Coordinates: 52°31′N 13°24′E / 52.517°N 13.400°E /
"Drittes Reich" redirects here. For the 1923 book, see Das Dritte
Das Lied der Deutschen
"Song of the Germans"
"Horst Wessel Song"
Germany at the height of World War II
success (late 1942)
Civil occupied territories
Military-administered occupied territories
Administrative divisions of Germany, January 1944
Nazi one-party totalitarian dictatorship
President / Führer
Paul von Hindenburg
Paul von Hindenburg (President)
Adolf Hitler (Führer)
Karl Dönitz (President)
1945 (as leading minister)
Lutz Graf Schwerin von Krosigk
Reichsrat (abolished 1934)
Interwar/World War II
"Seizure of Power"
30 January 1933
24 March 1933
(Union with Austria)
12 March 1938
World War II
1 September 1939
Death of Adolf Hitler
30 April 1945
Surrender of Germany
8 May 1945
23 May 1945
633,786 km2 (244,706 sq mi)
^ Officially "Großdeutsches Reich" ("Greater German Reich"),
^ Officially "Großdeutscher Reichstag" ("Diet of the Greater German
Germany is the common English name for the period in German
history from 1933 to 1945, when
Germany was under the dictatorship of
Adolf Hitler through the
Nazi Party (NSDAP). Under Hitler's rule,
Germany was transformed into a totalitarian state in which the Nazi
Party controlled nearly all aspects of life. The official name of the
state was Deutsches
Reich ("German Reich") from 1933 to 1943 and
Reich ("Great-German Reich") from 1943 to 1945. The
period is also known under the names the Third
Reich (Drittes Reich,
meaning "Third Realm" or "Third Empire", with the Holy Roman Empire
German Empire being the first two) and the National Socialist
Period (Zeit des Nationalsozialismus, abbreviated as NS-Zeit,
literally "Time of National Socialism"). The Nazi regime ended after
the Allied Powers defeated
Germany in May 1945, ending
World War II
World War II in
Hitler was appointed Chancellor of
Germany by the President of the
Paul von Hindenburg
Paul von Hindenburg on 30 January 1933. The Nazi Party
then began to eliminate all political opposition and consolidate its
power. Hindenburg died on 2 August 1934 and
Hitler became dictator of
Germany by merging the offices and powers of the Chancellery and
Presidency. A national referendum held 19 August 1934 confirmed Hitler
Führer (leader) of Germany. All power was centralised in
Hitler's person and his word became above all laws. The government was
not a coordinated, co-operating body, but a collection of factions
struggling for power and Hitler's favour. In the midst of the Great
Depression, the Nazis restored economic stability and ended mass
unemployment using heavy military spending and a mixed economy.
Extensive public works were undertaken, including the construction of
Autobahnen (motorways). The return to economic stability boosted the
Racism, especially antisemitism, was a central feature of the regime.
Germanic peoples (the Nordic race) were considered by the Nazis to
be the purest branch of the
Aryan race and were therefore viewed as
the master race. Millions of
Jews and other peoples deemed undesirable
by the state were murdered in the Holocaust. Opposition to Hitler's
rule was ruthlessly suppressed. Members of the liberal, socialist, and
communist opposition were killed, imprisoned, or exiled. Christian
churches were oppressed, with many leaders imprisoned. Education
focused on racial biology, population policy, and fitness for military
service. Career and educational opportunities for women were
curtailed. Recreation and tourism were organised via the Strength
Through Joy program, and the
1936 Summer Olympics
1936 Summer Olympics showcased the Third
Reich on the international stage.
Propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels
made effective use of film, mass rallies, and Hitler's hypnotic
oratory to influence public opinion. The government controlled
artistic expression, promoting specific art forms and banning or
Beginning in the late 1930s, Nazi
Germany made increasingly aggressive
territorial demands, threatening war if they were not met. It seized
Czechoslovakia in 1938 and 1939.
Hitler made a
non-aggression pact with
Joseph Stalin and invaded Poland in September
World War II
World War II in Europe. In alliance with Italy and
smaller Axis powers,
Germany conquered most of Europe by 1940 and
threatened the UK. Reichskommissariats took control of conquered areas
and a German administration was established in what was left of
Jews and others deemed undesirable were imprisoned, murdered
Nazi concentration camps
Nazi concentration camps and extermination camps, or shot.
Following the German invasion of the
Soviet Union in 1941, the tide
gradually turned against the Nazis, who suffered major military
defeats in 1943. Large-scale aerial bombing of
Germany escalated in
1944 and the
Axis powers were pushed back in Eastern and Southern
Europe. Following the Allied invasion of France,
Germany was conquered
Soviet Union from the east and the other Allied powers from the
west and capitulated within a year. Hitler's refusal to admit defeat
led to massive destruction of German infrastructure and additional
war-related deaths in the closing months of the war. The victorious
Allies initiated a policy of denazification and put many of the
surviving Nazi leadership on trial for war crimes at the Nuremberg
3.1 Nazi seizure of power
3.2 Militaristic foreign policy
3.3 Austria and Czechoslovakia
3.5 World War II
3.5.1 Foreign policy
3.5.2 Outbreak of war
3.5.3 Conquest of Europe
3.5.4 Turning point and collapse
3.5.5 German casualties
4.1 Territorial changes
4.2 Occupied territories
4.3 Post-war changes
5.4 Military and paramilitary
5.4.2 The SA and SS
6.2 Wartime economy and forced labour
7 Racial policy
7.1 Persecution of Jews
7.2 Persecution of Roma
7.3 People with disabilities
7.4 The Holocaust
7.5 Oppression of ethnic Poles
7.6 Mistreatment of Soviet POWs
8.2 Oppression of churches
8.4 Role of women and family
11 See also
13 External links
Further information: Reich
The official name of the state was Deutsches
Reich from 1933 to 1943
Reich from 1943 to 1945, while common English terms
are "Nazi Germany" and "Third Reich". The latter, adopted by Nazi
propaganda as Drittes Reich, was first used in a 1923 book by Arthur
Moeller van den Bruck. The book counted the Holy Roman Empire
(962–1806) as the first
Reich and the
German Empire (1871–1918) as
the second. The Nazis used it to legitimize their regime as a
successor state. After they seized power, Nazi propaganda
retroactively referred to the
Weimar Republic as the Zwischenreich
Further information: Adolf Hitler's rise to power
The German economy suffered severe setbacks after the end of World War
I, partly because of reparations payments required under the 1919
Treaty of Versailles. The government printed money to make the
payments and to repay the country's war debt, but the resulting
hyperinflation led to inflated prices for consumer goods, economic
chaos, and food riots. When the government defaulted on their
reparations payments in January 1923, French troops occupied German
industrial areas along the
Ruhr and widespread civil unrest
National Socialist German Workers' Party
National Socialist German Workers' Party (NSDAP;[d] Nazi Party)
was the renamed successor of the
German Workers' Party
German Workers' Party founded in
1919, one of several far-right political parties then active in
Germany. The party platform included removal of the Weimar
Republic, rejection of the terms of the Treaty of Versailles, radical
antisemitism, and anti-Bolshevism. They promised a strong central
Lebensraum ("living space") for Germanic
peoples, formation of a national community based on race, and racial
cleansing via the active suppression of Jews, who would be stripped of
their citizenship and civil rights. The Nazis proposed national and
cultural renewal based upon the Völkisch movement.
When the stock market in the United States crashed on 24 October 1929,
the effect in
Germany was dire. Millions were thrown out of work
and several major banks collapsed.
Hitler and the NSDAP prepared to
take advantage of the emergency to gain support for their party. They
promised to strengthen the economy and provide jobs. Many voters
decided the NSDAP was capable of restoring order, quelling civil
unrest, and improving Germany's international reputation. After the
federal election of 1932, the NSDAP was the largest party in the
Reichstag, holding 230 seats with 37.4 percent of the popular
If the experience of the Third
Reich teaches us anything, it is that a
love of great music, great art and great literature does not provide
people with any kind of moral or political immunization against
violence, atrocity, or subservience to dictatorship.
Richard J. Evans, The Coming of the Third
Further information: History of Germany
Nazi seizure of power
Adolf Hitler's rise to power
Adolf Hitler's rise to power § Seizure of control
Although the Nazis won the greatest share of the popular vote in the
two Reichstag general elections of 1932, they did not have a majority
Hitler led a short-lived coalition government formed
with the German National People's Party. Under pressure from
politicians, industrialists, and the business community, President
Paul von Hindenburg
Paul von Hindenburg appointed
Hitler as Chancellor of
Germany on 30
January 1933. This event is known as the
Machtergreifung ("seizure of
power"). In the following months, the NSDAP used a process termed
Gleichschaltung ("co-ordination") to bring all aspects of life under
control of the party. All civilian organisations, including
agricultural groups, volunteer organisations, and sports clubs, had
their leadership replaced with Nazi sympathisers or party members;
these civic organizations either merged with the
Nazi Party or faced
dissolution. By June 1933, the only organisations not in the
control of the NSDAP were the army and the churches.
Adolf Hitler became Germany's head of state, with the title of Führer
und Reichskanzler, in 1934
On the night of 27 February 1933, the Reichstag building was set
afire. Marinus van der Lubbe, a Dutch communist, was found guilty of
starting the blaze.
Hitler proclaimed that the arson marked the start
of a communist uprising. Violent suppression of communists by the
Sturmabteilung (SA) was undertaken nationwide and four thousand
members of the Communist Party of
Germany were arrested. The Reichstag
Fire Decree, imposed on 28 February 1933, rescinded most German civil
liberties, including rights of assembly and freedom of the press. The
decree also allowed the police to detain people indefinitely without
charges or a court order. The legislation was accompanied by a
propaganda blitz that led to public support for the measure.
In March 1933, the Enabling Act, an amendment to the Weimar
Constitution, passed in the Reichstag by a vote of 444 to 94. This
Hitler and his cabinet to pass laws—even laws that
violated the constitution—without the consent of the president or
the Reichstag. As the bill required a two-thirds majority to pass,
the Nazis used the provisions of the
Reichstag Fire Decree
Reichstag Fire Decree to keep
several Social Democratic deputies from attending, and the Communists
had already been banned. On 10 May, the government seized the
assets of the Social Democrats, and they were banned in June. The
remaining political parties were dissolved, and on 14 July 1933
Germany became a de facto one-party state when the founding of new
parties was made illegal. Further elections in November 1933, 1936
and 1938 were Nazi-controlled, with only the NSDAP and a small number
of independents elected. The regional state parliaments and the
Reichsrat (federal upper house) were abolished in January 1934.
