Spying, Leisure, and Subversion: How the ‘Strength Through Joy’ Program Could Have Worked Against the Nazi Reich

By Austin Pellizzer

In the mid-1930s, with the Nazi regime’s economic, social, and political atmosphere being stronger and prosperous than ever, offering its citizens an opportunity to travel outside its borders became a new and exciting experience for many of Germany’s own. Shelley Baranowski’s article, Strength Through Joy: Consumerism and Mass Tourism in the Third Reich, sheds light on the phenomena of how freedom and state surveillance can work hand-in-hand. In 1936, with much of the state coming under suspicion and paranoia of its citizens working to undermine its National Socialist goals (162-63), the world of state surveillance and across-class leisure converged into one (164). These trips were a way for Hitler’s regime to present the myth of Aryan superiority even in the allied nations such as Italy and Portugal (192). The goal of attempting to portray the German Reich as superior in living standards for all citizens (165) demonstrated how the Reich was steadfast in giving the illusion of order and superiority. 

With this generally popular program coming to an end due to the start of World War Two, Baranowski leaves one question wanting and without explanation. To what extent (if at any) did subversive and anti-governmental actions through espionage or other anti-Nazi networks work within this international sphere? Did said networks exist in a broader context? if they did, how did they manage?. While I understand how state-sponsored leisure and international programs would be closely monitoring its members actions, it would be interesting to see if any working-class people who Baranowski notes as having a prone attitude to supporting marxism (195) would have attempted to push back against the state. Lastly, as we see in the later war years, underground networks were a key facet which aided the downfall of this fascist regime across Europe. However, the question is, when did it all start?

Works Cited

Shelley Baranowski, Strength through Joy: Consumerism and Mass Tourism in the ThirdReich(Cambridge, 2004), pp. 1-10, pp. 162-98

One Reply to “Spying, Leisure, and Subversion: How the ‘Strength Through Joy’ Program Could Have Worked Against the Nazi Reich”

  1. I too wanted to know more about the surveillance measures that occurred in the cruises! What was reported on such trips and if it resulted in changing or at least talk about changing some of the methods of the regime, or if, to the contrary, it strengthened their ways? As the cruises were seemingly a way of reinforcing the Nazi ideology within Germany and to the foreign eye, it would have been relevant to see the results of the work of the spies.

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