Nazi Germany

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You are right. He (Hitler) did not, but millions of Germans did betray their selves. That was the tragedy; not that one man had the courage to be evil but that millions had not the courage to be good.
—John Fowles, The Magus
All this because he couldn't get into Art School.
A lunatic Chaplin imitator
and his greatest fans

Icon nazi.svg
First as tragedy
Then as farce

Nazi Germany is the period in the history of Germany between 1933 and 1945 during which Adolf Hitler, as German Chancellor, took over most of Europe, and (officially) started the Second World War, which flattened entire cities and cost tens of millions of lives. Under Hitler, concentration camps were constructed, and later became death-camps, which killed an additional ~6 million Jews. Well, it’s actually more than that: Six million Jewish people were killed, but the Nazis also murdered POWs, Slavic civilians, LGBT people, Romani, communists, unionists, the disabled, Freemasons, Jehovah’s witnesses, and just about every other minority group they could get their hands on. The full number is closer to 17 million.[1]

Like other fascist movements, the Nazis were intensely nationalistic and thus obsessed with achieving ethnic homogeneity within claimed national territory. Unlike most other fascist movements of the time, "Germanness" was given a racial bent, and this provided the nonsense about Blut und Boden[note 1] for an ideological gloss on the geopolitical strategy of territorial aggrandizement.

In the 1945 diplomatic settlement, the Soviet Union got control of the eastern half of Germany that was not slated for inclusion in a redrawn Poland (Poland gained compensatory territory after the Soviets took back the lands they had incorporated in 1939) while the United States and its (now junior) allies, the UK and France, controlled the remaining two-thirds of Germany. West Germany prospered while East Germany continued to suffer Stalinist oppression. A divided Germany was a Germany that could be deemed safe by all of the victorious allies. In the end, though, a unified and democratic Germany, where extremism is against the law and Scientology discouraged, became the strongest economy in the European Union.


WWI (right) shakes hands with WWII (left) at the opening of the new Reichstag, 1933.
Even after the triumph of the 1930 election, many intelligent and informed observers of the German political scene felt that the Nazi party was bound sooner or later to collapse and break up into its component parts. Its social base was diffuse – that of an out and out protest party; it had no clear political programme to offer, only a contradictory amalgam of social revolutionary rhetoric and reactionary impulses; and not least it was heavily dependent on the personality cult surrounding the demagogue Hitler – seen as the mouthpiece of petty-bourgeois resentments, but ultimately a dilettante who, despite temporary success in the conditions of severe economic and political crisis, was bound in the end to succumb to the real power bastions and traditional ruling elites.[2]

The early 1930s was a pretty lousy time for most the world, what with the Great Depression and all; this led to increased support for extremists, as well as the fall of most liberal governments across the world.

The brownshirts (Sturmabteilung) played a role, but the Nazis never held a majority. The conservatives ruled the government, and Paul von HindenburgWikipedia whooped Hitler in the presidential election, too. There were a confluence of factors leading to the Nazi takeover of the state:

  • The conservatives got over their hang-ups with the Nazis and entered into a governing coalition. Hindenburg was just unsure about them being republican instead of pro-monarchy, like many German conservatives, and Pan-Germanist instead of solely for the existing Reich. (Their leader was Austrian, after all.) They planned to use the Nazis as a cudgel against the left, but they wound up being cudgeled along with everyone else.
  • The left was hilariously fractious. There was a low-intensity civil war in Germany from 1930-33, with SocDems and Communists fighting in the streets. Basically, by the time 1932 rolled around, there was either going to be a Marxist-Leninist revolution or a fascist takeover, and there were a lot more fascists than there were communists. Hitler wiped out all the opposition—conservative, liberal, and socialist.[note 2]
  • Hitler pulled a pretty deft maneuver by attractingWikipedia the socialists to his side—before decapitating the movement,[3] murdering their leaders, and Nazifying their supporters (either through fear or by re-educating them in the newly-formed concentration camps).[4] If you've seen their 1920 manifestoWikipedia, it opens with a disturbing racial diatribe, but as you read on, there are promises to raise the status of working-class Germans: free education, senior entitlements, more state control over industries, and redistribution of wealth.[note 3]

