World War 2 Stories for Sheffield

The Third Reich Part 2

 Allied victory

 Field Marshal Rommel inspecting the Free India Legion, France, 1944


In early 1942, the Red Army counter-attacked, and, by winter’s end, the Wehrmacht were no longer immediately outside Moscow. Yet the Germans and their allies held a strong line, and, in the summer, launched a major attack against the petroleum fields of the Caucasus in Southern Russia. For securing the flanks of this offensive, a line at the Volga had to be held, which led to the Battle of Stalingrad (17 July 1942 – 2 February 1943), wherein Germany and its allies were defeated. After winning a major tank battle at Kursk-Orel in July 1943, the Red Army progressed west, to Germany; henceforth, the Wehrmacht and its allies remained on the defensive.

In Libya, the Afrika Korps failed to break through the line at First Battle of El Alamein (1–27 July 1942), having suffered repercussions from the Battle of Stalingrad. Beginning in 1942, Allied bombing of Germany increased, severely damaging, among others, the cities of Hamburg, Cologne and Dresden, killing thousands of civilians, and causing hardship for the survivors. Contemporary estimates of Nazi German military dead is 5.5 million.

In November 1942, the Wehrmacht and the Italian Army retreated to Tunisia, where they fought the Americans and the British in the Tunisia Campaign (17 November 1942 – 13 May 1943). The Allies invaded Sicily and Italy next, but met fierce resistance, particularly at Anzio (22 January 1944 – 5 June 1944) and Cassino (17 January 1944 – 18 May 1944), and the campaign continued from mid-1943 to nearly the end of the war. In June 1944, American, British and Canadian forces established the western front with the D-Day (6 June 1944) landings in Normandy, France. After the successful Operation Bagration (22 June – 19 August 1944), the Red Army was in Poland; and in East Prussia, West Prussia, and Silesia the German populaces fled en masse, fearing Communist persecution, atrocity, and death. In spring of 1945, the Red Army was at Berlin; US and UK forces had conquered most of west Germany (and would go on to meet up with the Red Army at Torgau on the Elbe on 26 April 1945).

During the Battle of Berlin (16 April 1945 – 2 May 1945), Hitler and key staff members lived in the armoured, underground Führerbunker while above ground the Red Army fought remnant forces made up of the German army, Hitler Youth, and Waffen-SS for control of the ruined capital city of Nazi Germany. In the Führerbunker, Adolf Hitler became psychologically isolated and detached. At the situation conference of 22 April, Hitler suffered a total nervous collapse when he was informed that the instructions he had issued the previous day for SS-General Felix Steiner's Army Detachment Steiner to move to the rescue of Berlin had not materialised. Hitler openly declared for the first time the war was lost and blamed the generals. Hitler announced he would stay in Berlin until the end and then shoot himself.

On 23 April, as Berlin became more isolated, Hermann Göring sent Hitler an ultimatum, threatening to assume command of Nazi Germany if he received no reply—which he would interpret as Hitler being incapacitated. Upon receiving the ultimatum, the Führer ordered Göring's immediate arrest, and despatched an aeroplane delivering the reply to Göring in Bavaria. By 25 April the Red Army encirclement of Berlin was complete and secure radio communications with defending units had been lost; the command staff in the bunker were depending on telephone lines for passing orders and on public radio for news and information. Despite the losses of armies and lands, the Führer neither relinquished power, nor surrendered. On 28 April, a BBC report stated that Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler had offered surrender to the western Allies. Hitler ordered Himmler's arrest and had Hermann Fegelein (Himmler's SS representative at Hitler's HQ in Berlin) shot.

  US soldiers cross the Franco–German Siegfried Line

 Capitulation of German forces
On 30 April 1945, after intense street-to-street combat in Berlin, when Soviet troops were within a block or two of the Reich Chancellery, Hitler and Eva Braun committed suicide in his underground bunker. Two days later, on 2 May 1945, German General Helmuth Weidling unconditionally surrendered Berlin to Soviet General Vasily Chuikov.

Hitler was succeeded by Grand Admiral Karl Dönitz as Reich's President and Dr. Joseph Goebbels as Reich Chancellor. No one was to replace Hitler as the Führer, a position Hitler abolished in his will. However, Goebbels committed suicide in the Führerbunker a day after assuming office. The caretaker government Dönitz established near the Danish border unsuccessfully sought a separate peace with the Western Allies. On 4–8 May 1945 most of the remaining German armed forces throughout Europe surrendered unconditionally (German Instrument of Surrender, 1945). This was the end of World War II in Europe.

The war was the largest and most destructive in human history, with 60 million dead across the world, including approximately 6 million Jews who perished during the Holocaust, 3 million Soviet prisoners of war and at least 3 million civilian non-Jewish victims of Nazi crimes. The Soviet Union lost around 27 million people during the war, about half of all World War II casualties. One in four Soviets were killed or wounded. The postwar Soviet population was 45 to 50 million smaller than it would have been if pre-war demographic growth had continued. Towards the end of the war, Europe had more than 40 million refugees, the European economy had collapsed, and 70% of the European industrial infrastructure was destroyed.

