|Greater German Reich
Das Lied der Deutschen followed by: Horst-Wessel-Lied
|Government||Single-party Nazi Totalitarian Dictatorship|
|- 1934-1945||Adolf Hitler|
|- 1933-1934||Paul von Hindenburg|
|- 1945||Karl Dönitz|
|Historical era||Interwar period|
|- Established||23 March 1933|
|- Hitler takes office||30 January 1933|
|- Reichstag fire||27 February 1933|
|- End of World War II||8 May 1945|
Nazi Germany is the widely-used name given to Germany between 1933 and 1945.
This is the period when Adolf Hitler's Nazi Party controlled Germany. It is also sometimes called the Third Reich (German: Drittes Reich) which means The Third Empire or Third Realm. Nazis say they follow on from the first empire (the Holy Roman Empire) and the Second Empire of 1871-1918. However, the term was more popular in other countries. In Germany it was merely called the Reich, and was renamed the (German: Großdeutsches Reich), the Greater (that is, bigger) German State or German Realm. Hitler was the leader until its collapse in 1945, when he killed himself. The Nazi Party was destroyed in the same year as the leaders fled, were arrested or killed themselves. Some were sentenced to death and executed, others regretted themselves and condemned their past.
The name Nazi Germany was often used after its collapse to highlight the difference between the Nazi-run country, which started the war, and the new peaceful Germany.
When the Nazi regime collapsed at the end of the war, Germany was split between Britain, France, USA and the USSR forming West Germany and East Germany.
History (overview)[change | change source]
World War II: 1939-1945[change | change source]
In the late 1930s, Hitler began attacking many countries and taking them over. Later, on September 1st, 1939, German forces attacked Poland, which began World War II. With over a million troops, he easily took over Poland while losing just around 59,000 soldiers. Poland lost over 900,000 due to inferior technology.
Hitler continued on and took over France in the Battle of France. On October 12, 1939, Hitler sent a letter to the United Kingdom demanding they surrender in order to avoid being invaded. However, Prime Minister at the time Winston Churchill, refused, beginning another World War. The Battle of Britain lasted throughout July to October 1940. The battle resulted in heavy losses for the Luftwaffe (German Air Force) and in early October they retreated back into Greater Germany. Hitler was unhappy and furious with the failure of the Battle and demanded that Britain be taken over one way or another. Historians today agree that the German bombing of London started when a British plane attacked a German town. Before the bombing of London, the Germans only attacked industrial and military targets, as they did not want "Aryan" civilians to die. If the Germans had kept bombing the military targets though, Britain would have run out of planes and surrendered after a German invasion.
In 1941, Hitler gave orders to attack the Soviet Union. The first attack was code-named "Operation Barbarossa" and went from June 22, 1941 into winter that year. The Russian winter is very harsh and many soldiers froze from the cold weather. Hitler's armies were attacking the Soviets and winning almost every battle until they fought the Soviets at Stalingrad. Before the battle, 5 Soviet soldiers were dying for each dead German soldier. This was a good ratio for the Germans. At Stalingrad, one Soviet soldier died for each German soldier. Because the Soviet Union had twice as many people as Germany, and Stalin forced every nearby man to fight the Germans to the death, that 1:1 ratio was not good for the Germans. After Stalingrad (1 million casualties on each side), the turning point of the war, the Germans lost their momentum. Too many of their soldiers were dead and wounded to fight The Soviets learned for the battle and fought better. They still had people to fight, and with their massive army pushed against the better but smaller German army and conquered Berlin to win the war. In total, about 4 million German Soldiers died fighting the Soviet Union, while around 16 million Soviets died fighting the Germans.
After that, the United States, Britain, France and Soviet Union fought together and overwhelmed the Nazis. Berlin was occupied. The Soviets then set up the German Democratic Republic, a socialist state that followed communism. The UK, US and France set up the Federal Republic of Germany in the west that followed democracy.