After the Nazis' meteoric rise in popularity that left them as one of the largest parties in the Reichstag (Parliament) and a failed attempt to channel support away from him, Hitler was appointed Chancellor in 1933.[5] Shortly thereafter, the German Reichstag building was burned and left-wing extremists were blamed for it (although the Nazis may have done it themselves).[note 4] An "emergency" was declared and Hitler was able to harass voters into voting for him and his right-wing allies. This coalition government gained a slim supermajority[note 5] in the Reichstag and wasted little time granting him dictatorial powers less than a month later in the infamous 1933 Enabling Act[note 6], leading to him rewarding his political allies by banning their existence in favor of a one party state.[note 7][6] Finally, with the death of President Hindenburg in August 1934[note 8], he consolidated the offices of Chancellor and President to create the position of "Fuhrer" in order to remove the last legal opposition to his rule.

External dissent removed, internal Nazi opposition was crushed in 1934, cleansing the party of both the paramilitaries and left-wing Nazis, who didn't align with Hitler's backers.[7] The only fascists who were intelligent were the ones who controlled the upper echelons of the state. Nuremberg IQ-tested the top Nazi leaders who hadn’t blown their brains out or chewed on some cyanide, and they were consistently geniuses. However, if you observe the Brownshirts (for instance), they were all driven by catechisms and myths, worshiping the WWI dead.[8] That's why the Night of the Long KnivesWikipedia was necessary: most of the SA shock troops were the sorts of people who would end up being labeled "degenerates" and thrown into labor camps in fascist societies.[9] Eventually, the man they dedicated all of their time to elevating managed to attract enough 'normal' sadists who didn't make him feel sick to be around, and who were at least vaguely employable.

His home front mostly secured, Hitler used the western allies desire to avoid another World War (as well as their lack of desire to start one when they weren't ready to do so) to convince Britain and France that his re-militarization of the Rhineland, annexation of Austria and his occupation of the Sudetenland would be all he wanted. After his invasion of the rest of Czechoslovakia, they wised up and by the time he ordered the (successful) invasion of western Poland in 1939 decided war was better to letting him do whatever he wanted. That ultimately touched off WWII in Europe and after six years of fighting and the death of 25 million Europeans (mostly Russians and other East European populations), Hitler, together with many other senior Nazi leaders, chose suicide.

National Socialism[edit]

The fact that we had chosen red as the colour for our posters sufficed to attract them to our meetings. The ordinary bourgeoisie were very shocked to see that, we had also chosen the symbolic red of Bolshevism and they regarded this as something ambiguously significant. The suspicion was whispered in German Nationalist circles that we also were merely another variety of Marxism, perhaps even Marxists suitably disguised, or better still, Socialists. The actual difference between Socialism and Marxism still remains a mystery to these people up to this day. The charge of Marxism was conclusively proved when it was discovered that at our meetings we deliberately substituted the words 'Fellow-countrymen and Women' for 'Ladies and Gentlemen' and addressed each other as 'Party Comrade'. We used to roar with laughter at these silly faint-hearted bourgeoisie and their efforts to puzzle out our origin, our intentions and our aims."
Mein Kampf Vol. Two, Chapter VII, "The Struggle with the Red Front"
Workers in the Third Reich lost most of their freedoms and rights… with their unions gone, workers had no say in wages and conditions of employment, which were now regulated by the state. Despite economic recovery, real wages never rose to what they had been in 1928. Taxes were high; the cost of many consumer goods such as clothing and beer increased… on the other hand, workers were not cast into a condition of deprivation. To some extent, workers were pacified by what the Nazi state did provide.
—Joseph Bendersky, A Concise History of Nazi Germany p.108

Hitler knew he needed the support of German industrialists and Wehrmacht aristocrats. And by support, we don't mean bumper stickers: They paid his rent.Wikipedia[10][11] They paid the salaries of the Nazi functionaries, the SS, and the SA. Indeed, he won their support by promising he'd squash Communism, organized labor, and pesky democracy in general. So he was publicly socialist and privately capitalist.[12] This is what fascists always do, they try to co-opt the populism of the left.

