied in the gold rush of late 1933 when it became obvious that the Nazis were going to stay in power for a while. (Source: Michael Burleigh, Third Reich; Richard Evans, The Third Reich in Power)

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    Can you add sources, please? Apr 10, 2014 at 7:27
  • Do you have a PhD in History? That would make you a "real" historian.
    – Tom Au
    Apr 10, 2014 at 15:43
  • Yes, I do have a PhD in History. Once an historian, always an historian. Apr 10, 2014 at 19:17

I've never heard of any such requirement, and I guess it would have been listed in one of the many books I've read about the era (including German ones from WW2 and the 1930s).
I doubt it would even be needed to set such a requirement. The Partei was extremely popular, especially among the well educated, and seeing more government contracts coming the way of competitors who were Partei members would be enough incentive to persuade the rest (and seeing totalitarian regimes through the decades it is the norm to send contracts the way of your supporters, so it's no great leap to assume the Nazis did the same).

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    In general the Nazis were a bit more hands off than the more day to day ideological Soviets. The Nazis would visit your factory and tell you what to make, but were less inclined to tell you how to do things in the small detail. This is how sometimes companies could treat oppressed groups a little better than the Nazis wanted for a while.
    – Oldcat
    Apr 11, 2014 at 0:29

No--in fact, many people even near the top of the hierarchy, such as Admiral Wilhelm Canaris, head of the Amt Ausland/Abwehr secret intelligence service, never joined the Party at all. Same with those who weren't military, such as Ernst Heinkel, who was one of the Third Reich's most famous aircraft manufacturers and designers.

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    Sources would improve this answer
    – MCW
    Oct 12, 2016 at 23:41
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    Thanks, this is interesting. I looked up Heinkel in wiki and it appears he received, among others, a sort of honorific title of Wehrwirtschaftsführer (something like Captain of Industry). Oct 13, 2016 at 11:21
  • Thanks Felix and Mark. Actually, Mark's note was good, because although I had seen it reported that Heinkel was never a member of the Party, this report contradicts that: link It's noteworthy that given that any war materiel manufacturer was subject to government control, he did apparently struggle quite a bit (often in vain) to keep control of his own factories. I am searching for the text in which I read that Canaris wasn't a member.
    – andrew
    Oct 13, 2016 at 18:36

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