Nazi Germany is a reference for the twelve-year period in German history (1933-1945) during the totalitarian dictatorship of Adolf Hitler through the Nazi Party, which was founded in 1919 as the German Workers’ Party. The group grew in retaliation to the terms of the Treaty of Versailles and promoted German pride and anti-Semitism, two traits that infused Nazi Germany.

Scroll down to see articles about the post-World War One events that caused Nazi Germany to form, along with posts on Nazi society, politics, propaganda, and the major events that occurred in Nazi Germany, leading up to the events of World War Two and its eventual downfall.

 

Timeline

Date

Event

9th November 1918 Kaiser Wilhelm abdicated. Weimar Republic declared.
28th June 1919 Treaty of Versailles signed.
5th January 1919 German Workers’ Party (Deutsche Arbeiterpartei) DAP formed by Anton Drexler, Gottfried Feder, Dietrich Eckart and Karl Harrer
12th September 1919 Adolf Hitler, who had been sent by the German Army to spy on the German Workers’ Party (Deutsche Arbeiterpartei) DAP, decided that he liked the political ideas of the party and became a member.
24th February 1920 German Workers’ Party (DAP) changed its name to National Socialist German Workers’ Party (NSDP) called the Nazi Party for short. During its first meeting a 25 point programme was announced
29th July 1921 Adolf Hitler became leader of the NSDP and took the title der Führer
4th November 1921 SA (Sturm Abteilung) formed. Known as Stormtroopers these were the party militia. They were also known as brownshirts because of the brown shirts that formed part of their uniform.
8th November 1923 Munich (Beer Hall) Putsch – Hitler and the NSDP attempt to overthrow the Bavarian government failed. The leaders were arrested and charged with treason.
26th February 1924 Hitler’s trial for his part in the Munich Putsch began.  He was sentenced to 5 years in prison but only served 10 months. During his time in prison Hitler wrote Mein Kampf.
April 1925 SS (Schutzstaffel) formed. The SS, who wore black shirts to distinguish them from the SA, initially formed Hitler’s personal bodyguard, but later became the party militia.
4th July 1926 Hitler Youth, League of German Worker Youth was formed. The party had had a youth section since its beginning, but this new re-organised Hitler Youth was more integrated into the SA.
20th August 1927 The first annual party conference to be held at Nuremburg. Known as the Nuremburg Rally all subsequent annual meetings were held at Nuremburg.
1929 – 1930 Great Depression – The world depression saw many Germans face unemployment and poverty. Support for the Nazi party increased dramatically.
During 1930 Hitler Youth junior branches established – Deutsches Jungvolk for boys aged 10 – 14 years and the Bund Deutscher Mädel (League of German Girls) for girls aged 10 – 18 years.
September 1930 The Nazi party gained 18.3% of the vote in the Reichstag elections to become the second largest party.
July 1932 The Nazi party gained 37.4% of the vote in the Reichstag elections to become the largest party.
30th January 1933 Hitler appointed Chancellor of Germany by President Hindenburg
3rd February 1933 Hitler defined the Nazi party foreign policy. The prime goal was to secure lebensraum (living space) for the German master race.
27th February 1933 The Reichstag Fire. A fire which broke out at the Reichstag building was blamed on the Communist Party (KPD). As a result the KPD, which was the second largest party in Germany, was banned.  The banning of the Communist party gave the Nazis a clear majority in government.
5th March 1933 With the Communist party banned Hitler ordered a new election at which the Nazi party gained 44% of the General election vote.
23rd March 1933 Enabling Act gave Hitler power to make laws without consulting the Reichstag for a period of four years
26th April 1933 The Gestapo, Nazi secret police, were formed
26th April 1933 The Nazis took over local government
2nd May 1933 Trade Unions were banned
10th May 1933 25,000 ‘un-German’ books burned in an “Action against the Un-German Spirit”. The move was encouraged by Joseph Goebbels, Head of Propaganda.
14th July 1933 All political parties except the Nazis were banned
October 1933 Germany withdrew from the League of Nations
30th June 1934 The Night of the Long Knives – 150 leaders of the Stormtroopers SA were executed. Many members of the SA were committed socialists and demanded that Nazi policy embrace socialist aims. This was not a direction the Nazis wished to follow so the SA were eliminated.
2nd August 1934 President Hindenburg died. Hitler combined the post of President and Chancellor and called himself Fuhrer.
September 1934 In a speech to the National Socialist Women’s Organization, Hitler defined women’s role stating that a woman’s ” world is her husband, her family, her children, and her home.”
26th February 1935 Hitler ordered Hermann Goering to establish the Luftwaffe, German airforce, in defiance of the terms of the Treaty of Versailles
March 1935 Hitler publicly announced that the German Army was to be expanded. Conscription was introduced.
15th September 1935 Nuremburg Laws defined German citizenship. Relationships between Jews and Aryans were banned.
7th March 1936 Re-occupation of the Rhineland. In contravention of the terms of the Versailles Treaty, Hitler sent German troops to re-occupy the Rhineland.
1st August 1936 Berlin Olympics began.
25th October 1936 Axis alliance concluded between Germany and Italy
25th November 1936 Anti-Comintern pact concluded between Germany and Japan
December 1936 Law concerning the Hitler Youth made membership of the Hitler Youth compulsory for all boys
14th March 1938 Anschluss with Austria. Hitler made a triumphant entry into Vienna
30th September 1938 Munich Agreement – Allies agreed that Germany could have the Sudetenland region of Czechoslovakia in return for peace
November 1938 Kristallnacht – Jewish shops and synagogues were destroyed. Following the event the Jewish population was fined for the destruction.
15th March 1939 Hitler invaded and occupied Czechoslovakia in contravention of the Munich Agreement
31st March 1939 Britain issued a statement guaranteeing Poland’s independence. The issuing of this statement meant that if Germany invaded Poland then Britain would come to the aid of the Poles.
23rd August 1939 Nazi-Soviet Pact – Alliance between Hitler and Stalin which agreed to divide Poland between the two countries.
25th August 1939 Anglo-Polish Common Defence Pact – This agreement offered mutual military assistance in the event that one country was attacked by another European country. A clause was added specifying that the assistance would only be offered if the invaded country’s army fought against the aggressor.
1st September 1939 Hitler invaded Poland using Blitzkrieg (lightning war) tactics. Although the Poles fought back they were quickly defeated and Poland was occupied.
3rd September 1939 Britain and France declared war on Germany
9th April 1940 Denmark and Norway invaded and occupied
10th May 1940 Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg and France invaded and occupied
10th July 1940 Battle of Britain began – German Luftwaffe attempted to gain control of British airspace through defeat of the Royal Airforce.
October 1940 Daylight and night bombing raids on Britain (The Blitz) by the Luftwaffe were abandoned. Hitler also delayed and later abandoned plans to invade Britain.
6th April 1941 Yugoslavia and Greece invaded and occupied
22nd June 1941 Operation Barbarossa – 3 million German troops invaded Russia
5th December 1941 German advance in Russia halted by Russian winter and Russian counterattacks.
11th December 1941 Hitler declared war on the United States. Following Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor on 7th December the United States had declared war on Japan. Under the terms of the Anti-Comintern Pack Hitler was bound to declare war on the United States
20th January 1942 Wannsee Conference approved plans for the ‘Final Solution’.
5th November 1942 German troops defeated at the Second Battle of El Alamein in North Africa
2nd February 1943 German 6th Army defeated at Stalingrad
4th March 1943 First allied bombing raid on German cities
6th June 1944 Operation Overlord, D-Day. Allied invasion of Normandy
20th July 1944 July Bomb Plot failed attempt to assassinate Hitler.
30th April 1945 Hitler committed suicide
2nd May 1945 Germany surrendered ending the war in Europe
20th November 1945 Nuremburg war crimes trial began