Like National Syndicalism in fascist Italy and Spain, he put all workers into one big national union (German Labour Front) which was given recognition and protection by the state.[13][14] Sounds great, until you realize he put a pro-management stoogeWikipedia in charge, whose job was to depress wages.[15] Strikes were forbidden. The mandatory dues of this union became a slush fund.[16] Germans also paid five Reichsmarks per week in a pre-leasing schemeWikipedia for a Volkswagen Beetle, but those deliveries were put on hold.[17]

Now, it's true that employment went up, since it became harder to fire employees.[18] But it was also harder to switch jobs thanks to a new "workbook" system, which management was in control of.[19] Also, women were no longer includedWikipedia in employment figures, so the jobless rate had to tumble.[20] It also helped that millions were removed from the economy for racial reasons, thereby freeing up countless jobs for the "Aryan" worker.

For the peasantry, Hitler gave farmers control of their land. No longer could it be foreclosed on or sold off (as long as you were Aryan, that is), and price controls were set to make their produce more valuable. But this also chained the farmers to their land like the serfs of old.[21] The bloated, bankrupt JunkerWikipedia farms (who had disgraceful "loan" agreements with the Weimar government) were left alone, despite promises to nationalize them.[22] Finally, the price controls on food inflated other supplies so as to cancel out the gains for the farmer.[23]

It is also true that businesses, factories, and estates were seized. However, most of those were owned by Jews,[24] or people who annoyed the Nazis.[25] But again, Hitler himself put a stop to much of this.[26] The corporatist economy was an outgrowth of his "leadership principle" (Führerprinzip); any study of the Third Reich tends to highlight how ad hoc a lot of their policies were.[27][28]

So how did the German economy run? Quantitative easing on crack. Hjalmar Schacht was put in charge of Hitler's economic policy, or more accurately, the Nazi printing press.[29] Different schemes were hatched to finance rearmament, which eased unemployment and made the moguls a tidy profit.[30] The German "economic miracle"[31] was impressive, but it could only be sustained temporally.[32][33] So the real Nazi economy was Keynesian, not Marxist. This came to a head when Gregor Strasser and other members of the Reichstag supported a Communist plan to seize the Junker plantations. Hitler knew this would not go over with his benefactors so, through sneaky political maneuvering, he prevented his party from siding with the Communists.[34] Hitler never forgot their disloyalty, and he had Strasser purged in what came to be known as "Night of the Long Knives".

"A Third Reich"[edit]

In one of the biggest propaganda moves by the Nazis, they declared Germany under their reign to be a "Drittes Reich" (Third Reich). It was largely a move by propagandists trying to legitimize their rule by linking their "empire" with historical German empires that they considered to be terrific such as "First Reich" known to most sane people as the "Holy Roman Empire (900's - 1806) and the "Second Reich" which was the German Empire as it existed from 1871 until 1918.[note 9] According to the Nazis, Hitler's new "German Empire" would be the third and greatest of these. Instead, it lasted for twelve years and ended with the utter ruin and defeat of Germany.

In a regime known for making grandiose proclamations, this was likely one of the biggest, and with the least support. First, stepping back a bit, the official name of the German Empire (1871-1918) was the Deutsches Reich ("German Realm" or "German Empire"). Following defeat in World War I and the abdication and removal of the various German monarchs (Imperial Germany being a federation of various monarchs under the head of one single emperor), a republic was declared; however, the official name of Germany remained "Deutsches Reich". Although this period is known by historians, much in the same way the Byzantine Empire has that name, as the Weimar Republic and the public itself mostly took to calling it the Deutsche Republik by the mid 20's, the name (and identity) of the nation never really stopped being the "Second Reich". Going back even further, the identity of the Holy Roman Empire, famously stated to be "neither holy, nor Roman, nor an empire", as a German "First Reich" is strained at best. Although it helped set the stage for what would become Germany, up until the very end it was claimed to be the Roman Empire by whoever was emperor. In the end, both terms have fallen out of favor and most people who use them are looked down upon for accepting Nazi historiography.

