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Nazi Germany

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Template:Infobox former country/autocat
Greater German Reich
Großdeutsches Reich
30px
1933–1945 30px
Flag Coat of arms
Flag Emblem
Motto
Ein Volk, ein Reich, ein Führer{{#invoke:Category handler|main}}
"One people, one state, one leader"
Anthem
Europe at the height of German expansion, 1941–1942
</small>
Capital Berlin
Languages German
Government Nazi single-party state
Totalitarian dictatorship
President / Führer
 -  1933–1934 Paul von Hindenburg
 - 1934–1945 Adolf Hitler[lower-alpha 2]
 - 1945 Karl Dönitz
Chancellor
 - 1933–1945 Adolf Hitler
 - 1945 Joseph Goebbels
 - 1945 (as leading minister) Lutz Graf Schwerin von Krosigk
Legislature Reichstag
 -  State council Reichsrat
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
Area
 -  1939 [lower-alpha 3] 633,786 km² (244,706 sq mi)
Population
 -  1939 est.The shortened footnote template {{sfn}} creates a short author-date citation in a footnote. For use with Shortened footnotes.

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69,314,000 
{{#invoke:String|rep| |5}}Density 109.4 /km²  (283.3 /sq mi)
Currency Reichsmark (ℛℳ)
Today part of

Nazi Germany, also known as the Third Reich, is the common name for Germany during the period from 1933 to 1945, when its government was controlled by Adolf Hitler and his National Socialist German Workers' Party (NSDAP; Nazi Party). Under Hitler's rule, Germany was transformed from a republic into a dictatorship using the process of Gleichschaltung (coordination). The country was a totalitarian state after August 1934. Nazi Germany ceased to exist after the Allied Forces defeated the Wehrmacht in May 1945, thus ending World War II in Europe.


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On 30 January 1933, Hitler was appointed Chancellor of Germany by the President of the Weimar Republic, Paul von Hindenburg. Hitler's appointment began the process of systematic elimination of all political opposition and consolidation of power, resulting in Hitler becoming the sole leader of Germany. On 2 August 1934, upon the death of President Hindenburg, Hitler became the dictator of Germany with the merger of the powers and offices of the Chancellery with the Presidency of the Weimar Republic. This legislation was affirmed by a national referendum vote on 19 August 1934. Through this legislation and referendum Hitler became the sole Führer (leader), of Germany.


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The state idolized Hitler as its leader, centralizing all power in his hands.

Under the Führerprinzip (leader principle), the Führer's word was above all other laws. Top officials reported to Hitler and followed his policies, but they had considerable autonomy in deciding how those policies would be applied. The government was not a coordinated, cooperating body, but rather a collection of factions struggling to amass power and gain favour with the Führer.


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 In the midst of the Great Depression, the Nazi government restored economic stability and ended mass unemployment using heavy military spending and a mixed economy of free-market and central-planning practices.


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Extensive public works were undertaken, including the construction of high speed highways (Autobahns). The return to economic stability gave the regime enormous popularity. All opposition to Hitler's rule was ruthlessly suppressed, with the leadership killed, imprisoned, or in exile.

Racism, especially antisemitism, was a central feature of Nazi Germany in terms of ideology, propaganda, and daily practice. The Gestapo (secret state police) and SS under Heinrich Himmler destroyed the liberal, socialist, and communist opposition, and persecuted and murdered Jews and other "undesirables." The Germanic peoples—who were also referred to as the Nordic race—were considered to be the purest representation of the Aryan race, and were therefore the master race. Education focused on racial biology, population policy, and physical fitness. Membership in the Hitler Youth organization became compulsory. The number of women enrolled in post-secondary education plummeted, and career opportunities were curtailed. Calling women's rights a "product of the Jewish intellect," the Nazis practiced what they called "emancipation from emancipation."


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Entertainment and tourism were organized via the Strength Through Joy program. The government controlled artistic expression, promoting specific forms of art and discouraging or banning others. The Nazis mounted the infamous Entartete Kunst (Degenerate Art) exhibition in 1937.


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Propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels made effective use of film, mass rallies, and Hitler's hypnotizing oratory to control public opinion.


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The 1936 Summer Olympics showcased the Third Reich on the international stage.

Germany made increasingly aggressive demands, threatening war if they were not met. Britain and France responded with appeasement.


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Austria was annexed in 1938, and the Sudetenland was taken via the Munich Agreement in 1938, with the rest of Czechoslovakia seized in 1939. Hitler made a pact with Joseph Stalin and invaded Poland in September 1939, starting World War II. In alliance with Benito Mussolini's Italy, Germany conquered France and most of Europe by 1940, and threatened its remaining major foe: Great Britain. Reichskommissariats took brutal control of conquered areas, and a German administration was established in Poland. Concentration camps, established as early as 1933, initially detained political prisoners and opponents of the regime. The number of camps quadrupled between 1939 and 1942 to over 300, as slave labourers from across Europe, Jews, political prisoners, criminals, homosexuals, gypsies, the mentally ill, and others were imprisoned. The system that began as an instrument of political oppression culminated in the mass murder of Jews and other minorities in The Holocaust.

Following the German invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941, the tide turned against the Third Reich in the major military defeats of the Battle of Stalingrad and the Battle of Kursk in 1943, the largest land battles in history. Large-scale systematic bombing of German cities, rail lines, and oil plants escalated in 1944, shutting down the Luftwaffe (German Air Force). Germany was overrun in 1945 by the Soviets from the east and the Allies from the west. The victorious Allies initiated a policy of denazification and put the surviving Nazi leadership on trial for war crimes at the Nuremberg Trials.

Name Edit

The official name of the state was the Deutsches Reich ("German Reich") from 1933 to 1943, and the Großdeutsches Reich ("Greater German Reich") from 1943 to 1945. The name Deutsches Reich is usually translated into English as "German Empire" or "German Reich".


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The term "Reich" does not always connote an empire; the official name of Germany remained "Deutsches Reich" during the Weimar Republic (1918–1933).

Common English terms are "Nazi Germany" and "Third Reich." The latter, adopted by the Nazis, was first used in a 1923 novel by Arthur Moeller van den Bruck. The book counted the medieval Holy Roman Empire (962–1806) as the first Reich and the German Empire (1871–1918) as the second.


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The Nazis ignored the Weimar Republic, which they denounced as a historical aberration, contemptuously referring to it as "the System".


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Modern Germans refer to the period as Zeit des Nationalsozialismus or the abbreviated NS-Zeit ("National Socialist period"). A formal term frequently used in political speech or legal context is Nationalsozialistische Gewaltherrschaft ("National Socialist tyranny").

History Edit

Background Edit

The National Socialist German Workers' Party (NSDAP; Nazi Party) was founded as the German Workers' Party in 1919, one of several far-right political parties active in Germany at the time.


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The party platform included the removal of the Weimar Republic, rejection of the terms of the 1919 Treaty of Versailles, radical antisemitism, and anti-Bolshevism.


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They promised a strong central government, increased Lebensraum ("living space") for Germanic peoples, formation of a national community based on race, and racial cleansing via the active suppression of Jews, who would be stripped of their citizenship and civil rights.


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The Nazis proposed national and cultural renewal based upon the Völkisch movement.


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The stock market in the United States crashed on 24 October 1929. The impact in Germany was dire: millions were thrown out of work and several major banks collapsed. Hitler and the NSDAP prepared to take advantage of the emergency to gain support for their party. They promised to strengthen the economy and provide jobs.


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Many voters decided the NSDAP was capable of restoring order, quelling civil unrest, and restoring Germany's international reputation. After the federal election of 1932, the Nazis were the largest party in the Reichstag, holding 230 seats.


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Nazi seizure of power Edit

File:Adolf Hitler cph 3a48970.jpg

Under pressure from politicians, industrialists, and the business community, President Paul von Hindenburg appointed Hitler as Chancellor of Germany on 30 January 1933. This event is known as the Machtergreifung ("seizure of power").


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Although the Nazis had won the greatest share of the popular vote in the two Reichstag general elections of 1932, they did not have a majority, so Hitler led a short-lived coalition government formed by the NSDAP and the German National People's Party (DNVP).


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Within a few months, the new government installed a single party dictatorship in Germany with legal measures establishing a coordinated central government in a process termed Gleichschaltung. On the night of 27 February 1933, the Reichstag building was set afire; Marinus van der Lubbe, a Dutch communist, was found guilty of starting the blaze. Hitler immediately proclaimed that the arson was the start of a communist uprising. Four thousand Communist Party of Germany members were arrested. The Reichstag Fire Decree, imposed on 28 February 1933, rescinded most German civil liberties, including rights of assembly and freedom of the press. The decree also allowed the police to detain people indefinitely without charges or a court order. The legislation was accompanied by a propaganda blitz that led to public support for the measure. Violent suppression of communists by the Sturmabteilung (SA) was undertaken all over the country.


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In March 1933, an amendment to the Weimar Constitution called the Enabling Act passed in the Reichstag by a vote of 444 to 94.


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 This amendment allowed Hitler and his cabinet to pass laws—even laws that violated the constitution—without the consent of the president or the Reichstag.