With the creation of the Allied Control Council on 5 July 1945, the four Allied powers "assume[d] supreme authority with respect to Germany" (Declaration Regarding the Defeat of Germany, U.S. Department of State, Treaties and Other International Acts Series, No. 1520).

 American paratroopers posing with a captured Nazi flag, two days after landing at Normandy

The fall of the Third Reich
The prosecution’s principal defendant was Hermann Göring (left, first row ), the most important surviving Third Reich official.
Main articles: Effects of World War II, Consequences of Nazism, and Nuremberg Trials.


The Allies' Potsdam Conference in August 1945 created arrangements for the Allied occupation and denazification of the country, as well as war reparations involving the removal of war-related factories. All German annexations in Europe after 1937, and Germany's eastern border was shifted westwards to the Oder-Neisse line. France took temporary control of a large part of Germany's remaining Saar region. The Allies each had its zone, which lasted until 1949; Berlin was also divided four ways, and remained under Allied control until 1990.


The United Nations organized trials of Nazi leaders for war crimes and crimes against humanity. At the Nuremberg Trials, the first, major trial was the Trial of the Major War Criminals Before the International Military Tribunal (IMT), of 24 key Nazi officials—including Hermann Göring, Ernst Kaltenbrunner, Rudolf Hess, Albert Speer, Karl Dönitz, Hans Frank, and Julius Streicher. Most defendants were found guilty, were sentenced to execution.


 The victorious Allies outlawed the Nazi Party, its subsidiary organizations, and most of its symbols and emblems especially the swastika throughout Germany and Austria; this prohibition remains in force.

The end of Nazi Germany also saw the rise in unpopularity of related aggressive manifestations of nationalism in Germany such as Pan-Germanism and the Völkisch movement which had previously been significant political ideas there, and in other parts of Europe, before World War II. Those that remain are largely fringe movements.

Hitler, Nazism, and the Holocaust are used as symbols of evil in the modern world. Newman and Erber (2002) wrote, "The Nazis have become one of the most widely recognized images of modern evil. Throughout most of the world today, the concept of evil can readily be evoked by displaying almost any cue reminiscent of Nazism ... "

 The US Army blows up the swastika atop the Nazi Party rally ground (Zeppelin field) in Nuremberg.

Administration

To consolidate Adolf Hitler’s control of Germany, in 1935, the Nazi régime de facto replaced the administration of the Länder (constituent states) with gaus (regional districts) headed by governors answerable to the central Reich government in Berlin. The reorganization politically weakened Prussia, which had historically dominated German politics. Moreover, despite having centralised and assumed the Gau governments, some Nazis still retained leadership title to the different Länder; Hermann Göring was and remained the Reichsstatthalter (Reich state governor) and Minister President of Prussia until 1945, and Ludwig Siebert remained as Minister President of Bavaria.

Territorial changes

In the years leading to war, in addition to the Weimar Republic proper, the Reich came to include areas with ethnic German populations, such as Austria, the Czechoslovak Sudetenland, and the Lithuanian territory of Memel (the Klaipėda Region). Regions conquered after the war's start include Eupen-Malmedy, Alsace-Lorraine, Danzig, and territories of Poland (Second Polish Republic).

From 1939 to 1945, the Third Reich ruled the ethnically-Czech parts of Czechoslovakia as the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia, with its own currency; Czech Silesia was incorporated into the province of Silesia; and Luxembourg was a wartime annexation in 1940. Central Poland and Polish Galicia were governed by the German-administered General Government. Eventually, the Polish people were to be removed, and Poland proper then re-populated with 5 million Germans. By late 1943, Nazi Germany had conquered South Tyrol and Istria, which had been parts of Austria-Hungary before 1919, and seized Trieste after the (erstwhile Axis Ally) Italian Fascist government capitulated to the Allies. Two puppet-districts were set up in their place, the Operational Zone of the Adriatic Littoral and the Operational Zone of the Alpine Foothills.

Reichskommissariate

Beyond the territories incorporated into Germany were the Reichskommissariate (Reich Commissariats), quasi-colonial regimes established in a number of occupied countries and regions that were ruled by Nazi civilian administrators (Reichskommissars). Although "outside" of the Reich in a legal sense these were intended for eventual incorporation into it, most notably as sources for future Lebensraum. Nazi-occupied Soviet Russia included the Reichskommissariat Ostland (encompassing the Baltic states, eastern parts of Poland, and western parts of Belarus) and a Reichskommissariat Ukraine. More such districts, the Reichskommissariat Moskowien for much of Western Russia, the Reichskommissariat Kaukasus for the Caucasus, and the Reichskommissariat Turkestan for Central Asia were also proposed in the event that they were brought under German rule.

In Northern and Western Europe, the Germans established a Reichskommissariat Norwegen (Norway), and a Reichskommissariat Niederlande (the Netherlands). In June 1944 a Franco–Belgian Reichskommissariat, derived from the previous Military Administration in Belgium and Northern France was also established to "facilitate" the area's intended annexation into Germany. This subsequently happened in December 1944, when it was split into three new Reichsgaue of the Greater German Reich: Flanders, Wallonia, and Brussels. This meant little in reality however as the majority of Belgium had already been liberated by the Allied forces at this point, although the Wehrmacht did make some small gains in retaking Wallonia during the Ardennes offensive.