 

 

Sudetenland: The German Loss of Land that Presaged Nazi Germany

At the end of World War One the treaties of Versailles, St Germain and Trianon broke the Austro-Hungarian Empire and took land from both countries and also from Germany to give to other countries.

The Sudetenland was taken away from Germany and the Austro-Hungarian Empire and given to Czechoslovakia. The region contained Czechs, Germans, Slovaks, Hungarians, Poles and Ruthenians. Although American President Woodrow Wilson had wanted people in disputed regions to be allowed to decide where they would live this did not happen.

When Adolf Hitler came to power he promised to rip up the treaty of Versailles and claim back land that had been taken away from Germany. In 1936 he had marched soldiers into the Rhineland region and reclaimed it for Germany. In March 1938 German troops marched into Austria. The Austrian leader was forced to hold a vote asking the people whether they wanted to be part of Germany. The results of the vote were fixed and showed that 99% of Austrian people wanted Anschluss (union with Germany). The Austrian leader asked Britain, France and Italy for aid. Hitler promised that Anschluss was the end of his expansionist aims and not wanting to risk war, the other countries did nothing.

Hitler did not keep his word and six months later demanded that the Sudetenland region of Czechoslovakia be handed over to Germany. Neville Chamberlain, Prime Minister of Britain, met with Hitler three times during September 1938 to try to reach an agreement that would prevent war. The Munich Agreement stated that Hitler could have the Sudetenland region of Czechoslovakia provided that he promised not to invade the rest of Czechoslovakia. Hitler was not a man of his word and in March 1939 invaded the rest of Czechoslovakia.

Despite calls for help from the Czechoslovak government, neither Britain nor France was prepared to take military action against Hitler. However, some action was now necessary and believing that Poland would be Hitler’s next target, both Britain and France promised that they would take military action against Hitler if he invaded Poland. Chamberlain believed that, faced with the prospect of war against Britain and France, Hitler would stop his aggression. Chamberlain was wrong. German troops invaded Poland on 1st September 1939.

 

The Rhineland

Under the terms of the Treaty of Versailles 1919 Germany was not allowed to have any military force, building or armaments in the Rhineland area. To ensure German compliance the area was occupied by British and French troops.

Under the terms of the Treaty of Locarno 1925 Germany, France, Britain and Italy agreed that the Rhineland should remain a demilitarised zone permanently. By June 1930 British and French troops had evacuated the area.

In January 1936 Adolf Hitler began to make plans to re-occupy the Rhineland. He argued that the move was needed as a defence strategy especially as France and the Soviet Union had renewed their alliance in 1935.

The date for occupation was set for 7th March 1936 and in the early morning 32,000 armed German troops entered the Rhineland.

Although Germany had been steadily building up her army since 1933 it was not strong enough to hold the Rhineland if France or Britain counter-attacked. Hitler later commented “The forty-eight hours after the march into the Rhineland were the most nerve-racking in my life. If the French had then marched into the Rhineland we would have had to withdraw..”

France was on the verge of elections and politicians were unwilling to take steps that would be unpopular with the population. French politicians and leaders knew that taking military action against Germany would be expensive and could lead to a full-scale Franco-German war.