The Nazi regime abolished the symbols of the Weimar
Republic—including the black, red, and gold tricolour flag—and
adopted reworked imperial symbolism. The previous imperial black,
white, and red tricolour was restored as one of Germany's two official
flags; the second was the swastika flag of the NSDAP, which became the
sole national flag in 1935. The NSDAP anthem "Horst-Wessel-Lied"
("Horst Wessel Song") became a second national anthem.
Hitler knew that reviving the economy was vital.
Germany was still in
a dire economic situation, as millions were unemployed and the balance
of trade deficit was daunting. In 1934, using deficit spending,
public works projects were undertaken, creating 1.7 million new jobs
in 1934 alone. Average wages both per hour and per week began to
The demands of the SA for more political and military power caused
anxiety among military, industrial, and political leaders. In
Hitler purged the entire SA leadership in the Night of the
Long Knives, which took place from 30 June to 2 July 1934. Hitler
Ernst Röhm and other SA leaders who—along with a number of
Hitler's political adversaries (such as
Gregor Strasser and former
chancellor Kurt von Schleicher)—were rounded up, arrested, and
On 2 August 1934, President von Hindenburg died. The previous day, the
cabinet had enacted the "Law Concerning the Highest State Office of
the Reich", which stated that upon Hindenburg's death the office of
president would be abolished and its powers merged with those of the
Hitler thus became head of state as well as head of
government and was formally named as
Führer und Reichskanzler (leader
Germany was now a totalitarian state with
its head. As head of state,
Hitler became Supreme Commander of the
armed forces. The new law altered the traditional loyalty oath of
servicemen so that they affirmed loyalty to
Hitler personally rather
than the office of supreme commander or the state. On 19 August,
the merger of the presidency with the chancellorship was approved by
90 percent of the electorate in a plebiscite.
Reich Minister of Propaganda
Germans were relieved that the conflicts and street fighting of
the Weimar era had ended. They were deluged with propaganda
orchestrated by Joseph Goebbels, who promised peace and plenty for all
in a united, Marxist-free country without the constraints of the
Versailles Treaty. The first major Nazi concentration camp,
initially for political prisoners, was opened at Dachau in 1933.
Hundreds of camps of varying size and function were created by the end
of the war.
Beginning in April 1933, scores of measures defining the status of
Jews and their rights were instituted at the regional and national
level. Initiatives and legal mandates against the
in the establishment of the
Nuremberg Laws of 1935, stripping them of
their basic rights. The Nazis would take from the
wealth, their right to intermarry with non-Jews, and their right to
occupy many fields of labour (such as practising law, medicine or
working as educators). They eventually declared them undesirable to
remain among German citizens and society, which over time dehumanised
the Jews. Arguably, these actions desensitised
Germans to the extent
that it resulted in the Holocaust. Ethnic
Germans who refused to
Jews or who showed any signs of resistance to Nazi
propaganda were placed under surveillance by the Gestapo, had their
rights removed, or were sent to concentration camps. The NSDAP
obtained and legitimised power through its initial revolutionary
activities, then through manipulation of legal mechanisms, the use of
police powers, and by the expansion of authority for all state and
Militaristic foreign policy
Main article: International relations (1919–1939)
Remilitarization of the Rhineland
Remilitarization of the Rhineland and German involvement in
the Spanish Civil War
As early as February 1933,
Hitler announced that rearmament must
begin, albeit clandestinely at first, as to do so was in violation of
the Versailles Treaty. A year later he told his military leaders that
1942 was the target date for going to war in the east. He pulled
Germany out of the
League of Nations
League of Nations in 1933, claiming its disarmament
clauses were unfair as they applied only to Germany. The Saarland,
which had been placed under
League of Nations
League of Nations supervision for 15 years
at the end of World War I, voted in January 1935 to become part of
Germany. In March 1935,
Hitler announced the
Reichswehr would be
increased to 550,000 men and the creation of an air force. Britain
agreed that the
Germans would be allowed to build a naval fleet with
the signing of the
Anglo-German Naval Agreement
Anglo-German Naval Agreement on 18 June 1935.
When the Italian invasion of Ethiopia led to only mild protests by the
British and French governments, on 7 March 1936
Hitler used the
Franco-Soviet Treaty of Mutual Assistance as a pretext to order the
Wehrmacht Heer to march 3,000 troops into the demilitarised zone in
Rhineland in violation of the Versailles Treaty. As the
territory was part of Germany, the British and French governments did
not feel that attempting to enforce the treaty was worth the risk of
war. In the one-party election held on 29 March, the NSDAP
received 98.9 percent support. In 1936,
Hitler signed an
Anti-Comintern Pact with Japan and a non-aggression agreement with the
Fascist Italy of Benito Mussolini, who was soon referring to a
Hitler sent air and armoured units to assist the Nationalist forces of
Francisco Franco in the Spanish Civil War, which began in July
Soviet Union sent a smaller force to assist the Republican
government. Franco's Nationalists were victorious in 1939 and became
an informal ally of Nazi Germany.
Germans in 1938 use the
Nazi salute to greet German soldiers as
they enter Saaz, Czechoslovakia
Austria and Czechoslovakia
Anschluss and German occupation of Czechoslovakia
Further information: Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia
In February 1938,
Hitler emphasised to Austrian Chancellor Kurt
Schuschnigg the need for
Germany to secure its frontiers. Schuschnigg
scheduled a plebiscite regarding Austrian independence for 13 March,
Hitler demanded that it be cancelled. On 11 March,
Hitler sent an
ultimatum to Schuschnigg demanding that he hand over all power to the
Austrian NSDAP or face an invasion. The
Wehrmacht entered Austria the
next day, to be greeted with enthusiasm by the populace.
The Republic of
Czechoslovakia was home to a substantial minority of
Germans, who lived mostly in the Sudetenland. Under pressure from
separatist groups within the Sudeten German Party, the Czechoslovak
government offered economic concessions to the region. Hitler
decided to incorporate not just the
Sudetenland but all of
Czechoslovakia into the Reich. The Nazis undertook a propaganda
campaign to try to generate support for an invasion. Top leaders
of the armed forces opposed the plan, as
Germany was not yet ready for
Hitler proclaims the
Anschluss on the Heldenplatz, Vienna, 15 March
The crisis led to war preparations by the British, the Czechoslovaks,
and France (Czechoslovakia's ally). Attempting to avoid war, British
Neville Chamberlain arranged a series of meetings, the
result of which was the
Munich Agreement, signed on 29 September 1938.
The Czechoslovak government was forced to accept the Sudetenland's
annexation into Germany. Chamberlain was greeted with cheers when he
landed in London, saying it brought "peace for our time". The
agreement lasted six months before
Hitler seized the rest of Czech
territory in March 1939. A puppet state was created in
Austrian and Czech foreign exchange reserves were seized by the Nazis,
as were stockpiles of raw materials such as metals and completed goods
such as weaponry and aircraft, which were shipped to Germany. The
Reichswerke Hermann Göring
Reichswerke Hermann Göring industrial conglomerate took control of
steel and coal production facilities in both countries.
Nazi propaganda poster proclaiming that
Danzig is German.
In January 1934,
Germany signed a non-aggression pact with Poland,
which disrupted the French network of anti-German alliances in Eastern
Europe. In March 1939,
Hitler demanded the return of the Free City
Danzig and the Polish Corridor, a strip of land that separated East
Prussia from the rest of Germany. The British announced they would
come to the aid of Poland if it was attacked. Hitler, believing the
British would not actually take action, ordered an invasion plan
should be readied for a target date of September 1939. On 23 May,
Hitler described to his generals his overall plan of not only seizing
Polish Corridor but greatly expanding German territory eastward at
the expense of Poland and he expected this time they would be met by
Germans reaffirmed their alliance with Italy and signed
non-aggression pacts with Denmark, Estonia, and Latvia whilst trade
links were formalised with Romania, Norway, and Sweden. Hitler's
Joachim von Ribbentrop
Joachim von Ribbentrop arranged in negotiations with
Soviet Union a non-aggression pact, the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact,
signed in August 1939. The treaty also contained secret protocols
dividing Poland and the Baltic states into German and Soviet spheres
World War II
Animated map showing German and Axis allies' conquests in Europe
World War II
World War II (click through to the full-size image to view
the animated version)
Germany and her allies at the height of Axis success
Further information: Diplomatic history of World War II
Germany's wartime foreign policy involved the creation of allied
governments under direct or indirect control from Berlin. A main goal
was obtaining soldiers from the senior allies such as Italy and
Hungary and workers and food supplies from subservient allies such as
Vichy France. By late 1942, there were 24 divisions from Romania
on the Eastern Front, 10 from Italy and 10 from Hungary. Germany
assumed full control in France in 1942, Italy in 1943, and Hungary in
1944. Although Japan was a powerful ally, the relationship was
distant, with little co-ordination or co-operation. For example,
Germany refused to share their formula for synthetic oil from coal
until late in the war.
Outbreak of war
Germany invaded Poland on 1 September 1939. Britain and France
declared war on
Germany two days later.
World War II
World War II was under
way. Poland fell quickly, as the
Soviet Union attacked from the
east on 17 September. Reinhard Heydrich, then head of the Gestapo,
ordered on 21 September that
Jews should be rounded up and
concentrated into cities with good rail links. Initially the intention
was to deport them further east, or possibly to Madagascar. Using
lists prepared ahead of time, some 65,000 Polish intelligentsia,
noblemen, clergy, and teachers were killed by the end of 1939 in an
attempt to destroy Poland's identity as a nation. The Soviet
forces continued to attack, advancing into Finland in the Winter War,
and German forces saw action at sea. But little other activity
occurred until May, so the period became known as the "Phoney
From the start of the war, a British blockade on shipments to Germany
Reich economy. The
Germans were particularly dependent on
foreign supplies of oil, coal, and grain. To safeguard Swedish
iron ore shipments to Germany,
Hitler ordered an attack on Norway,
which took place on 9 April 1940. Much of the country was occupied by
German troops by the end of April. Also on 9 April, the Germans
invaded and occupied Denmark.
Conquest of Europe
Against the judgement of many of his senior military officers, Hitler
ordered an attack on France and the Low Countries, which began in May
1940. They quickly conquered Luxembourg, the Netherlands and
Belgium and France surrendered on 22 June. The unexpectedly swift
defeat of France resulted in an upswing in Hitler's popularity and an
upsurge in war fever.
In spite of the provisions of the Hague Convention, industrial firms
in the Netherlands, France and Belgium were put to work producing war
materiel for the occupying German military. Officials viewed this
option as being preferable to their citizens being deported to the
Reich as forced labour.