As time went on and they acquired more land, the Nazis themselves stopped using the term and even banned it in 1939 in favor of "Großdeutsches Reich' (Greater German Empire) and "nationalsozialistischer Staat" (National Socialist State). Ultimately, the Nazis dreamed of an even more grandiose goal: "Großgermanisches Reich Deutscher Nation", or the "Greater Germanic Reich of the German Nation" which would encompass most of the Germanic areas of Europe such as non-Finnish Scandinavia and the Netherlands in one single state ruled from "Welthauptstadt GermaniaWikipedia", Hitler's rebuilt Berlin that would have sunk into the ground from the sheer weight of its material.[note 10]

About the word "Reich"[edit]

Reich is a German word that does not translate easily into English. It is related to the English word "rich" (meaning "wealthy"), and when "reich" is used as an adjective, means exactly that in German. However, as a noun, it more correctly translates as "realm", although it is often erroneously translated into English as "empire". The German word for "empire" (a monarchy ruled by an emperor) is Kaiserreich ("emperor's realm"), while a kingdom is a Königreich ("king's realm"). The German toponym for France is "Frankreich", literally, "Realm of the Franks", even if the Franks have so fully assimilated into the French people and France has not had a monarchical government since 1871. Similarly, the Dutch call their democratic country a 'rijk', a cognate of "Reich". By the way, the English word "rich" used to have a similar meaning as a noun, and this is retained in the compound English word bishopric - a place where a bishop is in charge, i.e. a bishop's realm. As for pronunciation, the Germans say the "ch" almost like the beginning of the English word "hue"—it sounds like a hiss, suggesting a "shush" or "should" sound but without bringing the teeth together. The "ei" is pronounced like the "i" in "like".

New Order[edit]

Suppose that Hitler's programme could be put into effect. What he envisages, a hundred years hence, is a continuous state of 250 million Germans with plenty of 'living room' (i.e. stretching to Afghanistan or there-abouts), a horrible brainless empire in which, essentially, nothing ever happens except the training of young men for war and the endless breeding of fresh cannon-fodder."
George Orwell[35]

As mentioned previously, the Nazis believed themselves to be the start of a new, endless era of greatness for Germany, and generously wanted to share this greatness by way of conquering a lot of land and forcing the places they didn't outright annex into a subservient status. This plan: expansion of Germany and exploitation of the rest of the world for Germany's benefit was the major driving force of both Nazi militarism and the War itself that would bring them down. Although most of it was not implemented, the parts that were showcased just what kind of horrible world we would live in had the Nazis won the war.

The Holocaust[edit]

See our article on The Holocaust for more.

Generalplan Ost[edit]

Planned Nazi expansion eastward, with the obvious implications for all who lived there already

The main goal of pretty much every Nazi action after annexing the German areas of Europe around it was to acquire all that land to the east of them so they could "relocate" and enslave at best, exterminate at worst, the local Slavic (and non-Slavic) populations in favor of German colonization. Only partially implemented, the brutality of the Nazi occupation would be a key factor in turning the population against them and into the arms of the Soviets, because while the Soviets were little better politically and Stalin was a right fucker, he wasn't so stupid as to try and kill everybody in those non-Russian republics while also still fighting a war.

The primary categories people already living here would have found themselves in was split between "Germanization " and "undesirable" - those deemed acceptable to the Nazi ideology for "better treatment" or assimilation and those who would be killed or deported to more eastern territories (such as the ever popular Western Siberia).

For some, this was implemented essentially during the war, and for others, it would be implemented afterward, with the idea that most areas in the first zone (west of the dotted line) would be "Germanized" in 20 or so years. Poland, being the first nation to fall after the Nazis no longer had to pretend to care what the Allies thought, took the brunt of the implementation with much of its political, cultural and religious leadership imprisoned or murdered, and it was planned that ultimately the Polish would be wiped out, through assimilation in Siberia and being forced to not marry and produce children for those left in Poland as German slaves. The Baltic, in comparison to Poland and Ukraine, were planned to ultimately lose their statehood but, with the exception of the Lithuanians, only face about half of a population removal for incoming German settlers (obsession with blood purity meant that the Lithuanians, with high rates mixed marriages with Slavic people, were not acceptable to "become Germans.") Ukraine, due to its prime land, was to face higher rates than the Baltic and had to endure a second famine after the Holodomor in order to help along its impending colonization, but overall faced fewer deportation rates than some other areas.. Ukraine was also one of the areas most welcoming to Germany and yet also against it, as Ukrainian nationalism was prevalent before Soviet occupation and rose up again when it became apparent that the Nazis were not any better than the Soviets.