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The bill required a two-thirds majority to pass. Leaving nothing to chance, the Nazis used the provisions of the Reichstag Fire Decree to keep several Social Democratic deputies from attending; the Communists had already been banned.


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The NSDAP continued to eliminate all political opposition. On 10 May the government seized the assets of the Social Democrats; they were banned in June.


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The remaining political parties were dissolved, and on 14 July 1933, Germany became a de facto single-party state when the founding of new parties was made illegal.


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Further elections in late 1933, 1936, and 1938 were entirely Nazi-controlled and only saw the Nazis and a small number of independents (such as Alfred Hugenberg) elected to the Reichstag.


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The regional state parliaments and the Reichsrat (federal upper house) were abolished in January 1934.


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The Nazi regime abolished the symbols of the Weimar Republic, including the black, red, and gold tricolor flag, and adopted reworked imperial symbolism. The previous imperial black, white, and red tricolor was restored as one of Germany's two official national flags; the second was the swastika flag of the NSDAP, which became the sole national German flag in 1935. The Nazi anthem "Horst-Wessel-Lied" ("Horst Wessel Song") became a second national anthem.


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At the risk of appearing to talk nonsense I tell you that the National Socialist movement will go on for 1,000 years! ... Don't forget how people laughed at me 15 years ago when I declared that one day I would govern Germany. They laugh now, just as foolishly, when I declare that I shall remain in power!

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File:Reichsparteitag 1935.jpg

On 2 August 1934, President von Hindenburg died. The previous day, the cabinet had enacted the "Law Concerning the Highest State Office of the Reich".


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This law stated that upon Hindenburg's death, the office of president would be abolished and its powers merged with those of the chancellor.  Hitler thus became head of state as well as head of government, and was formally named as Führer und Reichskanzler (leader and chancellor).


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As head of state, Hitler became Supreme Commander of the armed forces. The new law altered the traditional loyalty oath of servicemen so that they affirmed loyalty to Hitler personally rather than to the office of supreme commander or the state.


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On 19 August, the merger of the presidency with the chancellorship was approved by 90% of the electorate voting in a plebiscite.


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The majority of the German people were relieved that the conflicts and street fighting of the Weimar era had ended, and were deluged with a barrage of propaganda orchestrated by Joseph Goebbels, who promised peace and plenty for all in a united, Marxist-free country without the restraints of the Versailles Treaty.


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The first Nazi concentration camp, initially for political prisoners, was opened at Dachau, near Munich, in 1933.


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By the end of the war more than three million Germans had been imprisoned for political reasons.


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Political courts called Sondergerichte sentenced some 12,000 members of the German resistance to death, and civil courts sentenced an additional 40,000 Germans.


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Violations of the Versailles Treaty Edit

As early as February 1933 Hitler announced that rearmament must be undertaken, albeit clandestinely at first, as it was in violation of the Versailles Treaty. A year later he announced to his military leaders that 1942 was the target date for going to war in the east.


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When Hitler pulled Germany out of the League of Nations in 1933, he justified this action on the grounds that its disarmament clauses were applicable only to Germany, an unfair exclusion.


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The Saarland, which had been placed under League of Nations supervision for 15 years, voted in January 1935 to become part of Germany.


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The decision was greeted by Hitler as a great victory for the new Germany.


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In March 1935 Hitler announced that the Reichswehr would be increased to 550,000 men and that he was creating a German Air Force.


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The treaty was again ignored when Britain agreed that the Germans would be allowed to build a naval fleet with the signing of the Anglo-German Naval Agreement on 18 June 1935.


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Hitler's next attempt to undermine the Versailles Treaty came on 7 March 1936. When the Italian invasion of Ethiopia led to only mild protests by the British and French governments, Hitler ordered the Reichswehr to march 3,000 troops into the demilitarised zone in the Rhineland, with an additional 30,000 troops on standby. As the territory was part of Germany, the British and French governments did not feel that attempting to enforce the treaty was worth the risk of war.


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In the election held on 29 March the NSDAP received an overwhelming 98.9 per cent support.


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In 1936 Hitler signed an Anti-Comintern Pact with Japan and an non-aggression agreement with the Fascist Italy of Benito Mussolini, who was soon referring to a "Rome-Berlin Axis".


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Austria and Czechoslovakia Edit

In February 1938, Austrian-born Hitler called the Austrian Chancellor Kurt Schuschnigg to a meeting at the Berghof at which he harangued Schussnigg on the need for Germans to secure their frontiers. To forestall Hitler and to preserve Austria's independence, Schuschnigg scheduled a plebiscite on the issue for 13 March, but Hitler demanded that it be canceled. On 11 March, Hitler sent an ultimatum to Schuschnigg, demanding that he hand over all power to the Austrian Nazis or face an invasion. On 12 March the Wehrmacht entered Austria, to be greeted with enthusiasm by the Austrian Germans.


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File:MunichAgreement .jpg

The Republic of Czechoslovakia was home to a substantial minority of Germans, who mostly lived in the western section of the country in an area called Sudetenland. Under pressure from separatist groups within the Sudeten German Party, the Czech government offered economic concessions to the region.


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By May Hitler had decided to incorporate not just the Sudetenland but the whole of Czechoslovakia into the Reich.


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Throughout that spring and summer the Nazis undertook a propaganda campaign to try to drum up support for an invasion.


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Top leaders of the armed forces were not in favour of the plan, as the country was not yet ready for war.


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The crisis led to preparations for war by the British, the Czechs, and France, Czechoslovakia's ally. In order to avoid war, British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain arranged a series of meetings, the result of which was the Munich Agreement, signed on 29 September 1938, forcing the Czechoslovak government to accept the annexation of the Sudetenland to Germany. Chamberlain was greeted with cheers when he landed in London bringing, he said, "peace for our time."


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The agreement lasted six months before Hitler seized the rest of Czech territory in March 1939.


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Poland Edit

Hitler's next move was to demand the return of the Free City of Danzig and the Polish Corridor, a strip of land that separated the state of Prussia from the rest of Germany. The British announced that they would come to the aid of Poland if they were attacked, but Hitler believed that they would not actually take action and ordered that an invasion plan should be readied for a target date of September 1939.


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On 23 May he described to his generals his overall plan of not only seizing the Polish Corridor but greatly expanding German territory eastward at the expense of Poland. He expected that this time they would be met by force.


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Preparations were made for war by reaffirming the German alliance with Italy and signing non-aggression pacts with Denmark, Estonia, and Latvia. Trade links were formalised with Romania, Norway, and Sweden.


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Hitler's foreign minister, Joachim von Ribbentrop, arranged in negotiations with the Soviet Union a non-aggression pact, the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact, which was signed in August 1939.


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The treaty also contained secret protocols dividing up Poland and the Baltic states in to German and Soviet spheres of influence.


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World War II Edit

Outbreak of war Edit

File:Second world war europe animation large de.gif

Germany invaded Poland on 1 September 1939. The United Kingdom and France declared war on Germany two days later. World War II was underway.


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Poland fell quickly, as the Soviets attacked from the east on 17 September. Hitler participated in a victory parade in Warsaw on 5 October.


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Reinhard Heydrich, then head of the Gestapo, ordered on 21 September that Jews should be rounded up and concentrated into cities with good rail links. Initially the intention was to deport the Jews to points further east, or possibly to Madagascar.


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Conversely, on 7 October Hitler gave the order that Germans living in Poland and, eventually, the Soviet Union, should be repatriated back to German soil.


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The Soviets continued to attack, advancing into Finland in the Winter War, and German forces were involved in action at sea, including an attack on the British High Seas fleet. Little other activity occurred until spring, and the period became known as "the Phoney War".


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To safeguard Swedish iron ore shipments to Germany, Hitler ordered an attack on Norway, which took place on 9 April 1940. In spite of assistance from the British and French, much of the country was occupied by German troops by the end of April, and Haakon VII of Norway fled into exile in early June. Also on 9 April, the Germans invaded and occupied Denmark.


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Conquest of Europe Edit

Against the judgment of his many of his senior military officers, Hitler ordered an attack on France and the Low Countries in May 1940.


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They quickly conquered Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and Belgium, and France surrendered on 22 June.


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Germany occupied northern France, Italy controlled a section in the south-east, and the unoccupied remainder was controlled by an oppressive regime under Philippe Petain  known as the "French State" but more commonly referred to as Vichy France.


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Britain, whose troops were forced to evacuate France by sea from Dunkirk,


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continued to fight alongside other British dominions in the Battle of the Atlantic. Hitler made peace overtures to the new British leader, Winston Churchill, and upon their rejection he ordered a series of aerial attacks on Royal Air Force airbases and radar stations in south-east England. However, the German Luftwaffe failed to defeat the Royal Air Force in what became known as the Battle of Britain.


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By the end of October, Hitler realised that air superiority for the invasion of Britain—code-named Operation Sea Lion—could not be achieved, and he ordered nightly air raids on British cities, including London, Plymouth, and Coventry.


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File:Bundesarchiv Bild 183-L05487, Paris, Avenue Foch, Siegesparade.jpg

As his Italian allies foundered in their attempts to invade Libya and Egypt in the North African Campaign that began in June 1940, Hitler sent troops to assist.