The Nazis seized from the French thousands of locomotives and rolling
stock, stockpiles of weapons, and raw materials such as copper, tin,
oil, and nickel. Payments for occupation costs were demanded and
received from France, Belgium, and Norway. Barriers to trade led
to hoarding, black markets, and uncertainty about the future. Food
supplies were precarious; production dropped in most of Europe, but
not as much as during World War I. Greece experienced famine in
the first year of occupation and the Netherlands in the last year of
Hitler made peace overtures to the new British leader Winston
Churchill, which were rejected in July 1940. Grand Admiral Erich
Raeder had advised
Hitler in June that air superiority was a
pre-condition for a successful invasion of Britain, so
a series of aerial attacks on
Royal Air Force
Royal Air Force (RAF) airbases and radar
stations, as well as nightly air raids on British cities, including
London, Plymouth, and Coventry. The German
Luftwaffe failed to defeat
the RAF in what became known as the Battle of Britain, and by the end
Hitler realised that air superiority could not be
achieved. He permanently postponed the invasion, a plan which the
commanders of the
Wehrmacht had never taken entirely
seriously.[e] Several historians, including Andrew Gordon,
believe the primary reason for the failure of the invasion plan was
due to the superiority of the Royal Navy, not the actions of the
In February 1941, the German
Afrika Korps arrived in Libya to aid the
Italians in the
North African Campaign
North African Campaign and attempt to contain
Commonwealth forces stationed in Egypt. On 6 April, Germany
launched the invasion of Yugoslavia and the battle of Greece.
German efforts to secure oil included negotiating a supply from their
new ally, Romania, who signed the
Tripartite Pact in November
German soldiers march near the
Arc de Triomphe
Arc de Triomphe in Paris, 14 June 1940
On 22 June 1941, contravening the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact, 5.5
million Axis troops attacked the Soviet Union. In addition to Hitler's
stated purpose of acquiring Lebensraum, this large-scale offensive
(codenamed Operation Barbarossa) was intended to destroy the Soviet
Union and seize its natural resources for subsequent aggression
against the Western powers. The reaction among
Germans was one of
surprise and trepidation as many were concerned about how much longer
the war would continue or suspected that
Germany could not win a war
fought on two fronts.
Panzer IV in Thessaloniki. The banner on the building in the
background reads "
Bolshevism is the greatest enemy of our
The invasion conquered a huge area, including the Baltic republics,
Belarus, and West Ukraine. After the successful Battle of Smolensk,
Army Group Centre to halt its advance to Moscow and
temporarily divert its Panzer groups to aid in the encirclement of
Leningrad and Kiev. This pause provided the
Red Army with an
opportunity to mobilise fresh reserves. The Moscow offensive, which
resumed in October 1941, ended disastrously in December. On 7
December 1941, Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Four days later,
Germany declared war on the United States.
Food was in short supply in the conquered areas of the Soviet Union
and Poland, with rations inadequate to meet nutritional needs. The
retreating armies had burned the crops and much of the remainder was
sent back to the Reich. In Germany, rations were cut in 1942. In
his role as
Plenipotentiary of the Four Year Plan, Hermann Göring
demanded increased shipments of grain from France and fish from
Norway. The 1942 harvest was good, and food supplies remained adequate
in Western Europe.
Reichsleiter Rosenberg Taskforce
Reichsleiter Rosenberg Taskforce was an organisation set up to loot
artwork and cultural material from Jewish collections, libraries, and
museums throughout Europe. Some 26,000 railroad cars of art treasures,
furniture, and other looted items were sent to
Germany from France
alone. In addition, soldiers looted or purchased goods such as
produce and clothing—items which were becoming harder to obtain in
Germany—for shipment home.
Turning point and collapse
Death and destruction during the Battle of Stalingrad, October 1942
Germany and Europe as a whole was almost totally dependent on foreign
oil imports. In an attempt to resolve the persistent shortage, in
Germany launched Fall Blau (Case Blue), an offensive against
the Caucasian oilfields. The
Red Army launched a
counter-offensive on 19 November and encircled the Axis forces, who
were trapped in Stalingrad on 23 November. Göring assured Hitler
that the 6th Army could be supplied by air, but this turned out to be
infeasible. Hitler's refusal to allow a retreat led to the deaths
of 200,000 German and Romanian soldiers; of the 91,000 men who
surrendered in the city on 31 January 1943, only 6,000 survivors
Germany after the war. Soviet forces continued to
push the invaders westward after the failed German offensive at the
Battle of Kursk
Battle of Kursk and by the end of 1943 the
Germans had lost most of
their Eastern territorial gains.
In Egypt, Field Marshal Erwin Rommel's
Afrika Korps were defeated by
British forces under Field Marshal
Bernard Montgomery in October
1942. The Allies landed in Sicily in July 1943 and in Italy in
September. Meanwhile, American and British bomber fleets based in
Britain began operations against
Germany and many sorties were
intentionally given civilian targets in an effort to destroy German
morale. Soon German aircraft production could not keep pace with
losses, and without air cover the Allied bombing campaign became even
more devastating. By targeting oil refineries and factories, they
crippled the German war effort by late 1944.
On 6 June 1944, American, British, and Canadian forces established a
front in France with the D-Day landings in Normandy. On 20 July
Hitler narrowly survived a bomb attack. He ordered brutal
reprisals, resulting in 7,000 arrests and the execution of more
than 4,900 people. The failed
Ardennes Offensive (16
December 1944 – 25 January 1945) was the last major German
campaign of the war as Soviet forces entered
Germany on 27
January. Hitler's refusal to admit defeat and his repeated
insistence that the war be fought to the last man led to unnecessary
death and destruction in the war's closing months. Through his
Justice Minister Otto Georg Thierack,
Hitler ordered that anyone who
was not prepared to fight should be summarily court-martialed, and
thousands of people were put to death. In many areas, people
surrendered to the approaching Allies in spite of exhortations of
local leaders to continue to fight.
Hitler also ordered the
destruction of transport, bridges, industries, and other
infrastructure—a scorched earth decree—but Armaments Minister
Albert Speer was able to keep this order from being fully carried
U.S. Army Air Force film of the destruction in central
Berlin in July
During the Battle of
Berlin (16 April 1945 – 2 May 1945),
Hitler and his staff lived in the underground
Führerbunker while the
Red Army approached. On 30 April, when Soviet troops were within
two blocks of the
Eva Braun committed
suicide in the Führerbunker. On 2 May, General Helmuth Weidling
Berlin to Soviet General Vasily
Hitler was succeeded by Grand Admiral
Karl Dönitz as
Reich President and Goebbels as
Reich Chancellor. Goebbels and
his wife Magda committed suicide the next day after murdering their
six children. On 4–8 May 1945, most of the remaining German
armed forces surrendered unconditionally. The German Instrument of
Surrender was signed 8 May, marking the end of the Nazi regime and the
World War II
World War II in Europe.
Main article: Mass suicides in 1945 Nazi Germany
Suicide rates in
Germany increased as the war drew to a close,
particularly in areas where the
Red Army was advancing. More than a
thousand people (out of a population of around 16,000) committed
suicide in Demmin on and around 1 May 1945 as the 65th Army of 2nd
Belorussian Front first broke into a distillery and then rampaged
through the town, committing mass rapes, arbitrarily executing
civilians, and setting fire to buildings. High numbers of
suicides took place in many other locations, including Neubrandenburg
(600 dead), Stolp in Pommern (1,000 dead), and Berlin, where
at least 7,057 people committed suicide in 1945.
World War II
World War II casualties and German casualties in
World War II
German refugees in Bedburg, near Kleve, 19 February 1945
Estimates of the total German war dead range from 5.5 to 6.9 million
persons. A study by German historian
Rüdiger Overmans puts the
number of German military dead and missing at 5.3 million, including
900,000 men conscripted from outside of Germany's 1937 borders.
Overy estimated in 2014 that about 353,000 civilians were killed by
British and American bombing of German cities. An additional
20,000 died in the land campaign. Some 22,000 citizens died
during the Battle of Berlin. Other civilian deaths include
Germans (including Jews) who were victims of Nazi political,
racial, and religious persecution and 200,000 who were murdered
in the Nazi euthanasia program. Political courts called
Sondergerichte sentenced some 12,000 members of the German resistance
to death and civil courts sentenced an additional 40,000 Germans.
Mass rapes of German women also took place.
At the end of the war, Europe had more than 40 million refugees,
its economy had collapsed, and 70 percent of its industrial
infrastructure was destroyed. Between twelve and fourteen million
Germans fled or were expelled from east-central Europe to
Germany. During the Cold War, the
West German government
estimated a death toll of 2.2 million civilians due to the flight and
Germans and through forced labour in the Soviet
Union. This figure remained unchallenged until the 1990s, when
some historians put the death toll at 500,000–600,000 confirmed
deaths. In 2006, the German government reaffirmed its
position that 2.0–2.5 million deaths occurred.[f]
Main article: Territorial evolution of Germany
Territorial expansion of
Germany from 1933 to 1943 (red: 1933)
As a result of their defeat in World War I and the resulting Treaty of
Germany lost Alsace-Lorraine, Northern Schleswig, and
Memel. The Saarland temporarily became a protectorate of France under
the condition that its residents would later decide by referendum
which country to join, and Poland became a separate nation and was
given access to the sea by the creation of the Polish Corridor, which
separated Prussia from the rest of Germany, while
Danzig was made a
Germany regained control of the Saarland through a referendum held in
1935 and annexed Austria in the
Anschluss of 1938. The Munich
Agreement of 1938 gave
Germany control of the Sudetenland, and they
seized the remainder of
Czechoslovakia six months later. Under
threat of invasion by sea,
Lithuania surrendered the Memel district in
Between 1939 and 1941, German forces invaded Poland, France,
Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Belgium, and the Soviet Union.
Mussolini ceded Trieste, South Tyrol, and
1943. Two puppet districts were created in the area: the
Operational Zone of the Adriatic Littoral
Operational Zone of the Adriatic Littoral and the Operational Zone of
the Alpine Foothills.
Under the cover of anti-partisan operations, the
civilians in 5,295 localities in occupied Soviet Belarus.
Some of the conquered territories were incorporated into
part of Hitler's long-term goal of creating a Greater Germanic Reich.