In the areas further east, the plan gets more fuzzy as the ongoing state of the war and ever-shifting front lines meant that any real implementation of the plan was ad-hoc and subject to interruptions. However, as everything up to the Ural mountains was slated to become part of Germany, in the end, it was to face the same treatment. Two administrative divisions were planned, one for the broad area of Russia and the other for the area of the Caucasus up to around Stalingrad. Populations to not be enslaved or Germanized would be deported or killed, and Germany would stretch from Alsace in the west to the Ural mountains in the East, with a permanent guard keeping the former inhabitants from crossing back in and ruining "German Civilization".

Europe, the Middle East and Africa[edit]

The Americas[edit]

Hitler viewed the United States of America as a rising global power and Germany's likely rival for hegemony in the post-New Order world. The Nazi plan to seize land in Eastern Europe and Russia was partly motivated by a desire to have a resource base that would leave Germany competitive against a presumably hostile the United States. The nature of the future conflict between America and the Greater Germanic Reich, however, remained vague. German planners were more occupied with work in the east to devote time to it, and Hitler believed that he would be dead before it would manifest. The problem of the United States would be one that a future Führer would deal with.

What planning there was amounted not to an impractical invasion of the American mainland (as is often shown in media), but long range bombers (such as the Amerika BomberWikipedia) destroying eastern cities and forcing submission (much in the way the Battle of Britain), ending a "war of the Old and New World" where the Nazis would assume global leadership by simply having the stronger position, even if it never truly "took over" the American dominated sphere. If it did come to a fight, however, which the Nazis made all attempt to put off even into 1941, with America all but officially part of the allied side[36], Nazi plans focused on splitting American society up, such as encouraging Native American resistance to fighting Germany, even going so far as declaring that Natives were Aryan (making them somehow better than the country ruling them as inferiors to be assimilated into Society or excluded on reservations) and possibly even handing out land from a defeated America to tribes.[37] While there was some Fascist support among Indians, overall, most Indians seemed to find America a better deal than Germany and hopes that they would rather fight the US than fight Germany never materialized.

Outside of the United States, the Nazis gave little thought to the rest of the Western hemisphere beyond "Economic opportunity"[38] and "land to get ethnic Germans back from"[39] while warning their own people to the "dangers" that comes from racially mixed societies.[40] Like the rest of Europe, Africa, and Western Asia, Latin America was to become simply a source of resources and power for the German Empire, ruled by local fascist groups.

As far as whether it was a mistake for the U.S. to hire German scientists...that can't be judged so easily. Considering they were looking toward war with Russia, and Russia did the same, one tends to think not. After all, the Germans looked to the USA and the UK's eugenics programs as a muse. They just took it to the logical end. See the history of IBM's hollerith machineWikipedia and numerous other US corporations who helped build Nazi Germany. There is a very complex, rich history between those countries and the horrors of the twentieth century.

Japan and East Asia[edit]

Showing why maybe supporting MeijiWikipedia was not the best thing the West could have done

Germany was, in a move of realpolitik, allied with the Empire of Japan, a fellow militaristic nation seeking to exploit the world for its own benefit. Unlike Italy, which was in the end never going to be anything more than a subordinate partner in the German world, Japan was to be given free rein in the territories allocated to it - A line including everything east of the Yenisei riverWikipedia, running along the border of China and then British India to the Indian Ocean.[41] Germany was also prepared to give up Oceania to Japan, including former colonies it had lost after the First World War, in the name of Japanese help defeating the allies. The Germans were not really happy about this, though, as it meant that the Japanese would replace and remove the existing white populations there[42], and most expected Japan to use Australia in the same way Germany was planning to use Eastern Europe: a base for colonial population expansion.