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In February 1941 the German Afrika Korps arrived in Libya to aid the Italians and attempt to contain the British forces stationed in Egypt.


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On 6 April the Germans launched the invasion of Yugoslavia and the Battle of Greece.


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With the support of the Nazis, exiled extreme nationalist Ante Pavelić and leader of the Ustashe movement formed the Independent State of Croatia, which immediately declared war on the Allies.


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German efforts to secure oil included negotiating a supply from Germany's new ally, Romania, who signed the Tripartite Pact in November 1940.


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On 22 June 1941, contravening the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact non-aggression pact of 1939, 5.5 million Axis troops attacked the Soviet Union. In addition to claiming the conquered territory in Hitler's attempt to provide Lebensraum for the German people, this large-scale offensive (codenamed Operation Barbarossa) was intended to destroy the Soviet Union and seize its natural resources for subsequent aggression against the Western powers.


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The invasion conquered a huge area, including the Baltic republics, Belarus, and West Ukraine. After the successful Battle of Smolensk, Hitler ordered Army Group Centre to halt its advance to Moscow and temporarily diverted its Panzer groups north and south to aid in the encirclement of Leningrad and Kiev.


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The pause provided the Red Army with an opportunity to mobilize fresh reserves; historian Russel Stolfi considers it to be one of the major factors that caused the failure of the Moscow offensive, which was resumed only in October 1941 and ended disastrously in December.


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File:RIAN archive 2153 After bombing.jpg

On 7 December 1941, Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Four days later, Germany declared war on the United States.


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The goal of Germany's navy, the Kriegsmarine, was to cut Britain's supply lines. By the summer of 1940 German U-boats had sunk 680,000 tons of shipping intended for Britain, and their efforts in the Atlantic forced supply ships to be sent out in heavily guarded convoys.


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Under these circumstances, one of the most famous naval battles in history took place, with the German battleship Bismarck, Germany's largest and most powerful warship, attempting to break out into the Atlantic to attack Allied supply ships. Bismarck was sunk on 27 May 1941 – but not before sinking Britain's largest warship, the battlecruiser Template:HMS, on 24 May.


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By 1943 the convoys were accompanied by merchant aircraft carriers, which helped turn the Battle of the Atlantic in favour of the Allies.


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The Germans did not build any aircraft carriers during the course of the war, and shortages of key materials kept U-boat production to far below the planned targets.


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Turning point Edit

In an attempt to resolve their persistent shortage of oil, the Germans launched Fall Blau (Case Blue), an offensive aimed against the Caucasian oilfields, in the summer of 1942.


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The Soviets launched a counteroffensive on 19 November, codenamed Operation Uranus, designed to encircle the German armies and trap them in Stalingrad; this goal was accomplished on 23 November.


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Reichsminister of Aviation Göring assured Hitler that the trapped 6th Army could be adequately supplied by air, but due to poor weather, a lack of aircraft, and mechanical difficulties, this turned out not to be the case.


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Hitler's refusal to allow a retreat led to the deaths of 200,000 German and Romanian soldiers; of those who surrendered on 31 January 1943, only 6,000 survivors returned to Germany at the end of the war.


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After the failure of the German offensive at the Battle of Kursk, Soviet forces continued to push the invaders westward. By the end of 1943 the Germans had lost most of their territorial gains in the east.


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File:Bundesarchiv Bild 183-J14813, Bei Orel, Panzer VI (Tiger I).jpg

In Egypt, Field Marshal Rommel's Afrika Korps were defeated by British forces under Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery in October 1942.


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Allied forces landed in Sicily in July 1943 and in Italy in September.


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In July 1943 Mussolini was imprisoned by his own Grand Council after a series of purges alienated his already disillusioned administration. Soon Italian soldiers began surrendering en masse, and Italy surrendered to the the allies and changed sides on 8 September 1943. Mussolini was freed on 12 September by an SS commando unit and installed as leader of a small puppet regime in an area of northern Italy under German control.


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After his capture by partisans in April 1945 he and his girlfriend Clara Petacci were shot and their corpses desecrated. These events influenced Hitler's decision to commit suicide at the last to avoid a similar fate.


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Meanwhile, the strength of the American and British bomber fleets had increased. Based in Britain, they began operations against German targets. The first thousand-bomber raid was staged on Cologne on 30 May 1942.


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The American P-51 Mustang, with a range of {{safesubst:#invoke:convert|convert}}, began to accompany the bombers in large numbers to and from the target areas in early 1944. From that point onwards, the Luftwaffe began to suffer casualties in aircrews it could not sufficiently replace. By targeting oil refineries and rail communications, Allied bombers crippled the German war effort by late 1944.


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On 6 June 1944, American, British and Canadian forces established the western front with the D-Day landings in Normandy, France.


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On 20 July 1944, Hitler narrowly survived a bomb attack at Wolf's Lair at Rastenburg.


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Later, Hitler ordered savage reprisals, resulting in 7,000 arrests and the execution of more than 4,900 people.


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The failed Ardennes Offensive (16 December 1944 – 25 January 1945) was the last major German campaign of the war. Soviet forces entered Germany on 27 January.


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Collapse Edit

During the Battle of Berlin (16 April 1945 – 2 May 1945), Hitler and key staff members lived in the underground Führerbunker while above ground the Red Army approached Berlin.


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When Hitler was informed on 22 April that his orders for SS-General Felix Steiner's Army Detachment Steiner to counterattack could not be obeyed, he openly declared for the first time the war was lost and blamed his generals.


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He announced he would stay in Berlin until the end and then shoot himself.


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File:Bundesarchiv Bild 183-R77872, Berlin, Frankfurter Allee, Stalinorgel.jpg

Göring, who had been named Hitler's successor in a decree dated 29 June 1941, decided to send a telegram to Berlin asking for permission to assume command of the Reich.


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On receipt of the telegram, Hitler rescinded the decree, stripped Göring of his offices and titles, and placed him under house arrest at Obersalzberg.


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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 complex were depending on telephone lines for passing orders and on public radio for news and information.


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On 28 April a BBC report stated that Himmler had offered Germany's surrender to the western Allies.


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Hitler ordered Himmler's arrest and had SS-Gruppenführer Hermann Fegelein (Himmler's SS representative in Berlin) shot.


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On 30 April 1945, when Soviet troops were within a block or two of the Reich Chancellery, Hitler and Eva Braun committed suicide in the Führerbunker.


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On 2 May German General Helmuth Weidling unconditionally surrendered Berlin to Soviet General Vasily Chuikov.


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Hitler was succeeded by Grand Admiral Karl Dönitz as Reich president and Goebbels as Reich Chancellor.


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Goebbels committed suicide outside the Reich Chancellery a day after assuming office.


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On 4–8 May 1945 most of the remaining German armed forces throughout Europe surrendered unconditionally. The signing of the German Instrument of Surrender on 7 May marked the end of World War II in Europe.


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Casualties Edit

According to political scientist Rudolph Rummel, the Nazi regime was responsible for the democidal killing of an estimated 21 million civilians and prisoners of war.


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In addition, 29 million soldiers and civilians died as a result of military action in the European theater of World War II,


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 including 5.5 to six million Jews (representing two-thirds of the Jewish population of Europe),


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and between 200,000 and 1,500,000 Romani people.


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The Soviet Union]] lost 27 million people during the war, with less than nine million of these being combat deaths.


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One in four Soviets were killed or wounded.


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The postwar Soviet population was 45 to 50 million smaller than it would have been if pre-war demographic growth had continued.


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At the end of the war, Europe had more than 40 million refugees,


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its economy had collapsed, and 70 per cent of its industrial infrastructure was destroyed.


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Eleven million ethnic Germans were expelled from the Soviet Union, Czechoslovakia, and Poland, and returned—or tried to return—to Germany.


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Geography Edit

Territorial changes Edit

File:Nazi Germany.svg

As a result of their defeat in World War I and the resulting Treaty of Versailles (1919), Germany lost Alsace-Lorraine, Northern Schleswig, and Memel. The Saarland was made part of Czechoslovakia, under the condition that its residents would later decide by referendum which country to join. Poland became a separate nation and was given access to the sea by the creation of the Polish Corridor, which separated the state of Prussia from the rest of Germany. Danzig was made a free city.


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Germany regained control of the Saarland via a referendum held in 1935 and annexed Austria in the Anschluss of 1938.


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The Munich Agreement of 1938 gave Germany control of the Sudetenland, and they seized the remainder of Czechoslovakia six months later.


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Under threat of invasion by sea, Lithuania surrendered the Memel district to the Nazis in March 1939.


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Between 1939 and 1941 the Third Reich invaded Poland, France, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Belgium, and the Soviet Union.


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Trieste, South Tyrol, and Istria were ceded to Germany by Mussolini in 1943.


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Two puppet districts were set up in their place, the Operational Zone of the Adriatic Littoral and the Operational Zone of the Alpine Foothills.