Adolf Hitler and other leading Nazi politicians believed that the non-German Germanic peoples of Europe, such as the Scandinavians, the Dutch, and the Flemish, were part of the "Aryan master race". Hitler stated that he wanted to undo the "unnatural division" of the Nordic race into many different countries ("kleinstaatengerümpel"). This was expanded on by Nazi ideologists, who made the analogy that since the union with Austria had transformed the German Reich into a Greater German Reich (Grossdeutsches Reich), so too would its union with the rest of historically Germanic Europe create a Greater Germanic Reich (Grossgermanisches Reich). The United Kingdom however was expected to be accorded a somewhat higher status, as partners in the Nazis' New Order rather than subjects. Hitler professed an admiration for the British Empire and its people as proof of Aryan superiority in Zweites Buch.

Post-war changes

The de facto borders of the Reich changed long before its vanquishment in May 1945; as the Red Army progressed westwards, the colonist German populaces fled to Germany proper, as the Western Allies advanced eastwards, from France. At war’s end, a small strip of land, from Austria to Bohemia and Moravia (and other isolated regions) was the only area not occupied by the Allies. Upon its defeat, some historians have proposed that the Reich was in debellation. France, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, and the United States, established occupation zones. The prewar German lands east of the Oder-Neisse line and Stettin, and environs (nearly 25 per cent of pre-war German territory) were under Polish and Soviet administration, sundered for Polish and Soviet annexation; the Allies expelled the German inhabitants. In 1947, the Allied Control Council disestablished Prussia with Law No. 46 (20 May 1947); per the Potsdam Conference (6 July–2 August 1945), the Prussian lands east of the Oder-Neisse Line were divided and administered by Poland and the Kaliningrad Oblast, pending the final peace treaty Later, by signing the Treaty of Warsaw (1970) and the Treaty on the Final Settlement with Respect to Germany (1990), Germany renounced claims to territories lost during World War II (1939–45).

 20 Reichsmark note

Economy
In keeping with the political syncretism of fascism, the Nazi war economy was a mixed economy of free-market and central-planning practices; historian Richard Overy reports: “The German economy fell between two stools. It was not enough of a command economy to do what the Soviet system could do; yet it was not capitalist enough to rely, as America did, on the recruitment of private enterprise.”

When the Nazis assumed German government, their most pressing economic matter was a national unemployment rate of approximately 30 per cent; at the start, Third Reich economic policies were the brainchildren of the economist Dr. Hjalmar Schacht, President of the Reichsbank (1933) and Minister of Economics (1934), who helped Reichskanzler Adolf Hitler implement Nazi redevelopment, reindustrialization, and rearmament of Germany; formerly, he had been Weimar Republic currency commissioner and Reichsbank president. As Economics Minister, Schacht was one of few ministers who took advantage of the administrative freedom allowed by the removal of the Reichsmark from the gold standard—to maintain low interest rates, and high government deficits; the extensive, national public works, reducing the unemployment, were deficit-funded policy.

The consequence of Economics Minister Schacht’s administration was the extremely rapid unemployment-rate decline, the greatest of any country during the Great Depression. Eventually, this Keynesian economic policy was supplemented by the increased production demands of warfare, inflating military budgets, and increasing government spending; the 100,000-soldier Reichswehr expanded to millions, and renamed as the Wehrmacht in 1935.

While the strict state intervention into the economy, and the massive rearmament policy, almost led to full employment during the 1930s (statistics didn't include non-citizens or women), real wages in Germany dropped by roughly 25% between 1933 and 1938.[88] Trade unions were abolished, as well as collective bargaining and the right to strike. The right to quit also disappeared: Labour books were introduced in 1935, and required the consent of the previous employer in order to be hired for another job.


 Employment Record Book for the foreigners

 OST-Arbeiter badge

 

Nazi control of business retained a diminished investment profit-incentive, controlled with economic regulation concording a company’s functioning with the Reich’s national production requirements. Government financing eventually dominated private investment; in the 1933–34 biennium, the proportion of private securities issued diminished from more than 50 per cent of the total, to approximately 10 per cent in the 1935–38 quadrennium. Heavy profit taxes limited self-financing companies, and the largest companies (usually government contractors) mostly were exempted from paying taxes on profits—in practice. Peter Temin writes that government control allowed “only the shell of private ownership” in the Third Reich economy. By contrast, Christoph Buchheim and Jonas Scherner counter that despite state control, business had much production and investment planning freedom — while the economy was still to a larger degree politically controlled it "does not necessarily mean that private property of enterprises was not of any significance [...] For despite extensive regulatory activity by an interventionist public administration, firms preserved a good deal of their autonomy even under the Nazi regime".

In 1937, Hermann Göring replaced Schacht as Minister of Economics, and introduced the Four Year Plan that would establish German self-sufficiency for war—within four years—by curtailing foreign importations; fixing wages and prices (violators merited concentration-camp internment); stock dividends were restricted to six per cent on book capital, et cetera. Strategic goals were to be achieved regardless of cost (as in Soviet economics): thus the rapid construction of synthetic-rubber factories, steel mills, automatic textile mills, et cetera.