Several areas, such as Alsace-Lorraine, were placed under the
authority of an adjacent Gau (regional district). Beyond the
incorporated territories were the Reichskommissariate (Reich
Commissariats), quasi-colonial regimes established in some occupied
countries. Areas placed under German administration included the
Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia,
(encompassing the Baltic states and Belarus), and Reichskommissariat
Ukraine. Conquered areas of Belgium and France were placed under
control of the Military Administration in Belgium and Northern
France. Belgian Eupen-Malmedy, which had been part of German
until 1919, was annexed. Part of Poland was incorporated into the
Reich, and the
General Government was established in occupied central
Poland. The governments of Denmark, Norway (Reichskommissariat
Norwegen), and the Netherlands (
Reichskommissariat Niederlande) were
placed under civilian administrations staffed largely by
Hitler intended to eventually incorporate many of
these areas into the Reich.
With the issuance of the
Berlin Declaration on 5 June 1945 and later
creation of the Allied Control Council, the four Allied powers
temporarily assumed governance of Germany. At the Potsdam
Conference in August 1945, the Allies arranged for the Allied
occupation and denazification of the country.
Germany was split into
four zones, each occupied by one of the Allied powers, who drew
reparations from their zone. Since most of the industrial areas were
in the western zones, the
Soviet Union was transferred additional
Allied Control Council
Allied Control Council disestablished Prussia on
20 May 1947. Aid to
Germany began arriving from the United States
Marshall Plan in 1948. The occupation lasted until
1949, when the countries of East
Germany and West
created. In 1970,
Germany finalised her border with Poland by signing
the Treaty of Warsaw.
Germany remained divided until 1990, when
the Allies renounced all claims to German territory with the Treaty on
the Final Settlement with Respect to Germany, under which
renounced claims to territories lost during World War II.
Viktor Lutze perform the
Nazi salute at
Nuremberg Rally, September 1934
Further information: Nazism
The NSDAP was a far-right political party which came into its own
during the social and financial upheavals that occurred with the onset
Great Depression in 1929. While in prison after the failed
Beer Hall Putsch
Beer Hall Putsch of 1923,
Hitler wrote Mein Kampf, which laid out his
plan for transforming German society into one based on race. The
Nazism brought together elements of antisemitism, racial
hygiene, and eugenics, and combined them with pan-Germanism and
territorial expansionism with the goal of obtaining more Lebensraum
for the Germanic people. The regime attempted to obtain this new
territory by attacking Poland and the Soviet Union, intending to
deport or kill the
Slavs living there, who were viewed as
being inferior to the Aryan master race and part of a Jewish Bolshevik
conspiracy. The Nazi regime believed that only
defeat the forces of
Bolshevism and save humanity from world
domination by International Jewry. Others deemed life unworthy of
life by the Nazis included the mentally and physically disabled,
Romani people, homosexuals, Jehovah's Witnesses, and social
Influenced by the Völkisch movement, the regime was against cultural
modernism and supported the development of an extensive military at
the expense of intellectualism. Creativity and art were
stifled, except where they could serve as propaganda media. The
party used symbols such as the Blood Flag and rituals such as the Nazi
Party rallies to foster unity and bolster the regime's
See also: Government of Nazi Germany
Hitler, Göring, Goebbels and
Rudolf Hess during a military parade in
Reichsstatthalter decrees between 1933 and 1935 abolished
the existing Länder (constituent states) of
Germany and replaced them
with new administrative divisions, the Gaue, headed by NSDAP leaders
(Gauleiters), who governed their respective regions. The change
was never fully implemented, as the Länder were still used as
administrative divisions for some government departments such as
education. This led to a bureaucratic tangle of overlapping
jurisdictions and responsibilities typical of the administrative style
of the Nazi regime.
Jewish civil servants lost their jobs in 1933, except for those who
had seen military service in World War I. Members of the NSDAP or
party supporters were appointed in their place. As part of the
process of Gleichschaltung, the
Reich Local Government Law of 1935
abolished local elections, and from henceforth mayors were appointed
by the Interior Ministry.
Germany autocratically by asserting the Führerprinzip
("leader principle"), which called for absolute obedience of all
subordinates. He viewed the government structure as a pyramid, with
himself—the infallible leader—at the apex. Party rank was not
determined by elections, and positions were filled through appointment
by those of higher rank. The party used propaganda to develop a
cult of personality around Hitler. Historians such as Kershaw
emphasise the psychological impact of Hitler's skill as an
orator. Neil Kressel writes: "Overwhelmingly ... Germans
speak with mystification of Hitler's 'hypnotic' appeal". Roger
Gill states: "His moving speeches captured the minds and hearts of a
vast number of the German people: he virtually hypnotized his
Top officials reported to
Hitler and followed his policies, but they
had considerable autonomy. Officials were expected to "work
towards the Führer" – to take the initiative in promoting
policies and actions in line with his wishes and the goals of the
Hitler having to be involved in day-to-day
decision-making. The government was not a coordinated,
co-operating body, but rather a disorganised collection of factions
led by the party elite, who struggled to amass power and gain the
Führer's favour. Hitler's leadership style was to give
contradictory orders to his subordinates and to place them in
positions where their duties and responsibilities overlapped. In
this way he fostered distrust, competition, and infighting among his
subordinates to consolidate and maximise his own power.
Further information: Law of Germany
Chart showing the pseudo-scientific racial divisions used in the
racial policies of Nazi Germany
In August 1934, civil servants and members of the military were
required to swear an oath of unconditional obedience to Hitler. These
laws became the basis of the Führerprinzip, the concept that Hitler's
word overrode all existing laws. Any acts that were sanctioned by
Hitler—even murder—thus became legal. All legislation
proposed by cabinet ministers had to be approved by the office of
Führer Rudolf Hess, who could also veto top civil service
Most of the judicial system and legal codes of the Weimar Republic
remained in use during and after the Nazi era to deal with
non-political crimes. The courts issued and carried out far more
death sentences than before the Nazis took power. People who were
convicted of three or more offences—even petty ones—could be
deemed habitual offenders and jailed indefinitely. People such as
prostitutes and pickpockets were judged to be inherently criminal and
a threat to the racial community. Thousands were arrested and confined
indefinitely without trial.
A meeting of the four jurists who imposed Nazi ideology on the legal
Germany (from left to right: Roland Freisler, Franz
Otto Georg Thierack
Otto Georg Thierack and Curt Rothenberger)
A new type of court, the
Volksgerichtshof (People's Court), was
established in 1934 to deal with politically important matters.
This court handed out over 5,000 death sentences until its dissolution
in 1945. The death penalty could be issued for offences such as
being a communist, printing seditious leaflets, or even making jokes
Hitler or other officials. Nazi
Germany employed three
types of capital punishment: hanging, decapitation, and death by
Gestapo was in charge of investigative policing to
enforce National Socialist ideology as they located and confined
political offenders, Jews, and others deemed undesirable.
Political offenders who were released from prison were often
immediately re-arrested by the
Gestapo and confined in a concentration
In September 1935, the
Nuremberg Laws were enacted. These laws
initially prohibited sexual relations and marriages between Aryans and
Jews and were later extended to include "Gypsies, Negroes or their
bastard offspring". The law also forbade the employment of German
women under the age of 45 as domestic servants in Jewish
Reich Citizenship Law stated that only those of
"German or related blood" were eligible for citizenship. At the
same time, the Nazis used propaganda to promulgate the concept of
Rassenschande ("race defilement") to justify the need for a
restrictive law. Thus
Jews and other non-Aryans were stripped of
their German citizenship. The wording of the law also permitted the
Nazis to deny citizenship to anyone who was not supportive enough of
the regime. A supplementary decree issued in November defined as
Jewish anyone with three Jewish grandparents, or two grandparents if
the Jewish faith was followed.
Military and paramilitary
Further information: German Army (Wehrmacht)
A column of tanks and other armoured vehicles of the
The unified armed forces of
Germany from 1935 to 1945 were called the
Wehrmacht. This included the Heer (army),
Kriegsmarine (navy), and the
Luftwaffe (air force). From 2 August 1934, members of the armed forces
were required to pledge an oath of unconditional obedience to Hitler
personally. In contrast to the previous oath, which required
allegiance to the constitution of the country and its lawful
establishments, this new oath required members of the military to obey
Hitler even if they were being ordered to do something illegal.
Hitler decreed that the army would have to tolerate and even offer
logistical support to the Einsatzgruppen—the mobile death squads
responsible for millions of deaths in Eastern Europe—when it was
tactically possible to do so. Members of the
participated directly in the
Holocaust by shooting civilians or
undertaking genocide under the guise of anti-partisan operations.
The party line was that the
Jews were the instigators of the partisan
struggle and therefore needed to be eliminated. On 8 July 1941,
Heydrich announced that all
Jews were to be regarded as partisans and
gave the order for all male
Jews between the ages of 15 and 45 to be
shot. By August the entire Jewish population was being targeted
in mass killings.
In spite of efforts to prepare the country militarily, the economy
could not sustain a lengthy war of attrition such as had occurred in
World War I. A strategy was developed based on the tactic of
Blitzkrieg ("lightning war"), which involved using quick coordinated
assaults that avoided enemy strong points. Attacks began with
artillery bombardment, followed by bombing and strafing runs. Next the
tanks would attack and finally the infantry would move in to secure
the captured area. Victories continued through mid-1940, but the
failure to defeat Britain was the first major turning point in the
war. The decision to attack the
Soviet Union and the decisive defeat
at Stalingrad led to the retreat of the German armies and the eventual
loss of the war. The total number of soldiers who served in the
Wehrmacht from 1935 to 1945 was around 18.2 million, of whom 5.3
The SA and SS
Sturmabteilung (SA; Storm Detachment; Brownshirts), founded in
1921, was the first paramilitary wing of the NSDAP; their initial
assignment was to protect Nazi leaders at rallies and assemblies.
They also took part in street battles against the forces of rival
political parties and violent actions against
Jews and others.
Under Ernst Röhm's leadership the SA had grown by 1934 to over half a
million members—4.5 million including reserves—at a time when the
regular army was still limited to 100,000 men by the Versailles
Röhm hoped to assume command of the army and absorb it into the ranks
of the SA. Hindenburg and Defence Minister Werner von Blomberg
threatened to impose martial law if the alarming activities of the SA
were not curtailed.
Hitler also suspected that Röhm was plotting
to depose him, so he ordered the deaths of Röhm and other political
enemies. Up to 200 people were killed from 30 June to 2 July 1934 in
an event that became known as the Night of the Long Knives. After
this purge, the SA was no longer a major force.