The French appealed to the British for support but many British politicians felt that Germany was simply re-claiming what was theirs anyway. Additionally, popular feeling in Britain was totally against another major war.

The League of Nations, established by the Treaty of Versailles to deal with acts such as this, condemned Hitler’s action but did not enact economic or military sanctions.

 

The Nazi Party

On 5th January 1919, Anton Drexler together with Gottfried Feder and Dietrich Eckart founded the Deutsche Arbeiterpartei DAP (German Workers’ Party). Drexler wanted to form a party that supported the German workforce. From its earliest beginnings the party tended towards right wing politics. It was Nationalist, racist, anti-Semetic, anti-capitalist, anti-communist and determined to see a return to pre-war Germany.

Although the group only had around 40 members in 1919, the authorities were concerned that it may be a Communist group and so sent an army intelligence agent, Adolf Hitler, to investigate.

On September 12th 1919, Adolf Hitler attended a meeting of the German Workers’ Party. During the meeting a point was raised with which Hitler disagreed and made a passionate speech against. Anton Drexler was impressed with Hitler’s ability to speak well and invited him to join the party. After some persuasion Hitler agreed. He was the fifty-fifth person to join the group. (Later he changed his membership card to show that he was the 7th person).

On 24th February 1920 the name of the group was changed to Deutsche Nationalsozialistische Arbeiterpartei NSDP National Socialist German Workers’ Party, known as the Nazi Party. As part of its re-launch the party published its 25 point programme:

1. We demand the unification of all Germans in the Greater Germany on the basis of the right of self-determination of peoples.

2. We demand equality of rights for the German people in respect to the other nations; abrogation of the peace treaties of Versailles and St. Germain.

3. We demand land and territory (colonies) for the sustenance of our people, and colonization for our surplus population.

4. Only a member of the race can be a citizen. A member of the race can only be one who is of German blood, without consideration of creed. Consequently no Jew can be a member of the race.

5. Whoever has no citizenship is to be able to live in Germany only as a guest, and must be under the authority of legislation for foreigners.

6. The right to determine matters concerning administration and law belongs only to the citizen. Therefore we demand that every public office, of any sort whatsoever, whether in the Reich, the county or municipality, be filled only by citizens. We combat the corrupting parliamentary economy, office-holding only according to party inclinations without consideration of character or abilities.

7. We demand that the state be charged first with providing the opportunity for a livelihood and way of life for the citizens. If it is impossible to sustain the total population of the State, then the members of foreign nations (non-citizens) are to be expelled from the Reich.

8. Any further immigration of non-citizens is to be prevented. We demand that all non-Germans, who have immigrated to Germany since the 2 August 1914, be forced immediately to leave the Reich.

9. All citizens must have equal rights and obligations.

10. The first obligation of every citizen must be to work both spiritually and physically. The activity of individuals is not to counteract the interests of the universality, but must have its result within the framework of the whole for the benefit of all Consequently we demand:

11. Abolition of unearned (work and labour) incomes. Breaking of rent-slavery.

12. In consideration of the monstrous sacrifice in property and blood that each war demands of the people personal enrichment through a war must be designated as a crime against the people. Therefore we demand the total confiscation of all war profits.

13. We demand the nationalization of all (previous) associated industries (trusts).

14. We demand a division of profits of all heavy industries.

15. We demand an expansion on a large scale of old age welfare.

16. We demand the creation of a healthy middle class and its conservation, immediate communalization of the great warehouses and their being leased at low cost to small firms, the utmost consideration of all small firms in contracts with the State, county or municipality.

17. We demand a land reform suitable to our needs, provision of a law for the free expropriation of land for the purposes of public utility, abolition of taxes on land and prevention of all speculation in land.

18. We demand struggle without consideration against those whose activity is injurious to the general interest. Common national criminals, usurers, Schieber and so forth are to be punished with death, without consideration of confession or race.

19. We demand substitution of a German common law in place of the Roman Law serving a materialistic world-order.

20. The state is to be responsible for a fundamental reconstruction of our whole national education program, to enable every capable and industrious German to obtain higher education and subsequently introduction into leading positions. The plans of instruction of all educational institutions are to conform with the experiences of practical life. The comprehension of the concept of the State must be striven for by the school [Staatsbuergerkunde] as early as the beginning of understanding. We demand the education at the expense of the State of outstanding intellectually gifted children of poor parents without consideration of position or profession.

21. The State is to care for the elevating national health by protecting the mother and child, by outlawing child-labor, by the encouragement of physical fitness, by means of the legal establishment of a gymnastic and sport obligation, by the utmost support of all organizations concerned with the physical instruction of the young.

22. We demand abolition of the mercenary troops and formation of a national army.

23. We demand legal opposition to known lies and their promulgation through the press. In order to enable the provision of a German press, we demand, that:

a. All writers and employees of the newspapers appearing in the German language be members of the race:

b. Non-German newspapers be required to have the express permission of the State to be published. They may not be printed in the German language:

c. Non-Germans are forbidden by law any financial interest in German publications, or any influence on them, and as punishment for violations the closing of such a publication as well as the immediate expulsion from the Reich of the non-German concerned. Publications which are counter to the general good are to be forbidden. We demand legal prosecution of artistic and literary forms which exert a destructive influence on our national life, and the closure of organizations opposing the above made demands.

24. We demand freedom of religion for all religious denominations within the state so long as they do not endanger its existence or oppose the moral senses of the Germanic race. The Party as such advocates the standpoint of a positive Christianity without binding itself confessionally to any one denomination. It combats the Jewish-materialistic spirit within and around us, and is convinced that a lasting recovery of our nation can only succeed from within on the framework: common utility precedes individual utility.