The Four-Year Plan is discussed in the German-expansion Hossbach Memorandum (5 November 1937) meeting-summary of Hitler and his military and foreign policy leaders planning aggressive war. Nevertheless, when Nazi Germany started World War II, in September 1939, the Four Year Plan’s expiry was not until 1940; to control the Reich economy, Economics Minister Göring had established the Office of the Four Year Plan. In 1942, the increased burdens of the war, and the accidental aeroplane-crash death of Reichsminister Fritz Todt, placed Albert Speer in economics ministry command; he then established a war economy in Nazi Germany, which required the large-scale employment of forced labourers. To supply the Third Reich economy with slaves, the Nazis abducted some 12 million people, from some 20 European countries; approximately 75 per cent were Eastern European.


Politics
Main article: Adolf Hitler
The Nazi state idolized Hitler as its Führer ("Leader"), centralizing all power in his hands. Nazi propaganda centered on Hitler and created what historians call the "Hitler Myth" – that Hitler was all-wise and that any mistakes or failures by others would be corrected when brought to his attention. In reality, Hitler had a narrow range of interests, and decision-making was diffused among overlapping, feuding power centers; on some issues he was passive, simply assenting to pressures from whoever had his ear. Top officials reported to Hitler and followed his basic policies, but they had considerable autonomy on a daily basis.

Through staffing of most government positions with Nazi Party members, by 1935 the German national government and the Nazi Party had become virtually one and the same. By 1938, through the policy of Gleichschaltung, local and state governments lost all legislative power and answered administratively to Nazi Party leaders, known as Gauleiters, who governed Gaue and Reichsgaue.

Government
Nazi Germany was made up of various competing power structures, all trying to gain favor with the Führer, Adolf Hitler. Thus many existing laws were stricken and replaced with interpretations of what Hitler wanted. Any high party/government official could take one of Hitler's comments and turn it into a new law, of which Hitler would casually either approve or disapprove. This became known as "working towards the Führer", as the government was not a coordinated, co-operating body, but a collection of individuals each trying to gain more power and influence through the Führer. This often made government very convoluted and divided, especially with Hitler's vague policy of creating similar posts with overlapping powers and authority. The process allowed the more unscrupulous and ambitious Nazis to get away with implementing the more radical and extreme elements of Hitler's ideology, such as anti-Semitism, and in doing so win political favor.

Protected by Goebbels' extremely effective propaganda machine, which portrayed the government as a dedicated, dutiful and efficient outfit, the dog-eat-dog competition and chaotic legislation was allowed to escalate. Historical opinion is divided between "intentionalists", who believe that Hitler created this system as the only means of ensuring both the total loyalty and dedication of his supporters and the impossibility of a conspiracy; and "structuralists", who believe that the system evolved by itself and was a limitation on Hitler's supposedly totalitarian power.

 Executive Cabinets
    •    Cabinet Hitler
    •    Cabinet Schwerin von Krosigk
National authorities
    •    Office of the Reich Chancellery (Hans Lammers)
    •    Office of the Party Chancellery (Martin Bormann)
    •    Office of the Presidential Chancellery (Otto Meißner)
    •    Privy Cabinet Council (Konstantin von Neurath)
    •    Chancellery of the Führer (Philip Bouhler)
Reich offices
    •    Office of the Four-Year Plan (Hermann Göring)
    •    Office of the Reich Master Forester (Hermann Göring)
    •    Office of the Inspector for Highways
    •    Office of the President of the Reich Bank
    •    Reich Main Security Office (Reinhard Heydrich)
    •    Reich Youth Office
    •    Reich Treasury Office
    •    General Inspector of the Reich Capital
    •    Office of the Councilor for the Capital of the Movement (Munich, Bavaria)
NSDAP offices
    •    NSDAP Office of Racial Policy
    •    NSDAP Office of Colonial Policy
    •    NSDAP Office of Foreign Affairs
    •    Amt Rosenberg
Reich ministries
    •    Reich Foreign Ministry (Joachim von Ribbentrop)
    •    Reich Interior Ministry (Wilhelm Frick, Heinrich Himmler)
    •    Reich Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda (Joseph Goebbels)
    •    Reich Ministry of Aviation (Hermann Göring)
    •    Reich Ministry of Finance (Lutz Schwerin von Krosigk)
    •    Reich Ministry of Justice (Franz Gürtner, Otto Thierack)
    •    Reich Economics Ministry (Alfred Hugenberg, Kurt Schmitt, Hjalmar Schacht, Hermann Göring, Walther Funk)
    •    Reich Ministry for Nutrition and Agriculture (Richard Walther Darré, Herbert Backe)
    •    Reich Labour Ministry (Franz Seldte)
    •    Reich Ministry for Science, Education, and Public Instruction (Bernhard Rust)
    •    Reich Ministry for Ecclesiastical Affairs (Hanns Kerrl)
    •    Reich Transportation Ministry (Julius Dorpmüller)
    •    Reich Postal Ministry (Wilhelm Ohnesorge)
    •    Reich Ministry for Weapons, Munitions, and Armament (Fritz Todt, Albert Speer)
    •    Reich Ministry for the Occupied Eastern Territories (Alfred Rosenberg)
    •    Reich Ministers without Portfolio (Konstantin von Neurath, Hans Frank, Hjalmar Schacht, Arthur Seyss-Inquart)