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Occupied territories Edit

Some of the conquered territories were immediately incorporated into Germany, as part of Hitler's long-term goal of creating a Greater Germanic Reich. Several areas, such as Alsace-Lorraine, were placed under the authority of an adjacent Gau. 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 Reichskommissars (Nazi civilian administrators). Areas placed under newly-created German administrations included the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia, Reichskommissariat Ostland (encompassing the Baltic states and Belarus), and Reichskommissariat Ukraine. Conquered areas of Belgium and France were placed under the control of the Military Administration in Belgium and Northern France.


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Hitler intended to eventually incorporate many of these areas into the Reich. For example, Belgium would have eventually become the new 'Reichsgaue of Flanders, Wallonia, and Brabant.


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The governments of Denmark, Norway (Reichskommissariat Norwegen), and the Netherlands (Reichskommissariat Niederlande) were placed under civilian administrations and were largely staffed by natives.


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More such districts, such as the Reichskommissariat Moskowien (Moscow), Reichskommissariat Kaukasus (Caucasus), and Reichskommissariat Turkestan (Turkestan) were also proposed in the event that these areas were brought under German rule.

Post-war changes Edit

With the issuance of the Berlin Declaration on 5 June 1945 and later creation of the Allied Control Council, the four Allied powers temporarily assumed governance of Germany.


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At the Potsdam Conference in August 1945, the Allies made arrangements for the Allied occupation and denazification of the country. Germany was split into four zones, each occupied by one of the Allied powers, who drew reparations from their zone. Since most of the industrial areas were in the western zones, the Soviet Union was transferred additional reparations.


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 The Allied Control Council disestablished Prussia on 20 May 1947 with Law No. 46.


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Aid to Germany began arriving from the United States under the Marshall Plan in 1948.


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The occupation lasted until 1949, when the countries of East Germany and West Germany were created. Germany finalised her border with Poland by signing the Treaty of Warsaw (1970).


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Germany remained divided until 1990, when the Allies renounced all claims to German territory with the Treaty on the Final Settlement with Respect to Germany, under which Germany also renounced claims to territories lost during World War II.


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Politics Edit

Ideology Edit

File:Bundesarchiv Bild 102-04062A, Nürnberg, Reichsparteitag, SA- und SS-Appell.jpg

The NSDAP, a far-right political party founded in 1919, came into its own during the social and financial upheavals that occurred with the onset of the Great Depression in 1929.


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While in prison after the failed Beer Hall Putsch of 1923, Hitler wrote Mein Kampf, which laid out his plan for transforming German society into one based on race.


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The ideology of Nazism brought together elements of antisemitism, racial hygeine, and eugenics, and combined them with pan-Germanism and territorial expansionism with the goal of obtaining more Lebensraum (living space) for the Germanic people.


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The regime attempted to obtain this new territory by attacking Poland and the Soviet Union, intending to deport or kill the Jews and Slavs living there, who were viewed as being inferior to the Aryan master race and part of the Jewish Bolshevik conspiracy.


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Others deemed life unworthy of life by the Nazis included the mentally and physically disabled, Romani people, homosexuals, Jehovah's Witnesses, and social misfits.


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Influenced by the Völkisch movement, the regime was against cultural modernism and supported the development of an extensive military at the expense of intellectualism.


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Creativity and art were stifled, except where they could serve the regime as propaganda media.


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The party used symbols such as the Blood Flag (the flag that had been carried and bloodied during the ill-fated putsch of 1923) and rituals such as the Nazi party rallies to foster unity and bolster the popularity of the regime.


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Government Edit

File:NS administrative Gliederung 1944.png

A law promulgated 30 January 1934 abolished the existing Länder (constituent states) of Germany and replaced them with the new Administrative divisions of Nazi Germany, the gaus (regional districts), headed by the NSDAP leaders (Gauleiters) for each region, who effectively became the governor of their region. The change was never fully implemented; for example, Göring remained the Reichsstatthalter (Reich state governor) and Minister President of Prussia until 1945.


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Jewish civil servants lost their jobs in 1933, except for those who had seen military service in World War I. Members of the NSDAP or people who supported the regime were appointed in their place.


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As part of the process of Gleichschaltung (coordination; bringing into line), the Reich Local Government Law of 1935 abolished local elections. From that point forward, mayors were appointed by the Ministry of the Interior. District party leaders also had the power to appoint certain local officials.


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The process of Nazification extended to sports clubs, choirs, and volunteer groups, who had their leadership removed and replaced by Nazi sympathisers or party members. By June 1933 the only organisations not in the control of the NSDAP were the army and the churches.


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Hitler ruled Germany autocratically by asserting the Führerprinzip (leader principle), which relied on absolute obedience of all subordinates to their superiors. He viewed the government structure as a pyramid, with himself—the infallible leader—at the apex. Rank in the party was not determined by elections; positions were filled through appointment by those of higher rank, who demanded unquestioning obedience to the will of the leader.


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Using propaganda, a cult of personality was developed around Hitler, who was considered infallible.


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Historians such as Sir Ian Kershaw  emphasize the psychological impact of Hitler's skill as an orator.


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Kressel writes, "Overwhelmingly ... Germans speak with mystification of Hitler's 'hypnotic' appeal ..."


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Top officials reported to Hitler and followed his basic policies, but they had considerable autonomy on a daily basis.


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Officials were expected to "work towards the Führer" – take the initiative to promote policies and and actions in line with the goals of the NSDAP and Hitler's wishes, without him necessarily having to get involved in the day-to-day running of the country.


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The government was not a coordinated, cooperating body, but rather a collection of factions struggling to amass power and gain favour with the Führer.


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Hitler's leadership style was to give contradictory orders to his subordinates and to place them into positions where their duties and responsibilities overlapped with those of others.


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In this way he fostered distrust, competition, and infighting among his subordinates in order to consolidate and maximise his own power.


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Law Edit

On 20 August 1934, civil servants were required to swear an oath of unconditional obedience to Hitler; a similar oath had been required of members of the military several weeks prior. This law became the basis of the Führerprinzip, the concept that Hitler's word overrode all existing laws.


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Any acts that were sanctioned by Hitler—even murder—thus became legal.


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All legislation proposed by cabinet ministers had to be approved by the office of Deputy Führer Rudolf Hess, who also had a veto over top civil service appointments.


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Most of the judicial system and legal codes of the Weimar Republic remained in use during and after the Third Reich to deal with non-political crimes.


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The courts issued and carried out far more death sentences than had occurred before the Nazis took power.


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People who had been convicted of three or more offences, even petty ones, could be deemed a habitual offender and jailed indefinitely in a state prison.


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People such as prostitutes and pickpockets were judged to be inherently criminal and a threat to the racial community. Thousands were arrested and confined indefinitely without trial.


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Although the regular courts could handle political cases and even issue death sentences for these cases, a new type of court, the Volksgerichtshof (People's Court), was established in 1934 to deal with cases of political importance.


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This court handed out over 5,000 death sentences from its formation until its dissolution in 1945.


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The death penalty could be issued for offences such as being a communist, printing seditious leaflets, or even making jokes about Hitler or other top party officials.


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Political offenders who were released from prison were often immediately re-arrested by the Gestapo and confined in a concentration camp.


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The Gestapo was in charge of investigative policing to enforce National Socialist ideology. They located and confined political offenders, Jews, and others deemed undesirable.


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In September 1935 the Nuremberg Laws were enacted. The Laws for the Protection of German Blood and German Honour prohibited marriages between Jews and people of Germanic extraction; extramarital relations between Jews and Germans; and the employment of Jewish women under the age of 45 as domestic servants in German households.


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The Reich Citizenship Law stated that only those of Germanic or related blood were defined as citizens. Thus Jews and other minority groups were stripped of their German citizenship. The wording of the law also opened the door for the Nazis to deny citizenship to anyone who was not supportive enough of the regime.


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A supplementary decree issued in November defined as Jewish anyone with three Jewish grandparents, or two grandparents if the Jewish faith was followed.


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Military and paramilitary Edit

Wehrmacht Edit

File:Bundesarchiv Bild 101I-218-0510-22, Russland-Süd, Panzersoldat.jpg

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), and the Luftwaffe (air force). The Waffen-SS, the military branch of the SS, became a de facto fourth branch of the Wehrmacht. It was under the control of the Wehrmacht whilst in combat zones and under the command of the SS Führungshauptamt (SS Leadership Main Office) when not at the front.


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From 2 August 1934, members of the armed forces were required to pledge an oath of unconditional obedience to Hitler personally. In contrast to the previous oath, which required allegiance to the constitution of the country and its lawful establishments, this new oath required members of the military to obey Hitler even if they were being ordered to do something illegal.


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In spite of Göring's efforts under the Four-Year Plan to prepare the country for war, the economy could not sustain a lengthy war of attrition such as had been seen in World War I. A strategy was developed based on the tactic of Blitzkrieg (lightning war), which involved the avoidance of enemy strong points in quick coordinated assaults that began with bombardment by artillery followed by bombing and strafing runs by aircraft. Next the tanks would attack and finally the infantry would move in and secure any ground that had been taken.


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For the Battle of France, military strategist Generalfeldmarschall Erich von Manstein developed the Manstein Plan, a highly organised surprise attack through the Ardennes that quickly led to the encirclement of the Allied armies in the area and their evacuation by sea at Dunkirk.