25. For the execution of all of this we demand the formation of a strong central power in the Reich. Unlimited authority of the central parliament over the whole Reich and its organizations in general. The forming of state and profession chambers for the execution of the laws made by the Reich within the various states of the confederation. The leaders of the Party promise, if necessary by sacrificing their own lives, to support by the execution of the points set forth above without consideration.

On 28th July 1921 Adolf Hitler became leader of the party. By the end of 1921 the party was fairly well established with a membership of 3000 people. The party had adopted the swastika as its symbol, the Hitler Youth had been formed for the children of party members and the SA, stormtroopers had been created as the party militia group.

Following the failed Munich Putsch – attempt to overthrow the Bavarian government, in November 1923, Hitler was imprisoned. On his release in December 1925 he resolved to win power by non-violent, legitimate means. The SA were separated from the main party and took on the role of a support group. The SS, Hitler’s personal bodyguard, took on a similar role.

The Nazi party stood for election but initially only gained a small number of seats in the Reichstag (German Parliament). They gained much more support when Germany suffered a financial crisis due to the Great Depression and after Hitler had been appointed Chancellor of Germany in January 1933.

Year

Votes

% of Total Vote

Reichstag Seats

May 1924

1,918,300

6.5

32

December 1924

907,300

3

14

May 1928

810,100

2.6

12

September 1930

6,409,600

18.3

107

July 1932

13,745,800

37.4

230

November 1932

11,737,000

33.1

196

March 1933

17,277,000

43.9

288

 

The banning of the Communist party following the Reichstag fire on 27th February gave the Nazis a clear majority in parliament. The Enabling Act passed in March 1933 gave Hitler the power to make laws without consulting parliament.

During 1933 all political parties other than the Nazi party were banned, membership of the Hitler Youth was made compulsory for all teenagers, local government was taken over by the Nazis and trade unions were banned. The secret police, The Gestapo were also formed. One year later the Night of the Long Knives saw the murder of all SA leaders who disagreed with Hitler’s policies.

Following the death of President Hindenburg in August 1934, Hitler combined the post of Chancellor and President to become Fuhrer of Germany. From this point until the Nazi downfall in 1945 it was Hitler as Dictator rather than the Nazi party that held true power. Members of the Nazi Party retained their positions so long as they remained in the favour of Hitler.

Leading Members of the Nazi Party

  • Adolf Hitler – Fuhrer
  • Rudolph Hess – Deputy leader (captured in 1941)
  • Hermann Goering – Minister for Air, Commander of the Luftwaffe
  • Heinrich Himmler – Head of the SS, Chief of Police
  • Josef Goebels – Propaganda Minister
  • Reinhard Heydrich – Head of the Gestapo (assassinated 1942)
  • Joachim von Ribbentrop – Foreign Minister

 

Munich Beer Hall Putsch

Following the abdication of Kaiser Wilhelm and defeat in World War One, the government of the new German Weimar Republic were forced to accept the terms of the Treaty of Versailles, which included the payment of reparations to the allies of 6,600 million.

The repayments led to a devaluation of the German mark against foreign currencies and to hyperinflation in Germany. In 1923, when Germany defaulted on its repayments France occupied the Ruhr industrial region of Germany.

With popular feeling against the government, Hitler believed that the time was right for his National Socialist German Workers’ Party (Nazi Party) to overthrow the government.

On 8th November with the support of other Socialist groups, and former World War One General Ludendorff, Hitler ordered 600 of his Stormtroopers under the command of Herman Goering to surround a Beer Hall in Munich where Conservative politician Gustav von Kahr was making a speech to 3,000 people. Also present were the local army commander, Lossow and the Bavarian police chief, Seisser. At about 8.30pm Hitler entered the hall, stood on a chair and fired a pistol shot into the ceiling. He announced to the crowd that the revolution had begun then ordered von Kahr, Lossow and Seisser into an adjoining room. After about ten minutes the group returned to the hall and Hitler announced that he had the support of all three men. When the meeting ended, Hitler immediately began planning his takeover of Munich. Von Kahr, Lossow and Seisser went straight to the authorities.

The next morning Hitler and 3,000 Nazi supporters began a march on Munich. However, it soon became apparent that the authorities had been alerted when they encountered a road block manned by 100 armed police. Shots were fired killing sixteen Nazis and four police officers. Both Hitler and Goering were injured and ran to take cover. Other Nazis also ran. Ludendorff however continued to march on, he later branded Hitler a coward and refused to have anything more to do with him.

Hitler was arrested on 12th November and charged with treason. He was found guilty at his trial in February 1924 and given a five year prison sentence. While in prison Hitler wrote his famous book Mein Kampf

 

Stormtroopers Sturm Abteilung SA

At the end of World War One many German soldiers became members of the Freikorps ad hoc right-wing militia groups used to break up Communist meetings and prevent a Communist uprising.

In 1920 the newly formed German Workers’ Party needed its own militia group to protect party members from hecklers and opponents. Some Freikorps members joined the party and took on this role. One such person was Ernst Röhm, a former Bavarian Army Captain. Originally called Ordnertruppe, they were re-formed as the Turn-und Sportabteilung (Sport and Gymnastic Division).

On 4th November 1921 the Nazi party held a large meeting. Large numbers of demonstrators against Hitler and the Nazi Party were prevented from disrupting the meeting by the Turn-und Sportabteilung. Following this event they became known as Sturm Abteilung (Stormtroopers) abbreviated to SA.