State ideology
Main article: Nazism
National Socialism had some of the key ideological elements of fascism which originally developed in Italy under Benito Mussolini; however, the Nazis never officially declared themselves fascists. Both ideologies involved the political use of militarism, nationalism, anti-communism and paramilitary forces, and both intended to create a dictatorial state. The Nazis, however, were far more racially oriented than the fascists in Italy, Portugal, and Spain. The Nazis were also intent on creating a completely totalitarian state, unlike Italian fascists who while promoting a totalitarian state, allowed a larger degree of private liberties for their citizens. These differences allowed the Italian monarchy to continue to exist and have some official powers. However the Nazis copied much of their symbolism from the Fascists in Italy, such as copying the Roman salute as the Nazi salute, use of mass rallies, both made use of uniformed paramilitaries devoted to the party (the SA in Germany and the Blackshirts in Italy), both Hitler and Mussolini were called the "Leader" (Führer in German, Duce in Italian), both were anti-Communist, both wanted an ideologically driven state, and both advocated a middle-way between capitalism and communism, commonly known as corporatism. The party itself rejected the fascist label, claiming National Socialism was an ideology unique to Germany.

The totalitarian nature of the Nazi party was one of its principal tenets. The Nazis contended that all the great achievements in the past of the German nation and its people were associated with the ideals of National Socialism, even before the ideology officially existed. Propaganda accredited the consolidation of Nazi ideals and successes of the regime to the regime's Führer ("Leader"), Adolf Hitler, who was portrayed as the genius behind the Nazi party's success and Germany's saviour.

To secure their ability to create a totalitarian state, the Nazi party's paramilitary force, the Sturmabteilung (SA) or "Storm Detachment" used acts of violence against leftists, communists, democrats, Jews and other opposition or minority groups. The SA "storm troopers" violently clashed with the Communist Party of Germany (German Kommunistische Partei Deutschlands – KPD) which created a climate of lawlessness and fear. In the cities, people were anxious over punishment or even death, if they displayed opposition to the Nazis. Given the frustrations of the people (after World War I and during the Great Depression) it was easy for the SA to attract large numbers of alienated (and unemployed) youth and working class people for the party.

The "German problem", as it is often referred to in English scholarship, focuses on the issue of administration of Germanic regions in Northern and Central Europe, an important theme throughout German history. The "logic" of keeping Germany small worked in the favor of its principal economic rivals, and had been a driving force in the recreation of a Polish state. The goal was to create numerous counterweights in order to "balance out Germany's power".

The Nazis endorsed the concept of Großdeutschland, or Greater Germany, and believed that the incorporation of the Germanic people into one nation was a vital step towards their national success.[citation needed] It was the Nazis' passionate support of the Volk concept of Greater Germany that led to Germany's expansion, that gave legitimacy and the support needed for the Third Reich to proceed to conquer long-lost territories with overwhelmingly non-German population like former Prussian gains in Poland that it lost to Russia in the 19th century, or to acquire territories with German population like parts of Austria. The German concept of Lebensraum ("living space") or more specifically its need for an expanding German population was also claimed by the Nazi regime for territorial expansion.

Two important issues were administration of the Polish corridor and Danzig's incorporation into the Reich. As a further extension of racial policy, the Lebensraum program pertained to similar interests; the Nazis determined that Eastern Europe would be settled with ethnic Germans, and the Slavic population who met the Nazi racial standard would be absorbed into the Reich. Those not fitting the racial standard were to be used as cheap labour force or deported eastward.

Racialism and racism were important aspects of society within the Third Reich. The Nazis combined anti-Semitism with anti-Communist ideology, regarding the leftist-internationalist movement—as well as international market capitalism—as the work of "Conspiratorial Jewry". They referred to this so-called movement with terminology such as the "Jewish-Bolshevistic revolution of subhumans". This platform manifested itself in the displacement, internment, and systematic extermination of an estimated 11 million to 12 million people in the midst of World War II, roughly half of them being Jews targeted in what is historically remembered as the Holocaust (Shoah), 3 million ethnic Poles that died as a result of warfare, genocide, reprisals, forced labor or famine, and another 100,000–1,000,000 being Roma, who were murdered in the Porajmos. Other victims of Nazi persecution included communists, various political opponents, social outcasts, homosexuals, freethinkers, religious dissidents such as Jehovah's Witnesses, Christadelphians, the Confessing Church and Freemasons.

 Hitler (center) with (from left to right) Neville Chamberlain, Édouard Daladier, Benito Mussolini, and Galeazzo Ciano pictured before signing the Munich Agreement.

Foreign relations

Foreign relations between Germany and the rest of Europe were riddled with political maneuvers and opportunistic decisions. Fearing a second world war, Britain and France sought a policy of appeasement towards Germany, and refused aggressive foreign policies to satisfy the newly empowered Nazis. Hitler's aims upon coming to power was threefold; destroy Versailles, re-unite lost German territories under the decrees of Versailles, and Lebensraum. It is said that Hitler wanted Britain as an ally with wars with the USSR, and eventually the USA. Hitler used the Appeasement policies of Britain and France to his opportunistic advantage when he announced in March 1935 that he would conscript men into his army and create the Luftwaffe; both a direct violation of Versailles. His foreign policies were designed to test the nerve of Britain and France so he could see what else he was able to get away with. His other concern was Italy, whom under Mussolini had become a similarly fascist country, but had so much internal civil disruption Hitler wanted a more stable and powerful ally.