Religion[change | change source]
When the Nazis took over Germany, most people in Germany were Christians. The Nazis wanted to change the way people thought about the world and they did not like the Christian Churches. They closely watched priests, who were often arrested or punished. By 1940, priests from all over the Nazi Empire were being locked up together at Dachau Concentration Camp. Leading Nazis like Martin Bormann, Joseph Goebbels, Heinrich Himmler, and Alfred Rosenberg, backed by Hitler, wanted to destroy Christianity, eventually. Himmler and Rosenberg had some pagan ideas, others like Bormann, were atheist. Hitler himself hated Christianity, but knew it was important in German politics and culture, and so usually said he wanted to wait until after he war to get rid of the Churches. The Churches were treated badly by the Nazis, but smaller religious groups, like the Jews and the Jehovah's Witnesses were treated far worse - the Nazis tried to kill them all. The Nazi campaign against the churches was called the kirchenkampf.
The Nazis tried to take over the Protestant Churches of Germany, by bringing them together in a Nazi-friendly Unified Reich Church. Some Protestants supported the idea, but when the Nazis tried to change the Bible to say Jesus wasn't Jewish, a group of pastors started the Confessing Church, which did not support Nazi ideas about controlling religion, and changing the Bible. The Nazis banned the Church and arrested hundreds of its pastors.
Hitler did not like the Catholic Church, and was worried about its influence on German politics. In 1933, his new coalition government signed a treaty (the Reich Concordat) with the Vatican, which promised to let Catholics control their own Church, but said priests couldn't do politics. He then closed down every Catholic organisation that wasn't just religious - like political parties, youth groups, trade unions, and newspapers - he murdered some of the leaders of these groups, and eventually closed all Catholic schools. Priests and nuns were targeted, and many were arrested. Pope Pius XI protested strongly in Mit brennender Sorge (a 1937 papal encyclical), which said that Nazi ideas like racism were bad, and the Nazis were persecuting the Church.
Many Germans were angry that the government was interfering in their churches, but others did not care too much. A few tried to stop the government killing religious minorities like Jews. Church leaders tried to stop the Nazis from interfering in their religion, and because they kept some independence from the state, they could publicly disagree with some government policies, like killing the sick in Nazi "euthanasia", which Catholic Bishop August von Galen and Protestant Bishop Theophil Wurm did very strongly. Some of them, like Martin Niemöller, spoke up for human rights in Germany, and several priests and pastors were executed for helping the 1944 plot to overthrow Hitler, including Pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Fr. Alfred Delp SJ.
Armed forces[change | change source]
Most soldiers were ordinary Germans fighting for Germany, not to kill "undesirables". Only a few Germans actually caused the holocaust. When the war ended, many German soldiers felt remorse after they learned about the holocaust.Only the SS "Death-head" soldiers killed people in the concentration camps. Most German soldiers fought for their country, not for Hitler. When the war ended, they were horrified at how Hitler had killed so many people.
The army was very large as the Germans were brave and nationalistic. The German army was the best in Europe. The army was very technologically advanced and managed to conquer Europe that way. The Germans were defeated because there were far more Allied soldiers and those Allied countries had more tanks, airplanes, and other weapons later in the war.
References[change | change source]
- Ian Kershaw; The Nazi Dictatorship: Problems and Perspectives of Interpretation; 4th Edn; Oxford University Press; New York; 2000; pp173-74
- Anton Gill; An Honourable Defeat; A History of the German Resistance to Hitler; Heinemann; London; 1994; pp. 14-15.
- Paul Berben; Dachau: The Official History 1933–1945; Norfolk Press; London; 1975; ISBN 085211009; p. 142-5
- Shirer, William L., Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germany, p. p 240,
- Alan Bullock; Hitler: a Study in Tyranny; HarperPerennial Edition 1991; pp.216-219
- Blainey, Geoffrey 2011. A short history of Christianity. Viking, pp 495-6.
- http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/414633/Martin-Niemoller "Martin Niemöller"]; Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 25 August 2013.
- Anton Gill; An Honourable Defeat; A History of the German Resistance to Hitler; Heinemann; London; 1994; p.57
- William L. Shirer; The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich; Secker & Warburg; London; 1960; p. 201
- Peter Hoffmann; The History of the German Resistance 1933-1945; 3rd Edn (First English Edn); McDonald & Jane's; London; 1977; p.14
- Peter Hoffmann; The History of the German Resistance 1933-1945; 3rd Edn (First English Edn); McDonald & Jane's; London; 1977; p.24