Hitler’s Stormtroopers wore a uniform of khaki brown shirts with swastika armband on left arm, khaki brown trousers with, brown belt, brown combat boots and khaki brown peaked cap with red trim. They were often called by the nickname Brownshirts because of the brown shirts they wore.

Following the failed Munich Beer Hall Putsch in November 1923 and the subsequent imprisonment of Adolf Hitler, the SA were banned from April 1924 to February 1925. To combat the ban the SA changed its name to Frontbann. Ernst Röhm who had not been imprisoned but had been discharged from the army became leader of the Frontbann. When Hitler was released from prison Röhm, who disagreed with some of his policies handed over the leadership to Wolf Graf von Helldorf and three years later, in 1928, emigrated to Bolivia.

In November 1926 Franz Felix von Pfeffer von Salomon took over the leadership. Von Salomon wanted to increase power for the SA by securing seats in the Reichstag. Hitler refused to allow the SA to play any part in government and von Salomon resigned in August 1930.

In 1931 Hitler asked Röhm to return and lead the SA. Röhm agreed and upon his return he quickly increased the membership of the SA. After the Nazis came to power in 1933 Röhm began to make moves towards merging the SA with the German army. It was his intention to become the head of the military forces in Germany. In January 1934 Röhm sent a message to the Minister of Defence, Werner von Blomberg, demanding that the SA replace the Reichswehr. Blomberg, who was already concerned about the growing power of Röhm and the SA joined forces with Heinrich Himmler, Hermann Goering and Reinhard Heydrich against Ernst Röhm. A dossier was compiled that offered evidence that Ernst Röhm was secretly plotting to over throw the Nazis and take power for himself and the SA.

Presented with the ‘evidence’, Hitler had no choice but to take action and on 30th June 1934 the Night of the Long Knives saw the murder of leading members of the SA. The action, which saw the deaths of leading SA members was legalised by Hitler on July 13th when he made a speech, which was approved by the cabinet, stating that the Night of the Long Knives was an act of self-defence against the state.

After the Night of the Long Knives, the SA continued in existence but with a much reduced membership as young men chose to join the regular army rather than the SA. The rise of the SS, Schutz Staffeinel, led by Heinrich Himmler saw the elimination of the SA’s power.

Hitler Youth of Nazi Germany

In the early 1920s, the Nazi party had established a youth movement led by Kurt Gruber, with the aim of attracting young men who could be trained to become members of the SA (Stormtroopers). On 4th July 1926 the group was renamed the Hitler Youth, League of German Worker Youth and became attached to and run by the SA.

The Hitler Youth (Hitler Jugend) wore uniforms and  attended meetings and rallies where they were indoctrinated with Nazi views.

hitler youth

Adolf Hitler believed that the support of the youth was vital to the future of the third Reich and aimed, through the Hitler Youth programme, to produce a generation of loyal supporters of Nazi views.

Posters were used to attract more members and membership rose from 5,000 in 1925 to 25,000 in 1930.

When the Nazis came to power in 1933 other youth groups were forcibly merged into the Hitler Youth and by the end of 1933 membership stood at just over 2 million.

In December 1936, membership of the Hitler Youth became virtually compulsory for all boys and girls aged over 10 years – membership could only be avoided by not paying subscription fees, but this ‘loophole’ was relaxed in 1939 and membership increased to 8 million members by 1940.

There were separate Hitler Youth groups for boys and girls:

Boys aged 6 – 10 years joined the Little Fellows (Pimpf). They did mainly outdoor sports type activities such as hiking, rambling and camping.

Boys aged 10 – 13 years joined the German Young People (Deutsche Jungvolk). They still did sporting activities but these had a more military emphasis such as parading and marching as well as map reading. They also learnt about Nazi views on racial purity and anti-semitism.

Boys aged 14 – 18 years joined the Hitler Youth (Hitler Jugend). They were prepared to be soldiers by doing military activities.

Girls aged 10 – 14 years joined the Young Maidens (Jungmadel) where they were taught good health practices as well as how to become good mothers and housewives. They also learnt about Nazi views on racial purity and anti-semitism.

Girls aged 14 – 21 joined the League of German Maidens (Deutscher Madel) where they were further prepared for their roles as the mother of future Germans.

 

SchutzStaffel (SS)

The SS was considered to be an elite force and membership was restricted to those who were pure Aryan Germans.

On 6th January 1929 Heinrich Himmler was appointed leader of the SchutzStaffel. Himmler was an ambitious man and set about building up membership of the SS.

From 1932 the SS wore black shirts with the runic symbol SS on the collar to distinguish them from the SA who wore brown shirts.

Under Himmler’s leadership the SS was divided into three sections:

The Security Section

The SD (Sicherheitsdienst)

Formed in 1931, this section of the SchutzStaffel was placed under the control of Himmler’s right-hand man, Reinhard Heydrich. In its early years the SD was responsible for the security of the Nazi Party. After Hitler became Chancellor in January 1933, the SD was also responsible for seeking out and dealing with those who opposed and were a threat to the leading members of the Nazi Party. The SD played a key role in discovering evidence against Ernst Rohm that ultimately lead to the Night of the Long Knives in 1934.

The Gestapo (Geheime Staatspolizei)

When Hitler became Chancellor of Germany in 1933, Hermann Goering became Minister of the Interior for Prussia. This role gave Goering control of the Prussian Police force. Almost immediately he set about separating the various branches of the Police force. The political and intelligence sections were filled with Nazi Party members and merged to form a secret police force known as Geheime Staatspolizei, the Gestapo.