Although Germany's relations with Italy improved with creation of the Rome-Berlin Axis, tensions remained high because the Nazis wanted Austria to be incorporated into Germany. Italy was opposed to this, as were France and Britain. In 1938, an Austrian-led Nazi coup took place in Austria and Germany sent in its troops, annexing the country. Italy and Britain no longer had common interests and, as Germany had stopped supporting the German speaking population under Italy's control in South Tyrol, Italy began to gravitate towards Germany.

Hitler (center) with (from left to right) Neville Chamberlain, Édouard Daladier, Benito Mussolini, and Galeazzo Ciano pictured before signing the Munich Agreement.

Germany's annexation of the Sudetenland from Czechoslovakia in September 1938 came about during talks with British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, in which Hitler, backed by Italian dictator Benito Mussolini, demanded that the German territories be ceded. Chamberlain and Hitler came to an agreement when Hitler signed a piece of paper which said that with the annexation of the Sudetenland, Germany would proceed with no further territorial aims. Chamberlain took this to be a success in that it avoided a potential war with Germany. However, the Nazis helped to promote Slovakian dissention and declaring that the country was no more, seized control of the Czech part.

For quite some time, Germany had engaged in informal negotiations with Poland regarding the issue of territorial revision, but after the Munich Agreement and the reacquisition of Memel, the Nazis became increasingly vocal. Poland refused to allow the annexation of the Free City of Danzig.

Germany and the Soviet Union began talks over planning an invasion of Poland. In August 1939, the Molotov Pact was signed and Germany and the Soviet Union agreed to divide Poland along a mutually agreed set boundary. The invasion was put into effect on 1 September 1939. Last-minute Polish-German diplomatic proceedings failed, and Germany invaded Poland as scheduled. Germany alleged that Polish operatives had attacked German positions, but the result was the outbreak of World War II, as Allied forces refused to accept Germany's claims on Poland and blamed Germany for the conflict.

From 1939–1940, the so-called "Phoney War" occurred, as German forces made no further advances but instead, both the Axis and Allies engaged in a propaganda campaign. However in early 1940, Germany began to concern that the British intended to stop trade between Sweden and Germany by bringing Norway into an alliance against Germany, with Norway in Allied hands, the Allies would be dangerously close to German territory. In response, Germany invaded Denmark and Norway ending the Phoney War (leapfrogging the British invasion troops bound towards Norway by just 24 hours). After sweeping through the Low Countries and occupying northern France, Germany allowed French nationalist and war hero Philippe Petain to form a fascist regime in southern France known as the "French State" but more commonly referred to as Vichy France named after its capital in Vichy.
On October 23, 1940 Adolf Hitler and Francisco Franco, the dictator of Spain, met in Hendaye to discuss Spain entering the war. Franco asked too much from Hitler. Even though Spain would remain neutral during World War II Spain and Nazi Germany would remain allies during the war. Spain would send Volunteer soldiers to fight for Germany but only against the Soviet Union. Spain was subsequently isolated following the war until re-aligning towards economic liberalism and a pro-Western foreign policy in the 1950s.

In 1941, Germany's invasion of Yugoslavia resulted in that state's splintering. In spite of Hitler's earlier view of inferiority of all Slavs, he supported Mussolini's agenda of creating a fascist puppet state of Croatia, called the Independent State of Croatia. Croatia was led by the extreme nationalist Ante Pavelić a long-time Croatian exile in Rome, whose Ustashe movement formed a government in modern-day Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. The Ustashe were allowed to persecute Serbs, while Germany contributed to that goal in German-occupied Serbia.
From 1941 to the end of the war, Germany engaged in war with the Soviet Union in its attempt to create the Nazi colonial goal of Lebensraum "living space" for German citizens. The German occupation authorities set up occupation and colonial authorities called Reichskommissariats such as Reichskommissariat Ostland and Reichskommissariat Ukraine. The Slavic populations were to be destroyed along with Jews there to make way for German colonists.

As the fortunes of war changed, Germany was forced to occupy Italy when Mussolini was thrown out as Prime Minister by Italy's king in 1943. German forces rescued Mussolini and instructed him to establish a fascist regime in Italy called the Italian Social Republic. This was the last major foreign policy delivered. The remainder of the war saw the decline of German power and desperate attempts by Nazi officials such as Heinrich Himmler to negotiate a peace with the western Allies against the wishes of Hitler.

Law
Main articles: Law of Germany, Reichstag (Weimar Republic), and Reichsrat (Germany)
Most of the judicial structures and legal codes of the Weimar Republic remained in use during and after the Third Reich, but significant changes within the judicial codes occurred, as well as significant changes in court rulings. The Nazi party was the only legal political party in Germany and all other political parties were banned. Most human rights of the constitution of the Weimar Republic were disabled by several Reichsgesetze ("Reich's laws"). Several minorities such as the Jews, opposition politicians and prisoners of war were deprived of most of their rights and responsibilities. The Plan to pass a Volksstrafgesetzbuch ("people's code of criminal justice") arose soon after 1933, but didn't come into reality until the end of World War II.