Members of the SA enforce the boycott of Jewish stores, 1 April 1933
Initially a force of a dozen men under the auspices of the SA, the
Schutzstaffel (SS) grew to become one of the largest and most powerful
groups in Nazi Germany. Led by
Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler
from 1929, the SS had over a quarter million members by 1938 and
continued to grow. Himmler envisioned the SS as being an elite
group of guards, Hitler's last line of defence. The Waffen-SS,
the military branch of the SS, became a de facto fourth branch of the
In 1931, Himmler organised an SS intelligence service which became
known as the
Sicherheitsdienst (SD; Security Service) under his
Obergruppenführer Reinhard Heydrich. This
organisation was tasked with locating and arresting communists and
other political opponents. Himmler hoped it would eventually replace
the existing police system. Himmler also established the
beginnings of a parallel economy under the auspices of the SS Economy
and Administration Head Office. This holding company owned housing
corporations, factories, and publishing houses.
From 1935 forward, the SS was heavily involved in the persecution of
Jews, who were rounded up into ghettos and concentration camps.
With the outbreak of World War II, SS units called Einsatzgruppen
followed the army into Poland and the Soviet Union, where from 1941 to
1945 they killed more than two million people, including 1.3 million
SS-Totenkopfverbände (death's head units) were in
charge of the concentration camps and extermination camps, where
millions more were killed.
Main article: Economy of Nazi Germany
The most pressing economic matter the Nazis initially faced was the 30
percent national unemployment rate. Economist Dr. Hjalmar
Schacht, President of the
Reichsbank and Minister of Economics,
created in May 1933 a scheme for deficit financing. Capital projects
were paid for with the issuance of promissory notes called Mefo bills.
When the notes were presented for payment, the
Hitler and his economic team expected that the upcoming
territorial expansion would provide the means of repaying the soaring
national debt. Schacht's administration achieved a rapid decline
in the unemployment rate, the largest of any country during the Great
On 17 October 1933, aviation pioneer Hugo Junkers, owner of the
Junkers Aircraft Works, was arrested, and within a few days his
company was expropriated. In concert with other aircraft manufacturers
and under the direction of Aviation Minister Göring, production was
ramped up industry-wide. From a workforce of 3,200 people producing
100 units per year in 1932, the industry grew to employ a quarter of a
million workers manufacturing over 10,000 technically advanced
aircraft annually less than ten years later.
IG Farben synthetic oil plant under construction at Buna Werke (1941).
This plant was part of the complex at Auschwitz concentration camp.
An elaborate bureaucracy was created to regulate imports of raw
materials and finished goods with the intention of eliminating foreign
competition in the German marketplace and improving the nation's
balance of payments. The Nazis encouraged the development of synthetic
replacements for materials such as oil and textiles. As the
market was experiencing a glut and prices for petroleum were low, in
1933 the Nazi government made a profit-sharing agreement with IG
Farben, guaranteeing them a 5 percent return on capital invested in
their synthetic oil plant at Leuna. Any profits in excess of that
amount would be turned over to the Reich. By 1936, Farben regretted
making the deal, as the excess profits by then being generated had to
be given to the government.
Major public works projects financed with deficit spending included
the construction of a network of Autobahnen and providing funding for
programmes initiated by the previous government for housing and
agricultural improvements. To stimulate the construction
industry, credit was offered to private businesses and subsidies were
made available for home purchases and repairs. On the condition
that the wife would leave the workforce, a loan of up to 1,000
Reichsmarks could be accessed by young couples of Aryan descent who
intended to marry, and the amount that had to be repaid was reduced by
25 percent for each child born. The caveat that the woman had to
remain unemployed was dropped by 1937 due to a shortage of skilled
Autobahn, late 1930s
Envisioning widespread car ownership as part of the new Germany,
Hitler arranged for designer
Ferdinand Porsche to draw up plans for
the KdF-wagen (
Strength Through Joy
Strength Through Joy car), intended to be an automobile
that everyone could afford. A prototype was displayed at the
International Motor Show
International Motor Show in
Berlin on 17 February 1939. With the
outbreak of World War II, the factory was converted to produce
military vehicles. None were sold until after the war, when the
vehicle was renamed the Volkswagen (people's car).
Six million people were unemployed when the Nazis took power in 1933
and by 1937 there were fewer than a million. This was in part due
to the removal of women from the workforce. Real wages dropped by
25 percent between 1933 and 1938. Trade unions were abolished in
May 1933 with the seizure of the funds and arrest of the leadership of
the Social Democratic trade unions. A new organisation, the German
Labour Front, was created and placed under NSDAP functionary Robert
Ley. The average German worked 43 hours a week in 1933; by 1939
this increased to 47 hours a week.
By early 1934, the focus shifted from funding work creation schemes
and to rearmament. By 1935, military expenditures accounted for 73
percent of the government's purchases of goods and services. On
18 October 1936,
Hitler named Göring as
Plenipotentiary of the Four
Year Plan, intended to speed up the rearmament programme. In
addition to calling for the rapid construction of steel mills,
synthetic rubber plants and other factories, Göring instituted wage
and price controls and restricted the issuance of stock
dividends. Large expenditures were made on rearmament in spite of
growing deficits. With the introduction of compulsory military
service in 1935, the Reichswehr, which had been limited to 100,000 by
the terms of the Versailles Treaty, expanded to 750,000 on active
service at the start of World War II, with a million more in the
reserve. By January 1939, unemployment was down to 301,800 and it
dropped to only 77,500 by September.
Wartime economy and forced labour
Further information: Forced labour under German rule during World War
OST-Arbeiter badge at the
IG Farben plant in Auschwitz
The Nazi war economy was a mixed economy that combined a free market
with central planning. Historian
Richard Overy described it as being
somewhere in between the command economy of the
Soviet Union and the
capitalist system of the United States.
In 1942, after the death of Armaments Minister Fritz Todt, Hitler
Albert Speer as his replacement. Speer improved
production via streamlined organisation, the use of single-purpose
machines operated by unskilled workers, rationalisation of production
methods, and better co-ordination between the many different firms
that made tens of thousands of components. Factories were relocated
away from rail yards, which were bombing targets. By 1944,
the war was consuming 75 percent of Germany's gross domestic product,
compared to 60 percent in the
Soviet Union and 55 percent in
The wartime economy relied heavily upon the large-scale employment of
Germany imported and enslaved some 12 million people
from 20 European countries to work in factories and on farms.
Approximately 75 percent were Eastern European. Many were
casualties of Allied bombing, as they received poor air raid
protection. Poor living conditions led to high rates of sickness,
injury and death, as well as sabotage and criminal activity. The
wartime economy also relied upon large-scale robbery, initially
through the state seizing the property of Jewish citizens and later by
plundering the resources of occupied territories.
Foreign workers brought into
Germany were put into four different
classifications: guest workers, military internees, civilian workers,
and Eastern workers. Each group was subject to different regulations.
In addition, the Nazis issued a ban on sexual relations between
Germans and foreign workers.
Women played an increasingly large role. By 1944 over a half million
served as auxiliaries in the German armed forces, especially in
anti-aircraft units of the Luftwaffe. A half million worked in civil
aerial defence and 400,000 were volunteer nurses. They also replaced
men in the wartime economy, especially on farms and in family-owned
Very heavy strategic bombing by the Allies targeted refineries
producing synthetic oil and gasoline as well as the German
transportation system, especially rail yards and canals. The
armaments industry began to break down by September 1944. By November,
fuel coal was no longer reaching its destinations and the production
of new armaments was no longer possible. Overy argues that the
bombing strained the German war economy and forced it to divert up to
one-fourth of its manpower and industry into anti-aircraft resources,
which very likely shortened the war.
Nazism and race and Racial policy of Nazi Germany
Racism and antisemitism were basic tenets of the NSDAP and the Nazi
regime. Nazi Germany's racial policy was based on their belief in the
existence of a superior master race. The Nazis postulated the
existence of a racial conflict between the Aryan master race and
inferior races, particularly Jews, who were viewed as a mixed race
that had infiltrated society and were responsible for the exploitation
and repression of the Aryan race.
Persecution of Jews
Further information: Anti-Jewish legislation in prewar Nazi Germany
Jews began immediately after the seizure of
power. Following a month-long series of attacks by members of the SA
on Jewish businesses and synagogues, on 1 April 1933
Hitler declared a
national boycott of Jewish businesses. The Law for the
Restoration of the Professional Civil Service passed on 7 April and
forced all non-Aryan civil servants to retire from the legal
profession and civil service. Similar legislation soon deprived
other Jewish professionals of their right to practise, and on 11 April
a decree was promulgated that stated anyone who had even one Jewish
parent or grandparent was considered non-Aryan. As part of the
drive to remove Jewish influence from cultural life, members of the
National Socialist Student League removed from libraries any books
considered un-German, and a nationwide book burning was held on 10
The regime used violence and economic pressure to encourage
voluntarily leave the country. Jewish businesses were denied
access to markets, forbidden to advertise, and deprived of access to
government contracts. Citizens were harassed and subjected to violent
attacks. Many towns posted signs forbidding entry to Jews.
Damage caused during Kristallnacht, 9 November 1938
In November 1938, a young Jewish man requested an interview with the
German ambassador in Paris and met with a legation secretary, whom he
shot and killed to protest his family's treatment in Germany. This
incident provided the pretext for a pogrom the NSDAP incited against
Jews on 9 November 1938. Members of the SA damaged or destroyed
synagogues and Jewish property throughout Germany. At least 91 German
Jews were killed during this pogrom, later called Kristallnacht, the
Night of Broken Glass. Further restrictions were imposed on
Jews in the coming months – they were forbidden to own
businesses or work in retail shops, drive cars, go to the cinema,
visit the library or own weapons, and Jewish pupils were removed from
schools. The Jewish community was fined one billion marks to pay for
the damage caused by
Kristallnacht and told that any insurance
settlements would be confiscated. By 1939, around 250,000 of
Jews emigrated to the United States, Argentina,
Great Britain, Palestine, and other countries. Many chose to
stay in continental Europe. Emigrants to Palestine were allowed to
transfer property there under the terms of the Haavara Agreement, but
those moving to other countries had to leave virtually all their
property behind, and it was seized by the government.
Persecution of Roma
Porajmos and Nazi eugenics
Like the Jews, the
Romani people were subjected to persecution from
the early days of the regime. As a non-Aryan race, they were forbidden
to marry people of German extraction. Romani were shipped to
concentration camps starting in 1935 and were killed in large
People with disabilities
Main article: Aktion T4
Action T4 was a programme of systematic murder of the physically and
mentally handicapped and patients in psychiatric hospitals that mainly
took place from 1939 to 1941 and continued until the end of the war.
Initially the victims were shot by the
Einsatzgruppen and others; in
addition gas chambers and gas vans using carbon monoxide were used by
early 1940. Under the provisions of a law promulgated 14
July 1933, the Nazi regime carried out the compulsory sterilisation of
over 400,000 individuals labelled as having hereditary defects.