In April 1934 Heinrich Himmler took over as Head of the Gestapo. Under Himmler’s leadership the Gestapo was responsible for seeking out and eliminating opposition to the Nazi Party. They frequently used torture to extract confessions.

In 1935 the Gestapo was given the task of establishing concentration camps for the incarceration of ‘undesirables’, Jews, gypsies, homosexuals, Communists, unemployed, disabled etc.

After the outbreak of war in 1939 members of the Gestapo made up some of the membership of the  Einsatzgruppen, mobile death squads that followed the army into Poland and Russia to rid those countries of Jews and other ‘inferior’ people.

The Military Section – Waffen SchutzStaffel

Leibstandarte SchutzStaffel

After Hitler became Chancellor of Germany he ordered the creation of an armed force which would protect both himself and leading members of the Nazi Party from attack.

The first recruits, 117 men, were given the name SS-Stabswache Berlin. This was changed to  SS-Sonderkommando Berlin shortly afterwards and on 3rd September Hitler re-named the group Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler.

Entry requirements for the elitist Leibstandarte included:

  • Proof of pure Aryan ancestry for at least 150 years
  • Minimum height of 5 feet 11 inches
  • Being physically fit and in excellent health

In 1934 the Leibstandarte played a prominent role in the Night of the Long Knives which saw the murder of leading members of the SA.

By 1935 membership of the Leibstandarte had increased significantly to more than 2,000. When Germany invaded Poland in September 1939 the Leibstandarte played a key role. Initially attached to both infantry and panzer  divisions, the Leibstandarte became an independent force, the SS Division Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler in 1941.

From 1941 to 1944 the Leibstandarte was engaged fighting on the Eastern Front before being moved to the Ardennes in late 1944.  Pushed back by the advancing allied forces, the Leibstandarte ended its days fighting in the Battle of Berlin in 1945.

SS Verfügungstruppe (Special Purpose Troops)

Formed in 1934 the SS Verfügungstruppe, known as SS-VT, was the armed force of the Nazi Party. It was separate from the main German army, the Wehrmacht. Members of the SS-VT were often men who failed to meet the strict criteria for entry to the Leibstandarte SS.

SS-VT regiments played a pre-war role in the Anschluss with Austria, the occupation of the Sudetenland and the invasion of Czechoslovakia.

In 1941, at the same time as the Leibstandarte SS were made an independent force, the SS-VT were re-named the Waffen SS. The Waffen SS played key roles fighting in the European and African theatres of war.

The Concentration Camp Section

SS Totenkopfverbände (Death’s Head Units)

In 1934 Heinrich Himmler ordered Theodor Eicke, a fervent anti-semitic, anti-Bolshevik, to organise and manage the first concentration camp which had been established at Dachau (below).

Eicke set about streamlining the organisation of the camp. Many of those who had been trained by Eicke at Dachau went on to staff the camp at Sachenhausen.

In 1936 staff working in the camps were given the title SS Totenkopfverb?nde, known as SS-TK. The SS-TK had a reputation of being harsh masters, meting out tough punishments on those who did not show loyalty to the Nazi ideals.

When war broke out in 1939 the SS-TK was expanded to provide staff for all camps established in Germany, Austria and Poland.

In 1942 the SS-TK became members of the Waffen SS.

In early 1945 when it became clear that Germany would lose the war, members of the SS-TK were given orders to destroy evidence of the camps’ existence. Camps were destroyed and surviving inmates were taken on forced ‘death marches’.

At the end of the war many leading members of the SS committed suicide. Those that were captured were tried and the Nuremburg war crimes trials, many of those found guilty were executed. Some members of the SS escaped Germany and fled to South America.

 

The Reichstag Fire

At 10pm on 27th February 1933 the Berlin Fire Department received a call that the Reichstag building was on fire.

A young communist Marinus van der Lubbe was discovered on the premises clad in just trousers and footwear.

A number of small fires had been started around the building but most failed to take hold except the fire started in the great chamber.

Van der Lubbe and four other communists, Ernst Torgler, Georgi Dimitrov, Blagoi Popov, and Vassil Tanev were arrested and charged with arson and attempting to overthrow the government.

Although van der Lubbe confessed to the crime, many people believed that the real culprits were the Nazi Party, probably members of the SA.

The Case Against the Communists

Marinus van der Lubbe, a known Communist, was discovered on the premises.

Marinus van der Lubbe had organised Communist meetings

Marinus van der Lubbe confessed to the crime.

The case Against the Nazi Party

The Nazi Party were the largest party in the Reichstag but did not have a clear majority, elimination of the Communist party would give them a clear majority.

It is questionable whether Marinus van der Lubbe would have been able to start fires which caused so much damage alone.

Marinus van der Lubbe had a history of claiming sole responsibility for things he had been involved in

Karl Ernst, leader of the Berlin SA was overheard saying that if he had played a part in starting the fire he would be foolish to admit it.

The Consequences

On 28th February 1933 Adolf Hitler went to see President Paul Hindenburg and informed him that the fire was the result of a Communist plot. Hindenburg was convinced and signed the Order of the Reich President for the Protection of People and State, known as the Reichstag Fire Decree.

Hitler used the Reichstag Fire Decree to arrest thousands of Communists and to ban all Communist publications. The Communist party was outlawed and not allowed to take part in the March 1933 elections (the Communist Party had gained 17% of the vote in the 1932 elections).

Without Communist opposition the Nazi Party gained 44% of the vote in the March 1933 elections. The German National People’s Party, who supported the Nazi Party gained 8% of the vote. This gave Hitler a majority in the Reichstag.