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Victories continued through the summer of 1940, but Nazi Germany's failure to defeat Britain was the first major turning point in the war. The decision to attack the Soviet Union and the decisive defeat at Stalingrad led to the retreat of the German armies and the eventual loss of the war.


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The total number of soldiers who served in the Wehrmacht from 1935–1945 was around 18.2 million, of whom 5.3 million died.


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The SA and SS Edit

The Sturmabteilung (SA; Storm Detachment; Brownshirts) was the first paramilitary wing of the Nazi Party. Their initial assignment when the group was founded in 1921 was to provide protection for Nazi leaders at rallies and assemblies.


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They were also involved in street battles against the forces of rival political parties and violent actions against Jews and others.


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Under Ernst Röhm's leadership, by 1934 the SA had grown to over half a million members—4.5 million including reserves—at a time when the regular army was still limited by the Versailles Treaty to a strength of 100,000 men.


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To complement the "nationalist revolution", Röhm favored a "second revolution", which would tear down industrialists, big business, the Junker aristocracy, and eliminate Prussian control of the military.


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To fulfill this goal, he intended to assume command of the army and absorb it into the ranks of the SA.


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File:Bundesarchiv Bild 102-14468, Berlin, NS-Boykott gegen jüdische Geschäfte crop.jpg

Hitler could not afford to lose the support of the army, and suspected that Röhm was plotting to depose him.


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He ordered the deaths of Röhm, his SA cohort, the Strasserist, left-wing Nazis, and other political enemies. Up to 200 people were killed from 30 June to 2 July 1934 in an event that became known as the Night of the Long Knives.


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After this purge the SA was no longer a major force in the party; its size was reduced by 40 per cent over the next year as it was converted into a sports and training organisation.


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Initially a force of a dozen men under the command of the SA, the Schutzstaffel (SS) grew to become one of the largest and most powerful groups in Nazi Germany.


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Led by Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler from 1929, the SS had over a quarter million members by 1938 and continued to grow.


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Himmler envisioned the SS as being an elite group of guards, Hitler's last line of defense. Strict membership requirements ensured that all members were deemed to be of Aryan genealogy.


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In 1931 Himmler organised an SS intelligence service which became known as the Sicherheitsdienst (SD; Security Service) under his deputy, SS-Obergruppenführer Reinhard Heydrich.


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This organisation was tasked with locating and arresting communists and other political opponents of the Nazi regime, and Himmler hoped it would eventually totally replace the existing police system.


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Himmler also established the beginnings of a parallel economy under the auspices of the SS Economy and Administration Head Office. This holding company owned housing corporations, factories, and publishing houses.


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From 1935 forward the SS was heavily involved in the persecution of Jews, who were rounded up into ghettos and concentration camps.


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With the outbreak of World War II, SS units called Einsatzgruppen followed the army into Poland and the Soviet Union, where between 1941 and 1945 they killed more than two million people, including 1.3 million Jews.


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The SS-Totenkopfverbände (Death's Head units) were in charge of the concentration camps and extermination camps, where millions more were killed.


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Economy Edit

Reich economics Edit

File:20 Deutschmark note 3rd Reich.jpg

When the Nazis assumed German government, their most pressing economic matter was the 30 per cent national unemployment rate.


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Economist Dr. Hjalmar Schacht, President of the Reichsbank (1933) and Minister of Economics (1934), created in May 1933 a scheme for deficit financing. Capital projects, particularly those involving the military, were paid for with the issuance of promissory notes called Mefo bills. When the notes were presented for payment, the Reichsbank printed money to do so. While the national debt soared, Hitler and his economic team expected that the upcoming territorial expansion would provide the means of repaying the debt.


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Schacht's administration achieved a rapid decline in the unemployment rate, the greatest of any country during the Great Depression.


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Major public works projects financed with deficit spending included the construction of a network of Autobahns and improving programmes that had been initiated by the previous government to provide funding for housing and agricultural improvements.


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To stimulate the construction industry, credit was offered to private businesses and subsidies were made available for home purchases and repairs.


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On the condition that the wife would leave the workforce, a loan of up to 1,000 Reichsmarks could be accessed by young couples of Aryan descent who intended to marry. The amount that had to be repaid was reduced by 25 per cent for each child born.


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The caveat that the woman had to remain unemployed was dropped by 1937 due to the shortage of skilled labourers.


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Hitler envisioned widespread car ownership as part of the new Germany. He arranged for designer Ferdinand Porsche to work up plans for the KdF-wagen (Strength Through Joy car), intended to be an automobile that every German citizen could afford. A prototype was displayed at the International Motor Show in Berlin on 17 February 1939. With the outbreak of World War II the factory was converted to produce military vehicles. No production models were sold until after the war, when the vehicle was renamed the Volkswagen (people's car).


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Six million people were unemployed when the Nazis took power in 1933, and by 1937 there were less than a million.


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Part of this was due to the removal of women from the workforce.


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Real wages dropped by 25 per cent between 1933 and 1938.


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Trade unions were abolished in May 1933 with the seizure of the funds and arrest of the leadership of the Social Democratic trade unions. A new organisation, the German Labour Front, was created and placed under the control of Nazi functionary Robert Ley.


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In 1933, the average German worked 43 hours a week, but by 1939 this increased to 47 hours a week.


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On 18 October 1936 Hitler named Göring as Plenipotentiary of the Four Year Plan to undertake the task of speeding up the rearmament programme. Göring created a new organisation to administer the Plan and drew the ministries of labour and agriculture under its umbrella. He bypassed the economics ministry in his policy-making decisions, to the chagrin of Schacht, the minister in charge.


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Schacht resigned on 8 December 1937,


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and Walther Funk took over the position, as well as control of the Reichsbank.


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The Plan called for the rapid construction of steel mills, synthetic rubber plants, and other factories. Göring also instituted wage and price controls, curbed imports, and restricted the issuance of stock dividends.


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Huge expenditures were made on rearmament, in spite of growing deficits.


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With the introduction of compulsory military service in 1935, the Reichswehr, which had been limited to 100,000 by the terms of the Versailles Treaty, expanded to 750,000 on active service at the start of World War II, with a million more in the reserve.


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By January 1939, unemployment was down to 301,800, and it dropped further, to only 77,500, by September. 


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Wartime economy and forced labor Edit

File:Bundesarchiv Bild 183-J14589, Albert Speer, Panzer T-34.jpg

The Nazi war economy was a mixed economy that combined free market and central planning practices; historian Richard Overy described it as being somewhere in between the command economy of the Soviet Union capitalist system of the United States.


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In 1942, after the death of Armaments Minister Fritz Todt, Hitler appointed his favourite architect, Albert Speer, as his replacement.


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By 1944, the war was consuming 75 per cent of Germany's gross domestic product, compared to 60 per cent in the Soviet Union and 55 per cent in Britain.


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Speer produced a dramatic rise in production. His methods included streamlined organisation, the use of single-purpose machines operated by unskilled workers, rationalisation of production methods, and better coordination between the many different firms that made tens of thousands of components. Factories were relocated away from rail yards, which were bombing targets.


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The wartime economy relied heavily upon the large-scale employment of forced labourers. Germany imported and enslaved some 12 million people from 20 European countries to work in factories and on farms; approximately 75 per cent were Eastern European.


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They worked long hours in munitions factories and clearing rubble after bombing raids. Many were casualties of Allied bombing, as they received poor air raid protection. The very bad living conditions produced high rates of sickness, injury, and death, as well as sabotage and criminal activity.


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File:Bundesarchiv Bild 146-2007-0074, IG-Farbenwerke Auschwitz.jpg

Women played an increasingly large role. By 1944 over a half million served as auxiliaries in the German armed forces, especially in anti-aircraft units of the Luftwaffe; a half million worked in civil aerial defense; and 400,000 were volunteer nurses in hospitals. Large numbers replaced drafted men in the wartime economy, especially on farms and in small family-owned shops.


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Very heavy strategic bombing by the U.S. and Britain focused on the German transportation system, especially rail yards and canals, and on refineries making synthetic oil and gasoline.


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The armaments industry began to break down by autumn 1944. By November fuel coal was no longer reaching its destinations, and the production of new armaments was no longer possible.


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Overy argues that the bombing created not only major social dislocation but a defensive response that strained the German war economy and forced it to divert up to one-fourth of its manpower and industry into anti-aircraft resources. Overy concludes the bombing campaign probably shortened the war.


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Society Edit

Racial policy Edit

Persecution of Jews Edit

Racism and antisemitism were basic tenets of the NSDAP and the Nazi regime.


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Discrimination against Jews began very soon after the seizure of power; after a month of violent attacks by members of the SA on Jewish businesses, synagogues, and members of the legal profession, on 1 April 1933 Hitler declared a national boycott of Jewish places of business.


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A law was passed on 7 April excluding most Jews from the legal profession and the civil service. Similar legislation soon deprived Jewish members of other professions of the right to practise. On 11 April a decree was promulgated that stated anyone who had even one Jewish parent or grandparent was considered non-Aryan. As part of an attempt to remove Jewish influence from cultural life, members of the National Socialist Student League removed from libraries any books considered un-German, and a nation-wide book burning was held on 10 May.