Long term, Germany planned to fight Japan, its current alliance thought of in the same way it had allowed Soviet conquests in Eastern Europe before invading the country, although it was expected this future conflict "would be centuries down the line".[43] At the least, Hitler looked at Japanese military aims as a saving move for German plans: just as German annexation of Europe would take time, Japanese integration of Asia into a Japan-centered system would "take 50 to a 100 years"[44] In the end, an "apocalyptic fight" between "Culture Generators" (The Aryans) and "Culture Bearers" (The Japanese) was expected, with the possibility Germany could lose due to simple population differences, and that "this would be a bad thing."

How could they be so popular?[edit]

Despite its current status as a reviled stock villain with only extreme fringe support, the Nazi Party was extremely popular in Germany and among Germans across the world in the 1930's and 40's. Often forgotten alongside the militaristic foreign policy and ultra-racist domestic policy is the fact that for most Germans life seemed to be improving, although some research shows that Nazi pre-war German economic growth was primarily state expenditure (rearmament), and the actual standard of living declined under Nazi rule.[45] At least, until the war started, that is. Something that is often overlooked as well is that Antisemitism was surprisingly widespread and even popular in Europe. The Dreyfus affair in France was just one example of that. And the willing, sometimes eager collaboration of occupied populations in the murder of the local Jews goes to show that Germany was not the only country with a huge antisemitic sentiment back then. The fact that the Danish resistance while militarily hapless managed to save all but a few hundred Danish Jews just goes to show how much more help for the Jews of Europe would have been possible. Politically, Germany in the 1920s and early 30s was divided into two bitterly hostile camps. On the left, the social democrats and the communists were calling for an international socialist revolution (yes, even the social democrats, although they envisioned their "revolution" taking place at the ballot box), they were committed to abolishing capitalism, and they had a very strong following among the working class. How strong? Well, Germany had the second largest communist party in the world after the Soviet Union itself. Meanwhile, on the right, there stood the nationalists and conservatives, who longed for the good old days of the monarchy and the German Empire from before World War I, wanted to preserve as much of the old order as possible, and were terrified at the prospect that Germany might go communist. Into this environment stepped the Nazis, shocking everyone by calling themselves "National Socialists" (basically, "right-wing left-wingers"), and promising to unite all Germans and bridge the deep political divisions in society. Eventually, they ended up playing politics as usual anyway, and made an alliance with the conservatives, but a lot of the Nazi appeal came from their image as a non-partisan alternative for all Germans. (Does it sound familiar?)

It's also worth noting that the nazis actually did a bunch of PR to hide what they were doing from the German public, ranging from posters reminding them of false accusations of atrocities from the allies in WWI to TheresienstadtWikipedia; basically a whole model concentration camp intended to be shown to the media as an example of how humane the camps were. The Nazi war machine also ran on the backs of an apolitical class with liberal leanings. Men like Albert SpeerWikipedia complied with the Nazis in the hopes of gaining positions in the new Reich.[46]

Like many parties, especially ones bent on dominating the lives of a population, the Nazis established a myriad of special clubs and organizations for party members, that were intended as alternatives to the public organizations used by everyone else. So, for example, they had their own welfare program, sporting organization, "Women's League" and most famously, the Hitler Youth, which was the Nazi version of the boy scouts and girl scouts (the main "Hitler Youth" was a young boys' association, but there was also a girls' association alongside it). Using these - which later became the only legal organizations one could join after the Nazis took power - the party could project its image and propaganda into almost every part of a person's life while influencing children from the beginning to support Nazi ideology.