With a majority in the Reichstag Hitler was able to pass the Enabling Act 23rd March 1933. The Enabling Act gave Hitler the power to pass laws independently of the Reichstag for a period of 4 years. This effectively made him Dictator of Germany.

In July 1933 Marinus van der Lubbe, Ernst Torgler, Georgi Dimitrov, Blagoi Popov, and Vassil Tanev were tried on a charge of arson and attempting to overthrow the government. Van der Lubbe, who confessed to the crime, was found guilty but the others were aquitted as there was insufficient evidence against them. Marinus van der Lubbe was beheaded on 10th January 1934.

 

Propaganda in Nazi Germany

Propaganda is the art of persuading people to have a particular view about something. Propaganda is always biased. It is used by political leaders or organisations to deliberately mislead a population into believing a certain set of facts or beliefs to be true. Propaganda is used by most countries in times of war to encourage hatred towards the enemy and to promote nationalism (being in favour of one’s country) in the population.

Hitler believed so strongly in the power of propaganda that he created a post in his new government for a Minister of Propaganda and National Enlightenment. Joseph Goebbels (left) was the man appointed to the post.

One of the first things that Goebbels did was to establish the Reich Chamber of Culture. This new organisation was established to deal with all aspects of culture. It was sub-divided into seven departments that dealt with literature, news, radio, theatre, music, visual arts, cinema. the media, the arts and literature. Each department issued instructions as to the themes and styles that were acceptable and unacceptable to be produced. In all areas the only material that was allowed to be produced was that which promoted Nazi ideals.

The Reich Broadcasting Company had been founded in 1925 and was a network of nine German radio channels. In 1933 the company was nationalised and came under the control of Joseph Goebbels.

Goebbels saw that radio had a great potential for spreading the Nazi’s message. Loudspeakers were installed in factories and public places and the Nazi’s made it a priority to produce an inexpensive radio receiver.

The People’s Receiver 301, named after the date Hitler became Chancellor (30th January), was produced in August 1933 costing 76 Reichmarks. A cheaper version costing just 35 Reichmarks was later produced and radio ownership rose from 4 – 16 million households. Both radio sets were configured to only receive Nazi radio broadcasts but in case people were tempted to listen to other stations the Nazi’s made listening to foreign radio stations a criminal offence.

Two of the many films produced that helped to get the Nazis message to the people were Leni Riefenstahl’s Triumph of the Will and The Eternal Jew, a racist attack on the Jewish population.

This image shows a scene from Triumph of the Will filmed at the 1934 Nuremburg Nazi Party rally

Posters were also used to persuade people to the Nazi point of view. Those pictured below are just some of the many produced by Hitler’s Nazi Party.

Adolf Hitler is Victory! Youth Serves the Fuhrer.
All 10-year-olds into the Hitler Youth
Support the assistance program for mothers and children

 

Nuremberg Laws of Nazi Germany

On September 15, 1935, the German state stripped its Jews of their citizenship, reducing them to the status of “subjects” under the auspices of the Nuremberg Laws, which forbade sexual relations between biological Jews and Germans. It elevated the science of eugenics into state policy; crafted to protect the German people, which were perceived to be under threat by “inferior races.”

The roots of the Nuremberg Laws

The Nuremberg Laws were a major step forward in the ratcheting anti-Semitism of Hitler’s regime. After he came to power in 1933, he and his regime endeavored to implement anti-Semitic policies against the Jews as a race, not as a religion. Ironically, when Hitler and his cabinet passed discriminatory legislation against the Jews, they used synagogue records to determine who was a Jew. The reason was simple. The Nazis could not find a biological marker to distinguish Jews from non-Jews. During the Nazi regime, some scientists performed serological studies and other experiments to see if they could find a way to identify Jews scientifically, but these all failed. Some German anthropologists claimed they could identify Jews by skull measurements and facial features, but these were often subjective and inconclusive.

When perusing synagogue records to determine the identity and fate of an individual, however, Nazi officials did not consider the individual’s actual membership in the synagogue (a clear religious statement). They looked at his or her grandparents, trying to establish Jewish racial ancestry. Nazi officials identified as Jews individuals who were Catholics, Protestants, agnostics, or atheists, because they did not care what religion these individuals currently embraced. Jews were determined entirely by their genealogy, not by their religion. They were targeted for discrimination (and later extermination) based on their grandparents’ religious affiliation.

The legal definition of Jewishness according to the Nuremberg Laws

Why did the Nazis determine Jewish status based on grandparents? In one sense, this could have been a matter of practicality, but also Hitler and other Nazis believed that biological science provided a rationale for not going too far back genealogically. When Nazi officials were debating the way to frame the Nuremberg Laws, some argued that individuals having only one Jewish grandparent could be reabsorbed back into the German Volk, as long as they did not intermarry with Jews. This position won the day and was reflected in the Nuremberg Laws. Hitler reflected this perspective, too, in a monologue in December 1941, when he stated that while those with some recent Jewish heredity often associate with Jews, by the seventh, eighth, or ninth generation, nature takes care of this problem by eliminating the deleterious hereditary traits. He explained that the Mendelian laws of heredity ensured that the Jewish traits would no longer be present by then in the vast majority of cases.

One of the most important commandments in Hitler’s sexual morality—and a centerpiece of the Nuremberg Laws’ second piece of legislation( Law for the Protection of German Blood and German Honor), or simply Blutschutzgesetz—was thou shalt not mix your blood with other races. While the Catholic Church forbade intermarriage between Catholics and non-Catholics, Hitler forbade intermarriage and sexual relations between Germans and Jews, regardless of their religious convictions.