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By the end of the year, 37,000 Jews had emigrated out of the 500,000 then living in Germany.


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Another 23,000 left in 1934.


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File:Bundesarchiv Bild 146-1970-083-42, Magdeburg, zerstörtes jüdisches Geschäft.jpg

Discrimination continued, with Jewish businesses being denied access to markets, forbidden from advertising in newspapers, and deprived of access to government contracts. Citizens were harassed and subjected to violent attacks, and boycotts of Jewish places of business continued.


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Many towns posted signs forbidding the entry of Jews.


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In November 1938, a young Jewish male in Paris requested an interview with the German ambassador and was shown in to a meeting with a legation secretary, whom he shot and killed in protest against the treatment meted out to his family in Germany. This provided the pretext for a pogrom the NSDAP incited against the Jews on 9 November 1938. Members of the SA attacked and damaged or destroyed synagogues and Jewish property throughout Germany. During Kristallnacht, the Night of Broken Glass,


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at least 91 German Jews were killed and Jewish property throughout Germany was destroyed.


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After the pogrom, further restrictions were imposed on Jews – they were forbidden to own businesses or work in retail shops, drive cars, go to the cinema, visit the library, or own weapons. Jewish pupils were removed from schools. The Jewish community was fined one billion marks to pay for the damage caused by the pogrom and told that any money received via insurance claims would be confiscated.


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From 1933 to 1938, hundreds of thousands of Jews emigrated to the United States, Palestine, Great Britain, and other countries, with the government seizing any property they left behind.


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The Holocaust Edit

File:Kiev Jew Killings in Ivangorod (1942).jpg

Germany's war in the East was based on Hitler's long-standing view that the Jews were the great enemy of the German people and that Lebensraum was needed for the expansion of Germany. He focused on Eastern Europe for this expansion, aiming to defeat Poland and the Soviet Union and on removing or killing the Jews and Slavs, who were viewed as being inferior to the Aryan master race and part of the Jewish Bolshevik conspiracy.


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In 1941 Hitler decided to destroy the Polish nation completely. He planned that within 10 to 20 years the section of Poland under German occupation was to be cleared of ethnic Poles and resettled by German colonists.


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Ukraine's "chornozem" ("black earth") soil was considered particularly desirable zone for colonization.


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About 14 million people would be allowed remain, but were to be treated as slaves.


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The Generalplan Ost ("General Plan for the East") called for deporting the population of occupied Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union to West Siberia, for use as slave labour or to be murdered.


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In order to determine who should be killed, Himmler created the Volksliste, a classification of people deemed of German blood. Those to be spared included ethnic Germans who had collaborated with Germany before the war, but also those who considered themselves German but had been neutral; those who were partially "Polonized" but "Germanizable"; and Germans who were of Polish nationality.


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Himmler ordered that those who refused to be classified as ethnic Germans should be deported to concentration camps, have their children taken away, or be assigned to forced labour.


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The plan also included the kidnapping of Eastern European children by Nazi Germany.


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The goal was to implement this plan after the conquest of the Soviet Union, but when this failed, Hitler moved the plans forward.


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File:Bundesarchiv Bild 183-A0706-0018-030, Ukraine, ermordete Familie.jpg

The Nazis considered several solutions to the "Jewish Question". One method was a mass forced deportation of Jews. Adolf Eichmann suggested that Jews be forced to emigrate to Palestine.


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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 dismissed as impractical in 1942.


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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.


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The idea of continuing deportations to occupied Poland was rejected by Hans Frank, Governer of the General Government of occupied Poland. He refused to accept any more deportations of Jews into the territory, which already contained large numbers of Jews.


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File:Buchenwald-bei-Weimar-am-24-April-1945.jpg

Plans for the total eradication of the Jewish population of Europe—eleven million people—were formalised at the Wannsee Conference, held on 20 January 1942. Some would be worked to death, and the rest would be killed in the implementation of the Final Solution of the Jewish question (Die Endlösung der Judenfrage).


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Initially the victims were killed with gas vans or by firing squad, but these methods proved impracticable for an operation of this scale.


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By 1941, killing centres at Auschwitz concentration camp, Sobibor, Treblinka, and other Nazi extermination camps replaced Einsatzgruppen (task forces; mobile death squads) as the primary method of mass killing.


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The total number of Jews murdered during the war is estimated at 5.5 to six million people,


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including over a million Jewish children.


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A sizeable number of Romani people, Jehovah's Witnesses, Poles and other Slavs, Soviet prisoners of war, people with mental and/or physical disabilities, homosexuals, and members of the political and religious opposition were also massacred.


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Twelve million people were put into forced labour.


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In the 1960s the term "the Holocaust" came into general use to describe this genocide in English.


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It is called the Shoah in Hebrew.

In addition to eliminating the Jews, the Nazis also planned to reduce the population of the conquered territories by 30 million people through starvation in an action called the Hunger Plan. Food supplies would be diverted to the German army and German civilians. The cities would be razed and the land allowed to return to forest or resettled by German colonists.


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Together, the Hunger Plan and Generalplan Ost would have led to the starvation of 80 million people in the Soviet Union.


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Persecution of other groups Edit

Under the provisions of a sterilisation law promulgated 14 July 1933, the Nazi regime carried out the compulsory sterilization of over 400,000 individuals labelled as having hereditary defects.


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More than half the people sterilised under this law were those considered "mentally deficient", which included not only people who scored poorly on intelligence tests, but those who deviated from expected standards of behaviour regarding thrift, sexual behaviour, and cleanliness. Mentally and physically ill people were also targeted. The majority of the victims came from disadvantaged groups such as prostitutes, the poor, the homeless, and criminals.


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File:Bundesarchiv R 165 Bild-244-42, Asperg, Deportation von Sinti und Roma.jpg

Like the Jews, the Romani people (also known as Gypsies) were subjected to persecution from the early days of the regime. As a non-Aryan race, they were forbidden to marry people of German extraction. Romani were shipped to concentration camps starting in 1935 and were killed in large numbers.


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Other groups persecuted and killed included homosexuals, Jehovah's Witnesses, social misfits, and political enemies.


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From September to December 1939 the Einsatzgruppen and others took part in Action T4, a programme of systematic murder of the physically and mentally handicapped and patients in psychiatric hospitals undertaken by the Nazi regime. Action T4 mainly took place from 1939 to 1941, but continued until the end of the war. Initially the victims were shot by the Einsatzgruppen and others, but gas chambers were put into use by the end of 1941.


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Between June 1941 and January 1942, the Nazis killed an estimated 2.8 million Soviet prisoners of war.


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Many starved to death while being held in open-air pens at Auschwitz and elsewhere.


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Religions Edit

The German census of May 1939 indicates that 54% of Germans considered themselves Protestant and 40% considered themselves Catholic, with only 3.5% claiming to be neo-pagan "believers in God," and 1.5% unbelievers.

Education Edit

Education under the Nazi regime focused on racial biology, population policy, culture, geography and especially physical fitness.


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Military education (Wehrerziehung) became the central component of physical education in order to prepare the Germans mentally, spiritually and physically for warfare.[1] Science textbooks presented natural selection in terms meant to underline the concept of racial purity.[2]
File:Bundesarchiv Bild 183-2007-0329-501, Reichsgründungsfeier, Schulklasse.jpg

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).


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All university professors were required to be a member in good standing of the National Socialist Association of University Lecturers.[3]

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.[4]

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.[5] Film also appealed to the Nazi leadership as a medium through which they could speak directly to children. Dr. Bernhard Rust saw film as an essential tool, saying "The National Socialist State definitely and deliberately makes film the transmitter of its ideology."[6]

Health Edit

File:Bundesarchiv B 145 Bild-P017100, Berlin, Olympiade, Pariser Platz bei Nacht.jpg

According to the research of Robert N. Proctor for his book The Nazi War on Cancer,[7][8] Nazi Germany had arguably the most powerful anti-tobacco movement in the world. Anti-tobacco research received a strong backing from the government, and German scientists proved that cigarette smoke causes cancer. Pioneering German research on experimental epidemiology led to the 1939 paper by Franz H. Müller, and the 1943 paper by Eberhard Schairer and Erich Schöniger which convincingly demonstrated that tobacco smoking was a main culprit in lung cancer. The government urged German doctors to counsel patients against tobacco use. German research on the dangers of tobacco was silenced after the war, and the dangers of tobacco had to be rediscovered by American and English scientists in the early 1950s, with a medical consensus arising in the early 1960s.