As a new type of court, the Volksgerichtshof ("people's court") was established in 1934, only dealing with cases of political importance. From 1934 – September 1944, a total of 5,375 death sentences were spoken by the court. Not included in this numbers are the death sentences from 20 July 1944 – April 1945, which are estimated at 2,000. Its most prominent jurist was Roland Freisler, who headed the court from August 1942 – February 1945.

Military
German war cemetery in Estonia. The ages of the fallen soldiers are mostly in their 20s.
Main articles: Wehrmacht, Heer (1935–1945), Kriegsmarine, Luftwaffe, and Waffen-SS
The military of the Third Reich – the Wehrmacht – was the name of the unified armed forces of Germany from 1935–1945 with Heer (Army), Kriegsmarine (Navy), Luftwaffe (Air Force) and a military organization Waffen-SS (military branch of the Schutzstaffel, which was, de facto, a fourth branch of the Wehrmacht).

The German Army furthered concepts pioneered during World War I, combining Ground and Air Force assets into combined arms teams. Coupled with traditional war fighting methods such as encirclements and the "battle of annihilation", the German military managed many lightning quick victories in the first year of World War II, prompting foreign journalists to create a new word for what they witnessed: Blitzkrieg. The total number of soldiers who served in the Wehrmacht during its existence from 1935–1945 is believed to approach 18.2 million. Officially, roughly 5.3 million German soldiers died in the course of the war.

German war cemetery in Estonia. The ages of the fallen soldiers are mostly in their 20s.

 

Racial policy
Main articles: The Holocaust and Racial policy of Nazi Germany
The effects of Nazi social policy in Germany was divided between those considered to be "Aryan" and those considered "non-Aryan", Jewish, or part of other minority groups. For "Aryan" Germans, a number of social policies put through by the regime to benefit them were advanced for the time, including state opposition to the use of tobacco, an end to official stigmatization toward Aryan children who were born from parents outside of marriage, as well as giving financial assistance to Aryan German families who bore children.

The Nazi Party pursued its racial and social policies through persecution and killing of those considered social undesirables or "enemies of the Reich".


Senator Alben W. Barkley, a member of the US Congressional Nazi crimes committee visiting Buchenwald concentration camp shortly after its liberation.


Especially targeted were minority groups such as Jews, Romani (also known as Gypsies), Jehovah's Witnesses, people with mental or physical disabilities and homosexuals.

In the 1930s, plans to isolate and eventually eliminate Jews completely in Germany began with the construction of ghettos, concentration camps, and labour camps which began with the 1933 construction of the Dachau concentration camp, which Heinrich Himmler officially described as "the first concentration camp for political prisoners."

In the years following the Nazi rise to power, many Jews were encouraged to leave the country and did so. By the time the Nuremberg Laws were passed in 1935, Jews were stripped of their German citizenship and denied government employment. Most Jews employed by Germans lost their jobs at this time, which were being taken by unemployed Germans. Notably, the government attempted to send 17,000 German Jews of Polish descent back to Poland, a decision which led to the assassination of Ernst vom Rath by Herschel Grynszpan, a German Jew living in France. This provided the pretext for a pogrom the Nazi Party incited against the Jews on 9 November 1938, which specifically targeted Jewish businesses. The event was called Kristallnacht (Night of Broken Glass, literally "Crystal Night"); the euphemism was used because the numerous broken windows made the streets look as if covered with crystals. By September 1939, more than 200,000 Jews had left Germany, with the government seizing any property they left behind.


 The aftermath of Kristallnacht, Jewish shops vandalized.

 

The Nazis also undertook programs targeting "weak" or "unfit" people, such as the T-4 Euthanasia Program, killing tens of thousands of disabled and sick Germans in an effort to "maintain the purity of the German Master race" (German: Herrenvolk) as described by Nazi propagandists. The techniques of mass killing developed in these efforts would later be used in the Holocaust. Under a law passed in 1933, the Nazi regime carried out the compulsory sterilization of over 400,000 individuals labeled as having hereditary defects, ranging from mental illness to alcoholism.

Another component of the Nazi programme of creating racial purity was the Lebensborn, or "Fountain of Life" programme founded in 1935. The programme was aimed at encouraging German soldiers—mainly SS—to reproduce. This included offering SS families support services (including the adoption of racially pure children into suitable SS families) and accommodating racially valuable women, pregnant with mainly SS men's children, in care homes in Germany and throughout Occupied Europe. Lebensborn also expanded to encompass the placing of racially pure children forcibly seized from occupied countries—such as Poland—with German families.

In 1941 it was decided to destroy the Polish nation completely and the German leadership decided that in 10 to 20 years the Polish state under German occupation was to be fully cleared of any ethnic Poles and settled by German colonists. The Nazis considered Jews, Romani people, Poles along with other Slavic people like the Russians, Ukrainians, Czechs and anyone else who was not an "Aryan" according to the contemporary Nazi race terminology to be Untermenschen ("subhumans"). The Nazis rationalized that the (Aryan) Germans had a biological right to displace, eliminate and enslave inferiors. After the war, under the "Big Plan", Generalplan Ost foresaw the deportation of 45 million non-Germanizable people from Eastern Europe, 85% of Poles, Belorussians (75%) and Ukrainians (65%), to West Siberia, and about 14 millions were to remain, but were to be treated as slaves. In their place, Germans would be settled in an extended "living space" of the 1000-Year Empire.