More than half the people sterilised were those considered mentally
deficient, which included not only people who scored poorly on
intelligence tests, but those who deviated from expected standards of
behaviour regarding thrift, sexual behaviour, and cleanliness.
Mentally and physically ill people were also targeted. Most of the
victims came from disadvantaged groups such as prostitutes, the poor,
the homeless, and criminals. Other groups persecuted and killed
included Jehovah's Witnesses, homosexuals, social misfits, and members
of the political and religious opposition.
Main article: The Holocaust
Crematorium at Auschwitz I
Germany's war in the East was based on Hitler's long-standing view
Jews were the great enemy of the German people and that
Lebensraum was needed for Germany's expansion.
Hitler focused his
attention on Eastern Europe, aiming to defeat Poland and the Soviet
Union and remove or kill the resident
Jews and Slavs. After
the occupation of Poland, all
Jews living in the General Government
were confined to ghettos and those who were physically fit were
required to perform compulsory labour. In 1941,
Hitler decided to
destroy the Polish nation completely; within 10 to 20 years the
section of Poland under German occupation was to be cleared of ethnic
Poles and resettled by German colonists. About 3.8 to 4 million
Poles would remain as slaves, part of a slave labour force of 14
million the Nazis intended to create using citizens of conquered
Generalplan Ost ("General Plan for the East") called for deporting
the population of occupied Eastern Europe and the
Soviet Union to
Siberia, for use as slave labour or to be murdered. To determine
who should be killed, Himmler created the Volksliste, a system of
classification of people deemed to be of German blood. He ordered
that those of Germanic descent who refused to be classified as ethnic
Germans should be deported to concentration camps, have their children
taken away, or be assigned to forced labour. The plan also
included the kidnapping of children deemed to have Aryan-Nordic
traits, who were presumed to be of German descent. The goal was
Generalplan Ost after the conquest of the Soviet Union,
but when the invasion failed
Hitler had to consider other
options. One suggestion was a mass forced deportation of
Jews to Poland, Palestine, or Madagascar.
A wagon piled high with corpses outside the crematorium in the
Buchenwald concentration camp
Buchenwald concentration camp newly liberated by U.S. Army, 1945
Around the time of the failed offensive against Moscow in December
Hitler resolved that the
Jews of Europe were to be exterminated
immediately. Plans for the total eradication of the Jewish
population of Europe—eleven million people—were formalised at the
Wannsee Conference on 20 January 1942. Some would be worked to death
and the rest would be killed in the implementation of Die Endlösung
der Judenfrage (the
Final Solution of the Jewish question).
Initially the victims were killed with gas vans or by Einsatzgruppen
firing squads, but these methods proved impracticable for an operation
of this scale. By 1941, killing centres at Auschwitz
concentration camp, Sobibor, Treblinka, and other extermination camps
Einsatzgruppen as the primary method of mass killing.
The total number of
Jews murdered during the war is estimated at 5.5
to six million people, including over a million children.
Twelve million people were put into forced labour.
German citizens had access to information about what was happening, as
soldiers returning from the occupied territories would report on what
they had seen and done. Evans states that most German citizens
disapproved of the genocide.[h] Some Polish citizens tried to
rescue or hide the remaining
Jews and members of the Polish
underground got word to their government in exile in
London as to what
In addition to eliminating Jews, the Nazis planned to reduce the
population of the conquered territories by 30 million people through
starvation in an action called the Hunger Plan. Food supplies would be
diverted to the German army and German civilians. Cities would be
razed and the land allowed to return to forest or resettled by German
colonists. Together, the
Hunger Plan and
Generalplan Ost would
have led to the starvation of 80 million people in the Soviet
Union. These partially fulfilled plans resulted in the democidal
deaths of an estimated 19.3 million civilians and prisoners of
Oppression of ethnic Poles
Further information: Nazi crimes against the Polish nation
Execution of Polish citizens in
Bochnia during the German occupation
of Poland, 18 December 1939
Poles were viewed by Nazis as subhuman non-Aryans, and during the
German occupation of Poland 2.7 million ethnic Poles were killed by
the Nazis. Polish civilians were subject to forced labour in
German industry, internment, wholesale expulsions to make way for
German colonists, and mass executions. The German authorities engaged
in a systematic effort to destroy Polish culture and national
identity. During operation AB-Aktion, many university professors and
members of the Polish intelligentsia were arrested, transported to
concentration camps, or executed. During the war, Poland lost an
estimated 39 to 45 percent of its physicians and dentists, 26 to 57
percent of its lawyers, 15 to 30 percent of its teachers, 30 to 40
percent of its scientists and university professors and 18 to 28
percent of its clergy.
Mistreatment of Soviet POWs
Further information: German mistreatment of Soviet prisoners of war
and Generalplan Ost
Naked Soviet prisoners of war in Mauthausen-Gusen concentration camp
Between June 1941 and January 1942, the Nazis killed an estimated 2.8
million Soviet prisoners of war. Many starved to death while
being held in open-air pens at Auschwitz and elsewhere. The
Soviet Union lost 27 million people; less than nine million of these
were combat deaths. One in four of the population were killed or
Further information: University education in Nazi Germany
A Nazi book burning on 10 May 1933 in Berlin, as books by Jewish and
leftist authors were burned
Antisemitic legislation passed in 1933 led to the removal of all
Jewish teachers, professors and officials from the education system.
Most teachers were required to belong to the Nationalsozialistischer
Lehrerbund (National Socialist Teachers League; NSLB) and university
professors were required to join the National Socialist German
Lecturers. Teachers had to take an oath of loyalty and
Hitler and those who failed to show sufficient conformity
to party ideals were often reported by students or fellow teachers and
dismissed. Lack of funding for salaries led to many teachers
leaving the profession and the average class size increased from 37 in
1927 to 43 in 1938 due to the resulting teacher shortage.
Frequent and often contradictory directives were issued by Reich
Minister of the Interior Wilhelm Frick,
Bernhard Rust of the
Reichserziehungsministerium (Ministry of Education) and various other
agencies regarding content of lessons and acceptable textbooks for use
in primary and secondary schools. Books deemed unacceptable to
the regime were removed from school libraries. Indoctrination in
National Socialist thought was made compulsory in January 1934.
Students selected as future members of the party elite were
indoctrinated from the age of 12 at
Adolf Hitler Schools for primary
National Political Institutes of Education
National Political Institutes of Education for secondary
education. Detailed National Socialist indoctrination of future
holders of elite military rank was undertaken at Order Castles.
Nazi salute in school (1934): children were indoctrinated at an
Primary and secondary education focused on racial biology, population
policy, culture, geography and especially physical fitness. The
curriculum in most subjects, including biology, geography and even
arithmetic, was altered to change the focus to race. Military
education became the central component of physical education and
education in physics was oriented toward subjects with military
applications, such as ballistics and aerodynamics. Students
were required to watch all films prepared by the school division of
the Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda.
At universities, appointments to top posts were the subject of power
struggles between the education ministry, the university boards and
the National Socialist German Students' League. In spite of
pressure from the League and various government ministries, most
university professors did not make changes to their lectures or
syllabus during the Nazi period. This was especially true of
universities located in predominately Catholic regions. Enrolment
at German universities declined from 104,000 students in 1931 to
41,000 in 1939, but enrolment in medical schools rose sharply as
Jewish doctors had been forced to leave the profession, so medical
graduates had good job prospects. From 1934, university students
were required to attend frequent and time-consuming military training
sessions run by the SA. First-year students also had to serve six
months in a labour camp for the
Reichsarbeitsdienst (National Labour
Service); an additional ten weeks service were required of second-year
Oppression of churches
Main article: Kirchenkampf
See also: Religion in Nazi Germany
When the Nazis seized power in 1933, 67 percent of the population of
Germany was Protestant, 33 percent was Roman Catholic, while
up less than 1 percent. According to 1939 census, 54 percent
considered themselves Protestant, 40 percent Roman Catholic, 3.5
Gottgläubig (God-believing; a Nazi religious movement) and
1.5 percent nonreligious.
Hitler attempted to create a
Reich Church from Germany's 28 existing Protestant
state churches, with the ultimate goal of eradication of the
churches in Germany. Pro-Nazi
Ludwig Müller was installed as
Reich Bishop and the pro-Nazi pressure group
German Christians gained
control of the new church. They objected to the Old Testament
because of its Jewish origins and demanded that converted
barred from their church. Pastor
Martin Niemöller responded with
the formation of the Confessing Church, from which some clergymen
opposed the Nazi regime. When in 1935 the
Confessing Church synod
protested the Nazi policy on religion, 700 of their pastors were
arrested. Müller resigned and
Hanns Kerrl as
Minister for Church Affairs to continue efforts to control
Protestantism. In 1936, a
Confessing Church envoy protested to
Hitler against the religious persecutions and human rights
abuses. Hundreds more pastors were arrested. The church
continued to resist and by early 1937
Hitler abandoned his hope of
Protestant churches. The
Confessing Church was banned
on 1 July 1937 and Niemöller was arrested and confined, first in
Sachsenhausen concentration camp
Sachsenhausen concentration camp and then at Dachau. Theological
universities were closed and more pastors and theologians were
Prisoner barracks at Dachau Concentration Camp, where the Nazis
established a dedicated clergy barracks for clerical opponents of the
regime in 1940
Persecution of the Catholic Church in
Germany followed the Nazi
Hitler moved quickly to eliminate political
Catholicism, rounding up functionaries of the Catholic-aligned
Bavarian People's Party
Bavarian People's Party and Catholic Centre Party, which along with
all other non-Nazi political parties ceased to exist by July. The
Reich Concordat) treaty with the Vatican was signed
in 1933, amid continuing harassment of the church in Germany. The
treaty required the regime to honour the independence of Catholic
institutions and prohibited clergy from involvement in politics.
Hitler routinely disregarded the Concordat, closing all Catholic
institutions whose functions were not strictly religious. Clergy,
nuns and lay leaders were targeted, with thousands of arrests over the
ensuing years, often on trumped-up charges of currency smuggling or
immorality. Several high-profile Catholic lay leaders were
targeted in the 1934 Night of the Long Knives
assassinations. Most Catholic youth groups refused to
dissolve themselves and
Hitler Youth leader Baldur von Schirach
encouraged members to attack Catholic boys in the streets.
Propaganda campaigns claimed the church was corrupt, restrictions were
placed on public meetings and Catholic publications faced censorship.
Catholic schools were required to reduce religious instruction and
crucifixes were removed from state buildings.