German scientists also proved that asbestos was a health hazard, and in 1943—as the first nation in the world to offer such a benefit—Germany recognized the diseases caused by asbestos, e.g., lung cancer, as occupational illnesses eligible for compensation. The German asbestos-cancer research was later used by American lawyers doing battle against the Johns-Manville Corporation.{{#invoke:Category handler|main}}{{#invoke:Category handler|main}}[citation needed]

As part of the general public-health campaign in Nazi Germany, water supplies were cleaned up, lead and mercury were removed from consumer products, and women were urged to undergo regular screenings for breast cancer.[8][9] Universal healthcare coverage, building on Otto von Bismarck's social policies, was achieved through compulsory insurance in 1941.[10]

The Nazi health care system also held as a central idea the concept of eugenics. Certain people were deemed 'genetically inferior' and were targeted for elimination from the gene pool through sterilization (Hereditary Health Courts) or wholesale murder (Action T4). Medical information professionals used new processes and technology, like punch card systems, and cost analysis, to aid in the process and calculate the 'benefit' to society of these killings.[11]

Role of women and family Edit

Women in the Third Reich were a cornerstone of Nazi social policy. The Nazis opposed the feminist movement, claiming that it had a left-wing agenda (comparable to Communism) and was bad for both women and men. The Nazi regime advocated a patriarchal society in which German women would recognize the "world is her husband, her family, her children, and her home."[12] Hitler claimed that women taking vital jobs away from men during the Great Depression was economically bad for families in that women were paid only 66 percent of what men earned.[12] Simultaneously with calling for women to leave work outside the home, the regime called for women to be actively supportive of the state regarding women's affairs. In 1933, Hitler appointed Gertrud Scholtz-Klink as the leader of the National Socialist Women's League, which instructed women that their primary role in society was to bear children and that women should be subservient to men, once saying "the mission of woman is to minister in the home and in her profession to the needs of life from the first to last moment of man's existence.".[12] The expectation even applied to Aryan women married to Jewish men—a necessary ingredient in the 1943 Rosenstrasse protest in which 1800 German women (joined by 4200 relatives) obliged the Nazi state to release their Jewish husbands. This position was so strongly held as to make it extremely difficult to recruit women for war jobs during World War II.[13]

File:Bundesarchiv Bild 183-2000-0110-500, BDM, Gymnastikvorführung.jpg

The Nazi regime discouraged women from seeking higher education in secondary schools, universities and colleges. The number of women allowed to enroll in universities dropped drastically under the Nazi regime, which shrank from approximately 128,000 women being enrolled in 1933 to 51,000 in 1938. Female enrollment in secondary schools dropped from 437,000 in 1926 to 205,000 in 1937. However with the requirement of men to be enlisted into the German armed forces during the war, women made up half of the enrollment in the education system by 1944.[14]

On the other hand, the women were expected to be strong, healthy, and vital; a photograph subtitled "Future Mothers" showed teenage girls dressed for sport and bearing javelins.


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A sturdy peasant woman, who worked the land and bore strong children, was an ideal, contributing to praise for athletic women tanned by outdoor work.


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Organizations were made for the indoctrination of Nazi values to German women. Such organizations included the Jungmädel ("Young Girls") section of the Hitler Youth for girls from the age 10 to 14, the Bund Deutscher Mädel (BDM, "German Girls' League") for young women from 14 to 18, and the NS-Frauenschaft, a woman's organization.

The NS-Frauenschaft put out the NS-Frauen-Warte, the only approved women's magazine in Nazi Germany.[15] Despite its propaganda aspects, it was predominantly a woman's magazine,


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even including sewing patterns.[16]

The BDM's activities encompassed physical education, including running, the long jump, somersaulting, tightrope walking, rout-marching, and swimming.


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Das deutsche Mädel was less adventure-oriented than the boy's Der Pimpf,[17] but far more emphasis was laid on strong and active German women than in NS-Frauen-Warte.


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Also, before entering any occupation or advanced studies, the girls, like the boys in Hitler Youth, had to complete a year of land service.[18]

Despite the somewhat official restrictions, some women forged highly visible, as well as officially praised, achievements, such as the aviatrix Hanna Reitsch and film director Leni Riefenstahl.

On the issue of sexual affairs regarding women, Biddiscombe argues the Nazis differed greatly from the restrictive stances on women's role in society. The Nazi regime promoted a liberal code of conduct as regards sexual matters, and were sympathetic to women bearing children out of wedlock.[19] The collapse of 19th century morals in Germany accelerated during the Third Reich, partly due to the Nazis, and greatly due to the effects of the war. Promiscuity increased greatly as the war progressed, with unmarried soldiers often involved intimately with several women simultaneously. Married women were often involved in multiple affairs simultaneously, with soldiers, civilians or slave labourers. "Some farm wives in Württemberg had already begun using sex as a commodity, employing carnal favours as a means of getting a full day's work from foreign labourers."[19] Nevertheless, publicly, Nazi propaganda opposed adultery and upheld the sanctity of marriage.[20] Several films shot in this era altered their source material so that the woman, rather than the man, would suffer death for sexual transgressions, reflecting whose fault it was held to be.


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When attempts were made to destigmatize illegitimate births, Lebensborn homes were presented to the public as being for married women.


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Overtly anti-marriage statements, such as Himmler's statements regarding the care of the illegitimate children of dead soldiers, were greeted with protests.[21] Ilsa McKee noted that the lectures of Hitler Youth and the BDM on the need to produce more children produced several illegitimate children, which neither the mothers nor the possible fathers regarded as problematic.[22]

Marriage or sexual relations between a person considered "Aryan" and one that was not were classified as Rassenschande and were forbidden and under penalty (Aryans found guilty could face incarceration in a concentration camp, while non-Aryans could face the death penalty). Pamphlets enjoined all German women to avoid sexual intercourse with all foreign workers brought to Germany as a danger to their blood.


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Abortion was heavily penalized in Nazi Germany unless on the grounds of "racial health": from 1943 abortionists faced the death penalty.[23] Display of contraceptives was not allowed, and Hitler himself described contraception as "violation of nature, a degradation of womanhood, motherhood and love."[24]

Another component of the Nazi programme of creating racial purity was the Lebensborn, or "Fountain of Life" program founded in 1935. The program 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.{{#invoke:Category handler|main}}{{#invoke:Category handler|main}}[citation needed]

Environmentalism Edit

File:Bundesarchiv Bild 146-1979-145-04A, Hermann Göring auf der Jagd.jpg

In 1935, the regime enacted the "Reich Nature Protection Act". While not a purely Nazi piece of legislation, as parts of its influences pre-dated the Nazi rise to power, it nevertheless reflected Nazi ideology. The concept of the Dauerwald (best translated as the "perpetual forest") which included concepts such as forest management and protection was promoted and efforts were also made to curb air pollution.[26][27]

In practice, the enacted laws and policies met resistance from various ministries that sought to undermine them, and from the priority that the war-effort took to environmental protection.

Animal protection policy Edit

The Nazis had elements which were supportive of animal rights, zoos and wildlife,[28] and took several measures to ensure their protection.[29] In 1933 the government enacted a stringent animal-protection law.[30][31] Many NSDAP leaders, including Hitler and Göring, were supporters of animal protection. Several Nazis were environmentalists (notably Rudolf Hess), and species protection and animal welfare were significant issues in the regime.[32] Himmler made efforts to ban the hunting of animals.


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Göring was an animal lover and conservationist.[33] The current animal welfare laws in Germany are adapted from laws introduced by the National Socialist regime.[34]

Although enacting various laws for animal protection, there was a lack of enforcement. According to Pfugers Archiv für die Gesamte Physiologie (Pfugers Archive for the Total Physiology), a science journal at that time, there were many animal experiments during the Nazi regime.[35] The Nazi regime disbanded several unofficial organizations advocating environmentalism and animal protection, such as the Friends of Nature.[36]

Culture Edit

The regime promoted the concept of a national German community or Volksgemeinschaft.


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To aid the fostering of a feeling of community, the German people's labour and entertainment experiences—from festivals, to vacation trips, and traveling cinemas—were all made a part of the "Strength Through Joy" (Kraft durch Freude, KdF) program. Also crucial to the building of loyalty and comradeship was the implementation of the National Labour Service and the Hitler Youth Organization, with compulsory membership.
File:Nuremberg Aerial Kongresshalle.JPG

The regime sought to restore traditional values in German culture. The art and culture that came to define the Weimar Republic years was repressed. The visual arts were strictly monitored and traditional, focusing on exemplifying Germanic themes, racial purity, militarism, heroism, power, strength, and obedience. Modern abstract art and avant-garde art was removed from museums and put on special display as "degenerate art", where it was to be ridiculed. In one notable example, on 31 March 1937, huge crowds stood in line to view a special display of "degenerate art" in Munich. Art forms considered to be degenerate included Dada, Cubism, Expressionism, Fauvism, Impressionism, New Objectivity, and Surrealism. Literature written by Jewish, other non-Aryans, homosexual or authors opposed to the Nazis was destroyed by the regime. The most infamous destruction of literature was the book burnings by German students in 1933.

Despite the official attempt to forge a pure Germanic culture, one major area of the arts, architecture, under Hitler's personal guidance, was neoclassical, a style based on architecture of ancient Rome.[37] This style stood out in stark contrast and opposition to newer, more liberal, and more popular architecture styles of the time such as Art Deco. Various Roman buildings were examined by state architect Albert Speer for architectural designs for state buildings. Speer constructed huge and imposing structures such as in the NSDAP rally grounds in Nuremberg and the new Reich Chancellery building in Berlin. One design that was pursued, but never built, was a gigantic version of the Pantheon in Rome, called the Volkshalle to be the semi-religious centre of Nazism in a renamed Berlin called Germania, which was to be the "world capital" (Welthauptstadt). Also to be constructed was a Triumphal arch, several times larger than that found in Paris, which was also based upon a classical styling. Many of the designs for Germania were impractical to construct because of their size and the marshy soil underneath Berlin; later the materials that were to be used for construction were diverted to the war effort.