 Naked Soviet POWs in Mauthausen concentration camp. Between June 1941 and January 1942, the Nazis killed an estimated 2.8 million Red Army POWs, whom they viewed as "subhuman".

Herbert Backe was one of the orchestrators of the Hunger Plan – the plan to starve tens of millions of Slavs in order to ensure steady food supplies for the German people and troops. In the longer term, the Nazis wanted to exterminate some 30–45 million Slavs. According to Michael Dorland, "As Yale historian Timothy Snyder reminds us, had the Nazis succeeded in their war on Russia, the implementation of two further dimensions of the Holocaust, the Hunger Plan and Generalplan Ost, would have led to the elimination through starvation of an additional 80 million people in Belarus, northern Russia and the USSR."

At the outset of World War II, the German authority in the General Government in occupied Poland ordered that all Jews face compulsory labour and that those who were physically incapable such as women and children were to be confined to ghettos.

To the Nazis, a number of ideas appeared on how to answer the "Jewish Question". One method was a mass forced deportation of Jews. Adolf Eichmann suggested that Jews be forced to emigrate to Palestine. Franz Rademacher made the proposal that Jews be deported to Madagascar; this proposal was supported by Himmler and was discussed by Hitler and Italian dictator Benito Mussolini but was later dismissed as impractical in 1942. The idea of continuing deportations to occupied Poland was rejected by the governor, Hans Frank, of the General Government of occupied Poland as Frank refused to accept any more deportations of Jews to the territory which already had large numbers of Jews.

In 1942, at the Wannsee Conference, Nazi officials decided to eliminate the Jews altogether, as discussed the "Final Solution of the Jewish Question". Concentration camps like Auschwitz were converted and used gas chambers to kill as many Jews as possible. By 1945, a number of concentration camps had been liberated by Allied forces and they found the survivors to be severely malnourished. The Allies also found evidence that the Nazis were profiteering from the mass murder of Jews not only by confiscating their property and personal valuables but also by extracting gold fillings from the bodies of some Jews held in concentration camps.

 

To the Nazis, a number of ideas appeared on how to answer the "Jewish Question". One method was a mass forced deportation of Jews. Adolf Eichmann suggested that Jews be forced to emigrate to Palestine. Franz Rademacher made the proposal that Jews be deported to Madagascar; this proposal was supported by Himmler and was discussed by Hitler and Italian dictator Benito Mussolini but was later dismissed as impractical in 1942. The idea of continuing deportations to occupied Poland was rejected by the governor, Hans Frank, of the General Government of occupied Poland as Frank refused to accept any more deportations of Jews to the territory which already had large numbers of Jews.

In 1942, at the Wannsee Conference, Nazi officials decided to eliminate the Jews altogether, as discussed the "Final Solution of the Jewish Question". Concentration camps like Auschwitz were converted and used gas chambers to kill as many Jews as possible. By 1945, a number of concentration camps had been liberated by Allied forces and they found the survivors to be severely malnourished. The Allies also found evidence that the Nazis were profiteering from the mass murder of Jews not only by confiscating their property and personal valuables but also by extracting gold fillings from the bodies of some Jews held in concentration camps.


Education
Further information: University education in Nazi Germany
Education under the Nazi regime focused on racial biology, population policy, culture, geography and especially physical fitness.[115] Military education (Wehrerziehung) became the central component of physical education in order to prepare the Germans mentally, spiritually and physically for warfare. Science textbooks presented natural selection in terms meant to underline the concept of racial purity.

Anti-Semitic policy led to the expulsion in 1933 all of Jewish teachers, professors and officials from the education system. Likewise, politically undesirable teachers, such as socialists, were expelled as part of the “Law for the Restoration of the Civil Service” (Gesetz zur Wiederherstellung des Berufbeamtentums). Most teachers were required to belong to the National Socialist Teachers' Association (Nationalsozialistischer Lehrerbund , NSLB).[118] All university professors were required to be a member in good standing of the National Socialist Association of University Lecturers.

The teaching methods promoted under National Socialism were experiential and active in their orientation. This was largely an extension of the anti-intellectual attitude of the Nazi leadership, however, and not primarily an attempt to experiment with new didactic methods. As Henrich Hansen, the head of the NS-Teachers' Association, put it:

"The youth of Germany will no longer be 'objectively' posed with the choice between an upbringing that is materialistic or idealistic, ethnic [völkish] or international, religious or godless, rather it will be consciously formed according to principles that have shown themselves to be true: the principles of the national socialist worldview.[1
In seeking a way to make education less abstract, less intellectual and less distant from children, educators called for a much-expanded role for film. Reichsfilmintendant and Head of the Film Section in the Propaganda Ministry Fritz Hippler wrote that film affects people “primarily on the optical and emotional, that is to say, non-intellectual” level. Film also appealed to the Nazi leadership as a medium through which they could speak directly to children without the mediation of teachers. Dr. Bernhard Rust saw film as an essential tool, saying "The National Socialist State definitely and deliberately makes the film the transmitter of its ideology."