Pope Pius XI
Pope Pius XI had the "Mit brennender Sorge" ("With Burning Concern")
Encyclical smuggled into
Passion Sunday 1937 and read from
every pulpit as it denounced the systematic hostility of the regime
toward the church. In response, Goebbels renewed the
regime's crackdown and propaganda against Catholics. Enrolment in
denominational schools dropped sharply and by 1939 all such schools
were disbanded or converted to public facilities. Later Catholic
protests included the 22 March 1942 pastoral letter by the German
bishops on "The Struggle against Christianity and the Church".
About 30 percent of Catholic priests were disciplined by police during
the Nazi era. A vast security network spied on the
activities of clergy and priests were frequently denounced, arrested
or sent to concentration camps – many to the dedicated clergy
barracks at Dachau. In the areas of Poland annexed in 1939, the
Nazis instigated a brutal suppression and systematic dismantling of
the Catholic Church.
Statues representing the ideal body were erected in the streets of
Berlin for the 1936 Summer Olympics
Germany had a strong anti-tobacco movement as pioneering research
by Franz H. Müller in 1939 demonstrated a causal link between tobacco
smoking and lung cancer. The
Reich Health Office took measures to
try to limit smoking, including producing lectures and pamphlets.
Smoking was banned in many workplaces, on trains and among on-duty
members of the military. Government agencies also worked to
control other carcinogenic substances such as asbestos and
pesticides. As part of a general public health campaign, water
supplies were cleaned up, lead and mercury were removed from consumer
products and women were urged to undergo regular screenings for breast
Government-run health care insurance plans were available, but Jews
were denied coverage starting in 1933. That same year, Jewish doctors
were forbidden to treat government-insured patients. In 1937, Jewish
doctors were forbidden to treat non-Jewish patients and in 1938 their
right to practice medicine was removed entirely.
Medical experiments, many of them pseudoscientific, were performed on
concentration camp inmates beginning in 1941. The most notorious
doctor to perform medical experiments was SS-
Josef Mengele, camp doctor at Auschwitz. Many of his victims died
or were intentionally killed. Concentration camp inmates were
made available for purchase by pharmaceutical companies for drug
testing and other experiments.
Role of women and family
Further information: Women in Nazi Germany
Women were a cornerstone of Nazi social policy and the Nazis opposed
the feminist movement, claiming that it was the creation of Jewish
intellectuals, instead advocating a patriarchal society in which the
German woman would recognise that her "world is her husband, her
family, her children, and her home". Soon after the seizure of
power, feminist groups were shut down or incorporated into the
National Socialist Women's League, which coordinated groups throughout
the country to promote motherhood and household activities. Courses
were offered on childrearing, sewing and cooking. The League
published the NS-Frauen-Warte, the only NSDAP-approved women's
magazine in Nazi Germany. Despite some propaganda aspects, it was
predominantly an ordinary woman's magazine.
Women were encouraged to leave the workforce and the creation of large
families by racially suitable women was promoted through a propaganda
campaign. Women received a bronze award—known as the Ehrenkreuz der
Deutschen Mutter (Cross of Honour of the German Mother)—for giving
birth to four children, silver for six and gold for eight or
more. Large families received subsidies to help with their
utilities, school fees and household expenses. Though the measures led
to increases in the birth rate, the number of families having four or
more children declined by five percent between 1935 and 1940.
Removing women from the workforce did not have the intended effect of
freeing up jobs for men as women were for the most part employed as
domestic servants, weavers or in the food and drink industries—jobs
that were not of interest to men. Nazi philosophy prevented large
numbers of women from being hired to work in munitions factories in
the build-up to the war, so foreign labourers were brought in. After
the war started, slave labourers were extensively used. In
Hitler signed a decree requiring all women under the age
of fifty to report for work assignments to help the war effort.
Thereafter women were funnelled into agricultural and industrial jobs
and by September 1944 14.9 million women were working in munitions
Young women of the Bund Deutscher Mädel (League of German Girls)
practising gymnastics in 1941
The Nazi regime discouraged women from seeking higher education since
Nazi leaders held conservative views about women and endorsed the idea
that rational and theoretical work was alien to a woman's nature since
they were considered inherently emotional and instinctive – as such,
engaging in academics and careerism would only "divert them from
motherhood". The number of women allowed to enroll in
universities dropped drastically, as a law passed in April 1933
limited the number of females admitted to university to ten percent of
the number of male attendees. Female enrolment in secondary
schools dropped from 437,000 in 1926 to 205,000 in 1937. The number of
women enrolled in post-secondary schools dropped from 128,000 in 1933
to 51,000 in 1938. However, with the requirement that men be enlisted
into the armed forces during the war, women comprised half of the
enrolment in the post-secondary system by 1944.
Women were expected to be strong, healthy and vital. The sturdy
peasant woman who worked the land and bore strong children was
considered ideal and athletic women were praised for being tanned from
working outdoors. Organisations were created for the
indoctrination of Nazi values and from 25 March 1939 membership in the
Hitler Youth became compulsory for all children over the age of
Jungmädelbund (Young Girls League) section of the
Hitler Youth was for girls age 10 to 14 and the Bund Deutscher Mädel
(BDM; League of German Girls) was for young women age 14 to 18. The
BDM's activities focused on physical education, with activities such
as running, long jumping, somersaulting, tightrope walking, marching
The Nazi regime promoted a liberal code of conduct regarding sexual
matters and was sympathetic to women who bore children out of
wedlock. Promiscuity increased as the war progressed, with
unmarried soldiers often intimately involved with several women
simultaneously. The same was the case for married women, who liaised
with soldiers, civilians or slave labourers. For example, sex was
sometimes used as a commodity to obtain better work from a foreign
labourer. Pamphlets enjoined German women to avoid sexual
relations with foreign workers as a danger to their blood.
With Hitler's approval, Himmler intended that the new society of the
Nazi regime should destigmatise illegitimate births, particularly of
children fathered by members of the SS, who were vetted for racial
purity. His hope was that each SS family would have between four
and six children. The
Lebensborn (Fountain of Life) association,
founded by Himmler in 1935, created a series of maternity homes where
single mothers could be accommodated during their pregnancies.
Both parents were examined for racial suitability before
acceptance. The resulting children were often adopted into SS
families. The homes were also made available to the wives of SS
and NSDAP members, who quickly filled over half the available
Existing laws banning abortion except for medical reasons were
strictly enforced by the Nazi regime. The number of abortions declined
from 35,000 per year at the start of the 1930s to fewer than 2,000 per
year at the end of the decade, though in 1935 a law was passed
allowing abortions for eugenics reasons.
Main article: Animal welfare in Nazi Germany
Nazi society had elements supportive of animal rights and many people
were fond of zoos and wildlife. The government took several
measures to ensure the protection of animals and the environment. In
1933, the Nazis enacted a stringent animal-protection law that
affected what was allowed for medical research. However, the law
was only loosely enforced and in spite of a ban on vivisection the
Ministry of the Interior readily handed out permits for experiments on
Reich Forestry Office under Göring enforced regulations that
required foresters to plant a wide variety of trees to ensure suitable
habitat for wildlife and a new
Reich Animal Protection Act became law
in 1933. The regime enacted the
Reich Nature Protection Act in
1935 to protect the natural landscape from excessive economic
development and it allowed for the expropriation of privately owned
land to create nature preserves and aided in long-range planning.
Perfunctory efforts were made to curb air pollution, but little
enforcement of existing legislation was undertaken once the war
The regime promoted the concept of Volksgemeinschaft, a national
German ethnic community. The goal was to build a classless society
based on racial purity and the perceived need to prepare for warfare,
conquest and a struggle against Marxism. The German Labour
Front founded the Kraft durch Freude (KdF; Strength Through Joy)
organisation in 1933. In addition to taking control of tens of
thousands of previously privately run recreational clubs, it offered
highly regimented holidays and entertainment such as cruises, vacation
destinations and concerts.
Reich Chamber of Culture) was organised under
the control of the
Propaganda Ministry in September 1933. Sub-chambers
were set up to control aspects of cultural life such as film, radio,
newspapers, fine arts, music, theatre and literature. Members of these
professions were required to join their respective organisation. Jews
and people considered politically unreliable were prevented from
working in the arts and many emigrated. Books and scripts had to be
approved by the
Propaganda Ministry prior to publication. Standards
deteriorated as the regime sought to use cultural outlets exclusively
as propaganda media.
Radio became popular in
Germany during the 1930s, with over 70 percent
of households owning a receiver by 1939, more than any other country.
Radio station staffs were purged of leftists and others deemed
undesirable by July 1933.
Propaganda and speeches were typical
radio fare immediately after the seizure of power, but as time went on
Goebbels insisted that more music be played so that listeners would
not turn to foreign broadcasters for entertainment.
See also: List of authors banned in Nazi Germany
Berlin called for the
Volkshalle (People's Hall) and a
triumphal arch to be built at either end of a wide boulevard
As with other media, newspapers were controlled by the state, with the
Reich Press Chamber shutting down or buying newspapers and publishing
houses. By 1939, over two thirds of the newspapers and magazines were
directly owned by the
Propaganda Ministry. The NSDAP daily
Völkischer Beobachter ("Ethnic Observer"), was edited
by Alfred Rosenberg, author of The Myth of the Twentieth Century, a
book of racial theories espousing Nordic superiority. Goebbels
controlled the wire services and insisted that all newspapers in
Germany only publish content favourable to the regime. His propaganda
ministry issued two dozen directives every week on exactly what news
should be published and what angles to use; the typical newspaper
followed the directives closely. Newspaper readership plummeted,
partly because of the decreased quality of the content and partly
because of the surge in popularity of radio.
Authors of books left the country in droves and some wrote material
critical of the regime while in exile. Goebbels recommended that the
remaining authors concentrate on books themed on Germanic myths and
the concept of blood and soil. By the end of 1933, over a thousand
books—most of them by Jewish authors or featuring Jewish
characters—had been banned by the Nazi regime.
Main article: Nazi architecture
Hitler took a personal interest in architecture and worked closely
with state architects
Paul Troost and
Albert Speer to create public
buildings in a neoclassical style based on Roman
architecture. Speer constructed imposing structures such as
Nazi party rally grounds
Nazi party rally grounds in
Nuremberg and a new
building in Berlin. Hitler's plans for rebuilding
a gigantic dome based on the Pantheon in Rome and a triumphal arch
more than double the height of the
Arc de Triomphe
Arc de Triomphe in Paris. Neither
structure was built.