Cinema and media Edit

The majority of German films of the period were intended principally as works of entertainment. The import of foreign films was legally restricted after 1936, and the German industry, which was effectively nationalised in 1937, had to make up for the missing foreign films (above all American productions). Entertainment also became increasingly important in the later years of World War II when the cinema provided a distraction from Allied bombing and a string of German defeats.
File:Bundesarchiv Bild 146-1988-106-29, Leni Riefenstahl bei Dreharbeiten.jpg
In both 1943 and 1944 cinema admissions in Germany exceeded a billion,[38] and the biggest box office hits of the war years were Die große Liebe (1942) and Wunschkonzert (1941), which both combine elements of the musical, wartime romance and patriotic propaganda, Frauen sind doch bessere Diplomaten (1941), a comic musical which was one of the earliest German films in colour, and Wiener Blut (1942), the adaptation of a Johann Strauß comic operetta. The importance of the cinema as a tool of the state, both for its propaganda value and its ability to keep the populace entertained, can be seen in the filming history of Veit Harlan's Kolberg (1945), the most expensive film of the era, for the shooting of which tens of thousands of soldiers were diverted from their military positions to appear as extras.[39]

Despite the emigration of many film-makers and the political restrictions, the German film industry was not without technical and aesthetic innovations, the introduction of Agfacolor film production being a notable example. Technical and aesthetic achievement could also be turned to the specific ends of the Greater German Reich, most spectacularly in the work of Leni Riefenstahl. Riefenstahl's Triumph of the Will (1935), documenting the Nuremberg Rally (1934), and Olympia (1938), documenting the 1936 Summer Olympics, pioneered techniques of camera movement and editing that have influenced many later films. Both films, particularly Triumph of the Will, remain highly controversial, as their aesthetic merit is inseparable from their propagandizing of Nationalsocialism ideals.[39] Irreplaceable artists deemed fitting the National socialist ideals such as Marika Rokk and Johannes Heesters were placed on the Gottbegnadeten list by Goebbels during the war.[40]

Sports Edit

Sports played a central role in the Nazi goal of building strong young athletes to create the "perfect" race and help build Germany into a sports power. The political symbolism of masses of virile near-naked bodies occupying public spaces fit easily into the propaganda system, as typified by the 1938 film about the 1936 Berlin Olympics, "Olympia".[41]

Established in 1934, the "Nationalsozialistischer Reichsbund für Leibesübungen" (known by the acronyms NSRL or NSRBL) was the umbrella organization for sports during the Third Reich. Two major displays of Nazi German art and culture were at the 1936 Summer Olympics and at the German pavilion at the 1937 International Exposition in Paris. The 1936 Olympics was meant to display to the world the Aryan superiority of Germany to other nations. German athletes were carefully chosen not only for strength but for Aryan appearance.[42]

Legacy Edit

File:Nuremberg-1-.jpg

The Allied powers organised war crimes trials, beginning with a trial of 23 key Nazi officials, held from November 1945 to October 1946. They were charged with four counts—conspiracy to commit crimes, crimes against peace, war crimes, and crimes against humanity—in violation of international laws governing warfare.


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 All but three of the defendants were found guilty; twelve were sentenced to death.


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The victorious Allies outlawed the NSDAP and its subsidiary organisations. The display or use of Nazi symbols such as flags, swastikas, or greetings is illegal in Germany and Austria.


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Hitler, Nazism, and (by the 1960s) the Holocaust became symbols of evil in the modern world.[43] For the 21st century, Newman and Erber (2002) reported, "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, such as the swastika, the name of any of the principal Nazis, or their garb or affectations...."[44] There is a high level of historical interest in the popular media as well as in academic world. Evans says it, "exerts an almost universal appeal because its murderous racism stands as a warning to the whole of humanity."[45]

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 a significant source of political ideas in Germany, and in other parts of Europe, before World War II. Those that remain are largely fringe movements.{{#invoke:Category handler|main}}{{#invoke:Category handler|main}}[citation needed]

See also Edit

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Notes Edit

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Including de facto annexed/incorporated territories.
  2. The office formally became vacant on Hitler's death. His titles were Führer und Reichskanzler from August 1934. See {{#invoke:Footnotes|harvard_citation_no_bracket}}.
  3. In 1939, before Germany acquired control of the last two regions which had been in its control before the Versailles Treaty—Alsace-Lorraine, Danzig, and the part of West Prussia colloquially known as the "Polish Corridor"—its area was {{safesubst:#invoke:convert|convert}}. See {{#invoke:Footnotes|harvard_citation_no_bracket}}.

References Edit

  1. {{#invoke:citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=book }}
  2. {{#invoke:citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=book }}
  3. Mehdi Khan Nakosteen, The History and Philosophy of Education (1965) p 386
  4. Henrich Hansen, Die Presse des NS-Lehrerbundes.” Frankfurt am Main: Diesterweg, 1937. Pp 1.
  5. Mary-Elizabeth O'Brien, Nazi Cinema as Enchantment: The Politics of Entertainment in the Third Reich (2006) p 8
  6. David Stewart Hull, Film in the Third Reich: A Study of the German Cinema, 1933–1945 (1969) p 51
  7. Nazi Medicine and Public Health Policy Robert N. Proctor, Dimensions: A Journal of Holocaust Studies.
  8. 8.0 8.1 {{#invoke:citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=book }}
  9. {{#invoke:Citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=journal }}
  10. http://truecostblog.com/2009/08/09/countries-with-universal-healthcare-by-date/
  11. The Nazi Census, Götz Aly and Karl Heinz Roth, Temple University Press, 2004
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 {{#invoke:citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=web }}
  13. William L. O'Neill, A Democracy At War: America's Fight At Home and Abroad in World War II, p 99-100 ISBN 0-02-923678-9
  14. Bruce F. Pauley, Hitler, Stalin, and Mussolini: Totalitarianism in the Twentieth Century (2003) p 119-37
  15. "NS-Frauenwarte: Paper of the National Socialist Women's League"
  16. "May 1937 – Frauen Warte"
  17. "Material from "Das deutsche Mädel"
  18. Arvo L. Vercamer "HJ-Landdienst"
  19. 19.0 19.1 {{#invoke:Citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=journal }}
  20. Cinzia Romani, Tainted Goddesses: Female Film Stars of the Third Reich p20 ISBN 0-9627613-1-1
  21. {{#invoke:citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=web }}
  22. George Mosse, Nazi culture: intellectual, cultural and social life in the Third Reich p 277 ISBN 978-0-299-19304-1
  23. {{#invoke:citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=book }}
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  25. {{#invoke:citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=book }}
  26. JONATHAN OLSEN "How Green Were the Nazis? Nature, Environment, and Nation in the Third Reich (review)" Technology and Culture – Volume 48, Number 1, January 2007, pp. 207–208
  27. Review of Franz-Josef Brueggemeier, Marc Cioc, and Thomas Zeller, eds, "How Green Were the Nazis?: Nature, Environment, and Nation in the Third Reich" Wilko Graf von Hardenberg, H-Environment, H-Net Reviews, October 2006.
  28. {{#invoke:citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=book }}
  29. {{#invoke:citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=book }}
  30. Hartmut M. Hanauske-Abel, Not a slippery slope or sudden subversion: German medicine and National Socialism in 1933, BMJ 1996; pp. 1453–1463 (7 December)
  31. {{#invoke:citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=web }}
  32. {{#invoke:citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=book }}
  33. {{#invoke:citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=book }}
  34. {{#invoke:citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=book }} [sic]
  35. {{#invoke:citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=book }}
  36. {{#invoke:citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=book }}
  37. Scobie, Alexander. Hitler's State Architecture: The Impact of Classical Antiquity. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1990. ISBN 0-271-00691-9. Pp. 92.
  38. Kinobesuche in Deutschland 1925 bis 2004 Spitzenorganisation der Filmwirtschaft e. V
  39. 39.0 39.1 Cinema of Germany#1933–1945 Film industry in the Third Reich
  40. {{#invoke:citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=web }}
  41. Nadine Rossol, "Performing the Nation: Sports, Spectacles, and Aesthetics in Germany, 1926–1936," Central European History Dec 2010, Vol. 43 Issue 4, pp 616–638
  42. Anton Rippon, Hitler's Olympics: The Story of the 1936 Nazi Games (2006)
  43. Colin Flint, "To Explain or Understand Evil: Comparing Hermeneutic and Rational Choice Approaches to the Analysis of Nazism," Social Science Quarterly June 1998, Vol. 79 Issue 2, pp 466–474,
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  45. Richard J. Evans, Cosmopolitan Islanders: British Historians and the European Continent (2009) p. 56

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</dl>

External links Edit

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