The Nazis were also responsible for the recovery of Germany after the depression; taking a nation broken by both the depression and punitive restrictions placed on it by World War I and making it a world power again would make its population willing to overlook the loss of liberty. When the Nazis came to power, Germany was deep in the Great Depression, with many millions of people unemployed. After changing the rules on what made a person "unemployed" (such as not counting Jews, people under conscription and women), as well as mass public works programs (such as the construction of Germany's Autobahn) and restrictions on workplace ability to fire workers, Germany did report record low unemployment by the time the war began.[47] Besides cheating to report mass spikes in employment, the Nazis also propagated the Stab-in-the-back legend to discredit the Weimar-era republic and left-leaning ideology in general. Hitler saw those people not as they were, but what they were symbolically; so even though Jews had vanished from German life in 1941, they were still blamedWikipedia as the forces behind the Soviet war effort, the Anglo-American bombing campaign, and the endless threat of invasion by England.[48]

For many Germans, though, what helped improve the image of the Nazis was the military pride and the dismantling of the Treaty of Versailles. At the end of World War I, Germany was slapped with various punitive sanctions for "causing the war", such as the entire Rhineland area being demilitarized (as well as restrictions on the German military), various areas of the nation being given to other countries, and mass financial reparations to the allied powers.[49] After initial enforcement of the treaty with a heavy hand, Germany was allowed to have breathing room and plans were set up that would actually allow them to pay the reparations owed. With the Depression, though, repayments were ended and, with the coming of Hitler, denounced entirely. Free from monetary obligation, the Nazis also ran roughshod over other portions of the treaty[note 11], such as the military buildup , end of the Rhineland occupation, the annexation of Austria (which was something many had wanted to do in 1918), and the reacquisition and expansion of German territory in Poland following the beginning of the second war. Even early in the second war, Nazi success, particularly the sudden and swift defeat of France and initial victories in the East, facilitated acceptance of the Nazis and a weakness in the German Resistance, forcing various groups to shelve plans to overthrow Hitler. By the time the tide had turned against Germany in 1943 and Germans began to sour on Nazi Loyalty, it was too late to really salvage the situation.

By the end of 1944 and into 1945, Germany was obviously beaten and it was only a question of how long it would take. This was a different ending to World War I, where Germany still had troops in enemy territory and no real occupation of German territory had taken place; instead, allied armies overwhelmed almost every German attempt at defense. Throughout, the Nazis played up fears of what would come post-war: rape, theft, murder, to both drive Germans to continue the fight and to drive many to suicide to escape the defeat.[50] By the end, children were being used to fight in armies who had grown up knowing nothing or almost nothing but Nazi Propaganda telling them their lives were less important than the use of them by the State and that the world after defeat was not worth living. Adults had internalized this message with fanatical enthusiasm, and fears of both imagined and real war crimes by allied (especially Soviet) forces against Germans[51], often in retaliation for the war-crimes the Germans committed during their occupation, drove many to die "before the enemy hordes could get to them."[52] Hitler himself even issued an order, subverted and ignored by the minister he put in charge of it, to essentially destroy what was left of the nation so that the allies would have nothing to occupy but rubble and ash. In the end, Hitler killed himself as Berlin fell around him, and was followed in this path by Nazi figures fearing Allied trials for war crimes as well as fanatics who wanted to follow their leader into death.[53]

Religion in Nazi Germany[edit]

In Nazi Germany, religion was mostly Protestant (Lutheran) and Roman Catholic. Atheists were barred from serving in the Schutzstaffel, and since the Soviets were depicted as godless Communists[note 12], atheists in general were viewed with suspicion. The Nazi regime, however, had a somewhat complicated relationship with religion. While Hitler's own religious beliefs were ambiguous and largely self-serving, other Nazis had more firmly held beliefs. In particular, Joseph Goebbels and Alfred Rosenberg, two important Nazi leaders, intensely disliked Christianity and hoped to eliminate it eventually. Hitler on the other hand, while likely sharing that belief, saw Christianity as a useful tool during the process of taking control and enforcing his ideology. Rosenberg, with Hitler's approval, also helped found and push a new version of the religion called Positive Christianity, which sought to rework the Bible to remove the Jewish parts (such as the entire Old Testament) and reinvent Jesus as non-Jewish. Positive Christianity wasn't successful, although it still exists.

