Nazi Germany facts
|Deutsches Reich (1933–43)
Großdeutsches Reich (1943–45)
Das Lied der Deutschen
Song of the Germans
Horst Wessel Song
Germany at the height of World War II success (September to December 1942)
Administrative divisions of Germany, May 1944
|President / Führer|
|•||1933–1934||Paul von Hindenburg|
|•||1945 (as leading minister)||Lutz Graf Schwerin von Krosigk|
|Historical era||Interwar period/World War II|
|•||Machtergreifung||30 January 1933|
|•||Gleichschaltung||27 February 1933|
|•||Anschluss||12 March 1938|
|•||World War II||1 September 1939|
|•||Death of Adolf Hitler||30 April 1945|
|•||Surrender of Germany||8 May 1945|
|•||Final dissolution||23 May 1945|
|•||1939||633,786 km2 (244,706 sq mi)|
|Density||109/km2 (283/sq mi)|
|Today part of|
Nazi Germany is the widely-used name given to Germany between 1933 and 1945.
The Nazis said their empire would be the third great empire in history. The first was the Holy Roman Empire. The second was the Second Empire of 1871-1918. However, the term "Third Reich" was more popular in other countries. In Germany, it was merely called The Reich (pronounced "rike"). The Nazis renamed their empire the Greater German Reich (German: Großdeutsches Reich).
Hitler led Nazi Germany until it collapsed in 1945, when he killed himself. The Nazi Party was destroyed in the same year as its leaders ran away, were arrested, or killed themselves. Some were sentenced to death and executed by the Western and Soviet powers. Others survived and were able to get important jobs. However, their racial policies never again held power in Germany.
The Nazi government was formed under the idea that some races were better than others. The Nazis thought the "Aryan race" (pure Germans) were the best race of all, and that they deserved power and respect. This idea gained a lot of respect after the Great Depression made people who used to be important lose power. Hitler blamed the economic depression on Jewish capitalists and communist gangs. He was able to make Germans feel like they were innocent victims who had to take charge over Europe.
When the Nazi regime was destroyed at the end of World War II, Germany was split in two. The Soviet Union took over East Germany. The United Kingdom, France, and the United States took over West Germany.
World War II: 1939-1945
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, Hitler's army easily took over Poland, while losing just around 59,000 soldiers. Poland lost over 900,000 soldiers, because their army and weapons were not as good as the Nazis'.
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. Then he attacked England. Winston Churchill, now Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, did not surrender. The Battle of Britain lasted from July to October 1940. Many of the Luftwaffe (the German Air Force) were killed, 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." It lasted from June 22, 1941 into winter of that year. Josef Stalin, the leader of the Soviet Union, had accidentally helped the Germans with his Great Purges, which had killed many Russian officers before the war even began.
During Operation Barbarossa, many more Soviet soldiers died than Germans. The winters were very cold, and many soldiers froze to death. At the Stalingrad this was not true. One million soldiers died on each side. Germany could not replace its losses, so Stalingrad was the turning point of the war.
After Stalingrad, the Germans lost their momentum. The Soviets learned from the long campaigns, fought better, and gained many new weapons from very efficient factories. The United States, Britain, France, and the Soviet Union fought together, and pushed against the smaller German army. In May 1945, they took over Berlin to win the war.
Many people from all sides of the war died fighting in Europe, including:
- Around one million German soldiers
- About one million French, British, and American soldiers
While fighting in the Soviet Union:
- About 5 million German soldiers, and soldiers from other fascist countries, died
- About 7 million Soviet soldiers died fighting against them
- About 2 million Soviet soldiers died in Nazi concentration camps and prisoner of war camps from starvation, disease, freezing to death, and executions
- About 10 million to 15 million Soviet civilians died from famine, executions, and the Holocaust.
After the Allies took over Germany, the Soviets set up the German Democratic Republic. It was a socialist state that followed communism. The United Kingdom, the United States, and France set up the Federal Republic of Germany in the west. It was a democratic country.
- See also: Holocaust victims
When the Nazis took over Germany, most people in the country were Christians. The Nazis wanted to change the way people thought, and they did not like the Christian Churches. They closely watched priests, and often arrested or punished them. By 1940, priests from all over the Nazi Empire were being locked up together at Dachau Concentration Camp.
Nazi leaders like Martin Bormann, Joseph Goebbels, Heinrich Himmler, and Alfred Rosenberg, backed by Hitler, eventually wanted to destroy Christianity. Himmler and Rosenberg had some pagan ideas. Others, like Bormann, were atheist. Hitler himself hated Christianity, but he knew it was important in German politics and culture. Because of this, he usually said he wanted to wait until after the war to get rid of the Churches.
The Christian 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 all of the Jewish people in Europe. They sent people of other religions, like Jehovah's Witnesses, to concentration camps and death camps. 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 National Reich Church. Some Protestants supported the idea. However, when the Nazis tried to change the Bible to say Jesus wasn't Jewish, a group of pastors started the Confessing Church. The Confessing Church did not support Nazi ideas about controlling religion or changing the Bible. The Nazis made the Church illegal 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 government signed a treaty (the Reich Concordat) with the Vatican. The treaty promised to let Catholics control their own Church, but said priests could not do politics. However, Hitler then closed down every Catholic organisation that was not a church - like Catholic political parties, groups for young people, trade unions, and newspapers. He murdered some of the leaders of these groups, and eventually closed all Catholic schools. Then the Nazis started attacking priests and nuns, and arrested many of them. 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 from killing religious minorities like Jews. Church leaders tried to stop the Nazis from interfering in their religion. Because they kept some independence from the state, they could publicly disagree with some government policies. For example, Catholic Bishop August von Galen and Protestant Bishop Theophil Wurm protested against the Nazis' program of killing disabled and sick people. Some religious leaders, like Martin Niemöller, spoke up for human rights in Germany. Several priests and pastors were executed for helping the 1944 plot to overthrow Hitler, including Pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Fr. Alfred Delp SJ.
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