Nazi Germany

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Greater German Reich
Großdeutsches Reich

Flag Coat of arms
Das Lied der Deutschen followed by: Horst-Wessel-Lied
Nazi Germany's expansion until 1943.
Capital Berlin
Language(s) German
Government Single-party Nazi Totalitarian Dictatorship
 - 1934-1945 Adolf Hitler
 - 1933-1934 Paul von Hindenburg
 - 1945 Karl Dönitz
Legislature Reichstag
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
Currency Reichsmark

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 by the Western and Soviet powers. Others survived and occupied positions of influence, but their racial policies never again held power in Germany.

The Nazi government was formed under an idea that the racially superior German people deserved power and respect. This idea gained a lot of respect after the Great Depression made former elites lose influence. By blaming the economic depression on Jewish capitalists and communist gangs, Hitler was able to make Germans feel they were blameless victims who had to take charge over Europe.

When the Nazi regime was destroyed 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. On October 12, 1939, Hitler sent a letter to the United Kingdom promising peace. The British continued the war.

Hitler continued on and took over France in the Battle of France. Winston Churchill, now Prime Minister, did not surrender. 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 ordered the mass bombardment of London. Thousands of civilians died, but the Royal Air Force regained strength. When Hitler decided to face east for his racial war of destroying the Slavs and Jews, he allowed Britain to regain power.

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 Germans were helped by the Great Purges of Stalin which had killed many Russian officers before the war even began. Many more Soviet than German soldiers died. The winters were 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. At Stalingrad, one Soviet soldier died for each German soldier. Because the Soviet Union had twice as many people as Germany, that equality 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. The Soviets learned from the long campaigns, fought better, and gained many new weapons from highly productive factories. They still had people to fight, and with their massive army pushed against the smaller German army and conquered Berlin to win the war.

The United States, Britain, France and Soviet Union fought together and overwhelmed the Nazis. Around one million Germans died on the Western front, as did a similar number of French, British, and Americans. In total, about 5 million German and allied fascist soldiers died fighting the Soviet Union, while around 9 million Soviets died against them, though 2 million of these died within prisoner of war camps in starvation conditions. Around 10-15 million other Soviet citizens died amidst famine, pillage, executions and the Holocaust. Berlin was taken by the Soviet army in May, 1945. 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.[1][2] 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.[3] Leading Nazis like Martin Bormann, Joseph Goebbels, Heinrich Himmler, and Alfred Rosenberg, backed by Hitler, wanted to destroy Christianity, eventually.[4] 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.[5] 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.[6] 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.[6] The Nazis banned the Church and arrested hundreds of its pastors.[7]

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.[8][9][10]

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.[11] 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.

References[change | change source]

  1. Ian Kershaw; The Nazi Dictatorship: Problems and Perspectives of Interpretation; 4th Edn; Oxford University Press; New York; 2000; pp173-74
  2. Anton Gill; An Honourable Defeat; A History of the German Resistance to Hitler; Heinemann; London; 1994; pp. 14-15.
  3. Paul Berben; Dachau: The Official History 1933–1945; Norfolk Press; London; 1975; ISBN 085211009X; p. 142-5
  4. Shirer, William L., Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germany, p. p 240,
  5. Alan Bullock; Hitler: a Study in Tyranny; HarperPerennial Edition 1991; pp.216-219
  6. 6.0 6.1 Blainey, Geoffrey 2011. A short history of Christianity. Viking, pp 495-6.
  7. "Martin Niemöller"]; Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 25 August 2013.
  8. Anton Gill; An Honourable Defeat; A History of the German Resistance to Hitler; Heinemann; London; 1994; p.57
  9. William L. Shirer; The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich; Secker & Warburg; London; 1960; p. 201
  10. Peter Hoffmann; The History of the German Resistance 1933-1945; 3rd Edn (First English Edn); McDonald & Jane's; London; 1977; p.14
  11. Peter Hoffmann; The History of the German Resistance 1933-1945; 3rd Edn (First English Edn); McDonald & Jane's; London; 1977; p.24