Christian apologists as well as certain partisan hacks trying to claim that Nazi Germany was atheist tend to point out the Nazi regime's hostility towards organized religion, especially the Catholic Church, as proof that it was fundamentally atheist in nature. While it's true that this hostility happened, it doesn't tell the whole story and is misleading. The Nazis sought to entirely rework German culture to fit their ideology, and any organization that ran counter to that was automatically distrusted. As such, clergy were constantly monitored for even the slightest signs of disloyalty to the regime, and in particular numerous Catholic priests were imprisoned in the special Pfarrerblock ("Priests' section") of the Dachau concentration camp due to their resistance to the Nazi government. Jehovah's Witnesses were also heavily targeted by the government due to their refusal to swear loyalty oaths or serve in the military. Otherwise, Christianity was generally tolerated or even encouraged, with less than 5% of the clergy imprisoned in the Pfarrerblock being non-Catholics. Christian iconography was occasionally used by the regime, and even German military uniforms included it, notably belt buckles stating "Gott mit uns" ("God's with us").

See also[edit]

External links[edit]


  1. Blood and soil
  2. By the way, this is the origin of "Bernie killed Rosa": Luxemburg was killed when the ruling Social Democratic Party sent in proto-fascist "Freikorps" militias to quell a Communist uprising.Wikipedia
  3. It should be noted, however, the NSP was ratified in Feb 1920, well before Hitler seized control of the party from Drexler in summer 1921. After becoming the party leader, Hitler largely ignored the existence of the NSP and shot down any attempts to renew or modify it. The party became more of an antisemitic cult of personality devoted to Hitler himself rather than having a concrete, coherent ideology.
  4. The burning of the Reichstag is one of the most hotly debated events in history. Currently scholarly consensus indicates that Marinus van der Lubbe did set it on fire and that he possibly acted alone. But the issue is far from resolved
  5. The Nazi Party only got about 44% of the vote in the March 1933 election, despite using the police and brownshirts to intimidate voters, and outlawing/imprisoning leftists, especially the Communists (who still managed to grab 12% of the vote). Hitler's coalition partner was the hyper-conservative and monarchist DNVP, which got about 8%. The center-right, Catholic-oriented "Centre Party", with their 11% of the vote, was brought into the coalition when Hitler promised to not interfere with the Catholic church- a promise he very quickly broke. This gave the Nazi-DNVP-Centre coalition 63% of the seats, enough for a supermajority (which is 60+%).
  6. The passage of the Enabling Act was interesting in itself. Despite the Nazi-DNVP-Center coalition having a supermajority, the German constitution still required at least 2/3 of the representatives to appear (a "quorum") for the vote; but a large number of leftist reps, including 80 Communists, were imprisoned or in hiding, and unable to appear. Herman Göring, who was the sitting President of the Reichstag, simply chose to not count any of these leftists who were absent, effectively lowering the overall number and ensuring a quorum. With armed Nazi brownshirts patrolling the floor of the Reichstag, the final vote was 444 to 94- the 94 being members of the SPD (Social Democrats).
  7. In the subsequent election in November 1933, 622 of the 644 seats were won by Nazis; the remaining 22 were "guests"- non-Nazis who were considered loyal and allowed by Hitler to hold a seat.
  8. Under German law, both then and now, the President acts as the head of state, and has considerable reserve powers above those of the Chancellor. Between Hitler's rise to power in early 1933 and Hindenburg's death in 1934, Hitler was still required to cater to the president- however, the elderly Hindenburg generally approved of Hitler's suppression of leftists and elimination of street violence, so he largely let Hitler do as he saw fit.
  9. Notice how the Weimar Republic that also called itself "Deutsches Reich" is not counted? That was deliberate on the part of the Nazis
  10. The fact that Berlin is mostly built on loose sand and gravel from the ice ages wouldn't have helped...
  11. Funny story though- Germany ignored parts of the treaty before the ink was even dry. A notable example is that Germany was forbidden to have a General Staff- a core group of high ranking military officers who would come up with war strategies. No joke, the Germans got around this by simply renaming their existing General Staff as the "Truppenamt" ("Troop Office"). Additionally, the Germans were forbidden to build machine guns- and they got around this by simply buying a Swiss manufacturer and having that factory build them instead. The treaty's heavy restrictions on gun ownership in Germany were only ever half-assedly enforced, at best. The idea that Hitler and the Nazis "ripped up the treaty" is kind of hilarious because it had already been shredded.
  12. While being simultaneously Jewish...


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