Main article: Art of the Third Reich
Hitler's belief that abstract, Dadaist, expressionist and modern art
were decadent became the basis for policy. Many art museum
directors lost their posts in 1933 and were replaced by party
members. Some 6,500 modern works of art were removed from museums
and replaced with works chosen by a Nazi jury. Exhibitions of the
rejected pieces, under titles such as "Decadence in Art", were
launched in sixteen different cities by 1935. The Degenerate Art
Exhibition, organised by Goebbels, ran in
Munich from July to November
1937. The exhibition proved wildly popular, attracting over two
Richard Strauss was appointed president of the
Reich Music Chamber) on its founding in November
1933. As was the case with other art forms, the Nazis ostracised
musicians who were deemed racially unacceptable and for the most part
disapproved of music that was too modern or atonal.
considered especially inappropriate and foreign jazz musicians left
the country or were expelled.
Hitler favoured the music of
Richard Wagner, especially pieces based on Germanic myths and heroic
stories and attended the
Bayreuth Festival each year from 1933.
Nazism and cinema
Leni Riefenstahl (behind cameraman) at the 1936 Summer Olympics
Movies were popular in
Germany in the 1930s and 1940s, with admissions
of over a billion people in 1942, 1943 and 1944. By 1934,
German regulations restricting currency exports made it impossible for
American film makers to take their profits back to America, so the
major film studios closed their German branches. Exports of German
films plummeted, as their antisemitic content made them impossible to
show in other countries. The two largest film companies, Universum
Film AG and Tobis, were purchased by the
Propaganda Ministry, which by
1939 was producing most German films. The productions were not always
overtly propagandistic, but generally had a political subtext and
followed party lines regarding themes and content. Scripts were
Triumph of the Will
Triumph of the Will (1935)—documenting the 1934
Nuremberg Rally—and Olympia (1938)—covering the 1936 Summer
Olympics—pioneered techniques of camera movement and editing that
influenced later films. New techniques such as telephoto lenses and
cameras mounted on tracks were employed. Both films remain
controversial, as their aesthetic merit is inseparable from their
propagandising of National Socialist ideals.
Main article: Consequences of Nazism
Defendants in the dock at the
The Allied powers organised war crimes trials, beginning with the
Nuremberg trials, held from November 1945 to October 1946, of 23 top
Nazi officials. They were charged with four counts—conspiracy to
commit crimes, crimes against peace, war crimes and crimes against
humanity—in violation of international laws governing warfare.
All but three of the defendants were found guilty and twelve were
sentenced to death. The victorious Allies outlawed the NSDAP and
its subsidiary organisations. The display or use of Nazi symbolism
such as flags, swastikas or greetings is illegal in
Austria and other restrictions, mainly on public display,
apply in various countries. See
Swastika § Post–World War II
stigmatization for details.
Nazi ideology and the actions taken by the regime are almost
universally regarded as gravely immoral. Hitler,
Nazism and the
Holocaust have become symbols of evil in the modern world.
Interest in Nazi
Germany continues in the media and the academic
world. Historian Sir
Richard J. Evans
Richard J. Evans remarks that the era "exerts an
almost universal appeal because its murderous racism stands as a
warning to the whole of humanity".
The Nazi era continues to inform how
Germans view themselves and their
country. Virtually every family suffered losses during the war or has
a story to tell, though
Germans kept quiet about their experiences and
felt a sense of communal guilt, even if they were not directly
involved in war crimes. Once study of Nazi
Germany was introduced into
the school curriculum starting in the 1970s, as people began
researching the experiences of their family members. Study of the era
and a willingness to critically examine its mistakes has led to the
development of a strong democracy in today's Germany, but with
lingering undercurrents of antisemitism and neo-Nazi thought.
World War II
World War II portal
Collaboration with the Axis Powers during World War II
German Resistance to Nazism
Glossary of Nazi Germany
List of books about Nazi Germany
List of books by or about Adolf Hitler
Nazi Party leaders and officials
Orders, decorations, and medals of Nazi Germany
^ Including de facto annexed/incorporated territories.
^ In 1939, before
Germany acquired control of the last two regions
which had been in its control before the Versailles
Danzig and the Polish Corridor—its area
was 633,786 square kilometres (244,706 sq mi). See
Statistisches Jahrbuch 2006.
^ "Die Bevölkerung des Deutschen Reichs nach den Ergebnissen der
Berlin 1941" (2).
^ The party's name in German was Nationalsozialistische Deutsche
^ According to Raeder, "Our Air Force could not be counted on to guard
our transports from the British Fleets, because their operations would
depend on the weather, if for no other reason. It could not be
expected that even for a brief period our Air Force could make up for
our lack of naval supremacy." Raeder 2001, pp. 324–325. Grand
Karl Dönitz believed air superiority was not enough and
admitted, "We possessed neither control of the air or the sea; nor
were we in any position to gain it." Dönitz 2012, p. 114.
^ On 29 November 2006, State Secretary in the Federal Ministry of the
Christoph Bergner said the reason the statistics do not match
is because Haar only includes people who were directly killed. The
figure of 2 to 2.5 million also includes people who died of disease,
hunger, cold, air raids and other causes. Koldehoff 2006. The German
Red Cross still maintains that the death toll from the expulsions is
2.2 million. Kammerer & Kammerer 2005, p. 12.
^ More such districts, such as the
Reichskommissariat Kaukasus (Caucasus) and
Reichskommissariat Turkestan (Turkestan) were proposed in the event
that these areas were brought under German rule.
^ "Nevertheless, the available evidence suggests that, on the whole,
Germans did not approve. Goebbel's propaganda campaigns
carried out in the second half of 1941 and again in 1943 had failed to
convert them". Evans 2008, p. 561.
^ Lauryssens 1999, p. 102.
^ Evans 2003, p. 103–108.
^ Evans 2003, pp. 186–187.
^ Evans 2003, pp. 170–171.
^ Goldhagen 1996, p. 85.
^ Evans 2003, pp. 179–180.
^ a b Kershaw 2008, p. 81.
^ Childers 2017, p. 103.
^ Shirer 1960, pp. 136–137.
^ Goldhagen 1996, p. 87.
^ Evans 2003, pp. 293, 302.
^ Shirer 1960, pp. 183–184.
^ McNab 2009, p. 14.
^ Koonz 2003, p. 73.
^ Evans 2005, p. 14.
^ Evans 2003, pp. 329–334.
^ Evans 2003, p. 354.
^ Evans 2003, p. 351.
^ Shirer 1960, p. 196.
^ Evans 2003, p. 336.
^ Evans 2003, pp. 358–359.
^ Shirer 1960, p. 201.
^ Evans 2005, pp. 109, 637.
^ Evans 2005, p. 109.
^ Cuomo 1995, p. 231.
^ a b McNab 2009, p. 54.
^ McNab 2009, p. 56.
^ Kershaw 2008, pp. 309–314.
^ Evans 2005, pp. 31–34.
^ Overy 2005, p. 63.
^ Shirer 1960, pp. 226–227.
^ Kershaw 2008, p. 317.
^ Shirer 1960, p. 230.
^ Kershaw 2001, pp. 50–59.
^ Evans 2003, p. 344.
^ Evans 2008, map, p. 366.
^ Walk 1996, pp. 1–128.
^ Friedländer 2009, pp. 44–53.
^ Fritzsche 2008, pp. 76–142.
^ Hildebrand 1984, pp. 20–21.
^ Evans 2005, pp. 338–339.
^ Evans 2005, p. 618.
^ Evans 2005, p. 623.
^ Kitchen 2006, p. 271.
^ Evans 2005, p. 629.
^ Evans 2005, pp. 633.
^ a b Evans 2005, pp. 632–637.
^ Evans 2005, p. 641.
^ Steiner 2011, pp. 181–251.
^ Evans 2005, pp. 646–652.
^ Evans 2005, p. 667.
^ Kershaw 2008, p. 417.
^ Kershaw 2008, p. 419.
^ Evans 2005, pp. 668–669.
^ a b Evans 2005, pp. 671–674.
^ Evans 2005, p. 683.
^ Beevor 2012, p. 24.
^ Mazower 2008, pp. 264–265.
^ Weinberg 2010, p. 60.
^ Evans 2005, pp. 689–690.
^ Kershaw 2008, p. 486.
^ Evans 2005, p. 691.
^ Kershaw 2008, p. 496.
^ Snyder 2010, p. 116.
^ Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, 1939.
^ Mazower 2008, chapter 9.
^ Weinberg 2005, p. 414.
^ Martin 2005, p. 279–80.
^ Beevor 2012, pp. 22, 27–28.
^ Beevor 2012, p. 32.
^ Longerich 2010, pp. 148–149.
^ Longerich 2010, p. 144.
^ Evans 2008, p. 15.
^ Beevor 2012, p. 40.
^ Mazower 2008, p. 260.
^ Beevor 2012, pp. 73–76.
^ Evans 2005, p. 120.
^ Beevor 2012, pp. 70–71, 79.
^ a b Shirer 1960, pp. 696–730.
^ Kershaw 2008, p. 562.
^ Mazower 2008, p. 265.
^ Evans 2008, pp. 333–334.
^ Mazower 2008, p. 271.
^ Mazower 2008, pp. 272, 279.
^ a b Mazower 2008, p. 262.
^ Shirer 1960, pp. 753, 774–782.
^ Kershaw 2000, pp. 301–303, 309–310.
^ Harding 2006.
^ Evans 2008, p. 149.
^ Evans 2008, p. 153.
^ Evans 2008, p. 151.
^ Kershaw 2008, p. 584.
^ Evans 2008, pp. 160–161.
^ Evans 2008, pp. 189–190.
^ a b Stolfi 1982.
^ Shirer 1960, pp. 900–901.
^ Evans 2008, p. 43.
^ Mazower 2008, pp. 284–287.
^ Manvell 2011, pp. 283–285.
^ Evans 2008, p. 334.
^ Mazower 2008, p. 290.
^ Glantz 1995, pp. 108–110.
^ Melvin 2010, pp. 282, 285.
^ Evans 2008, pp. 413, 416–417.
^ Evans 2008, pp. 419–420.
^ Shirer 1960, p. 1007.
^ Evans 2008, p. 467.
^ Evans 2008, p. 471.
^ Evans 2008, pp. 438–441.
^ Evans 2008, p. 461.
^ Beevor 2012, pp. 576–578.
^ Beevor 2012, pp. 604–605.
^ Shirer 1960, p. 1072.
^ Shirer 1960, pp. 1090–1097.
^ a b Kershaw 2008, pp. 910–912.
^ Kershaw 2012, pp. 224–225.
^ Shirer 1960, p. 1108.
^ Kershaw 2008, pp. 954–955.
^ Beevor 2002, p. 386.
^ Shirer 1960, p. 1126.
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