For Hitler, it was a sin—punishable by law after the Nuremberg Laws were promulgated in 1935—for a Catholic of Aryan descent to marry a Catholic with Jewish grandparents. Hitler also forbade intermarriage of Germans with Slavs but encouraged German intermarriage with the Norwegians or Dutch, because they were deemed fellow Nordic peoples.

The Nuremberg Laws were part of the long road toward the Holocaust in the Nazi regime’s attempts to purge its nation of non-Aryan peoples.

The Nuremberg Laws did not use religion to define who should be considered Jewish, but race. Anybody who had three to four Jewish grandparents was considered Jewish, regardless of whether the individual actually belonged to any Jewish community. Many Germans who did not practise Judaism or identified as Jewish suddenly became victims of the Nazi terror. This often included Protestant ministers, nuns, Roman Catholic priests and other Christians who had Jewish grandparents.

 

Kristallnacht

Kristallnacht (Night of the Broken Glass) took place between 9 and 10 November on 1939 when non-Jewish Germans and SA paramilitary killed and arrested thousands of Jews all across Austria and Nazi Germany. It was the first time that Nazi policies against Jews became violent on such a large scale. The name is derived from all of the broken glass in the streets after smashing the windows of synagogues and Jewish-owned stores and buildings.

The Devastation

About 30,000 Jewish people were arrested and taken to concentration camps, while Jewish schools, homes and hospitals were damaged and ransacked. Over 7,000 Jewish businesses were destroyed and over 1,000 Jewish synagogues burned. Foreign journalists reported on it as it happened and their stories shocked the whole world.

Pretext

After receiving the news that his family was expelled from Germany and stuck without any money or food in a refugee camp close to the border Poland where they were refused entry, Herschel Grynszpan assassinated German diplomat Ernst vom Rath in Paris. When Hitler heard news that Vom Rath had died from his wounds on November 9, he left a Nazi dinner party abrubtly. Joseph Goebbels said that the Fuhrer has decided that the party would not organize demonstrations, but should they happen spontaneously, they should not be stopped. His message was clear to the party leaders: they were expected to organize a pogrom.

 

Nazi Germany and the Holocaust

The Holocaust (Ha-shoah in Hebrew) took place between 1933 and 1945 and is associated with the persecution and murder of over 6,000,000 Jews and other people, including gays and Roma people. During the Holocaust, two thirds of all Jews in Europe were killed and one third of the world’s Jewish population, but when did it all start? Anti-Semitism in Germany existed for quite some time before the Nazi rule and the ethnic cleansing plan that they called the “Final Solution” developed gradually, making it hard to tie a set date to the start of the Holocaust. Most historians however agree that the 30th January 1933 when Adolf Hitler became chancellor of Germany, was the main turning point that set everything in motion, marking this date as the start of the Holocaust.

Some Important Early Holocaust Dates

After Hitler came to power, there were however also certain other early events that can be seen as important starting points to what became the Holocaust:

  • April 1, 1933 – only 3 months after Hitler was appointed chancellor, the boycott of Jewish-owned businesses and shops in Germany started.
  • September 15, 1935 – The famous Nuremberg Race Laws were passed, providing a legal basis for the exclusion of Jews from German society and implementing a very restrictive Jewish policy.
  • November 9, 10 1938 – Attacks on the Jews become violent for the first time after the Jewish Hershel Grynszpan assassinates Ernst vom Rath in Paris. In what is now known as Kristallnacht, Jewish businesses, homes and synagogues are looted and destroyed. Many Jews are beaten and killed and 30,000 Jewish people are arrested and taken to concentration camps.

There were obviously other important Holocaust dates, such as the invasion of Poland and establishment of Jewish ghettos, the brutal murder of Jews in the U.S.S.R and the final mass killings at the Nazi death camps, but by that time the Holocaust was already in full swing.

 

Concentration Camps in Nazi Germany

Between 1933 and 1945 the Nazis opened around 20,000 concentration camps in Germany and Nazi-occupied countries to deal with the numbers of people arrested as enemies of the state. The camps were run by the SS and inmates faced harsh, insanitary conditions, poor diet, forced hard labour and ad hoc punishments.

The first camp was opened at Dachau on 22nd March 1933. It was built to detain 5000 political opponents of the Nazi Party, mainly Communists.

In 1934 the Nazis began using inmates of concentration camps as forced labour for personal or camp projects. The work was hard and physically demanding and without sufficient food rations the mortality rate of concentration camp inmates rose dramatically. In 1943 a concentration camp detainee would have had a life expectancy of six weeks.

All concentration camp inmates had to wear a coloured badge to show the nature of their ‘crime’.

Jews Political Anti-Social Jehovah’s Witness
Gypsies Homosexuals Criminal Ethnic Minority

 

Killing Centres

The Nazis operated five main purpose-built killing centres, sometimes referred to as death camps or extermination camps.

Chelmno began operating as a killing centre in December 1941. Victims were put into sealed container trucks which had been specially configured to allow carbon monoxide gas from the exhaust to be pumped inside. The bodies were buried in mass graves. It is estimated that at least 150,000 Jews and gypsies died at this camp.

Belzec opened in March 1942. Victims were brought to the camp by trains, unloaded and taken to gas chambers disguised as showers. Carbon monoxide was them pumped into the chamber. The bodies were buried in mass graves. Around 500,000 Jews perished in this camp together with an unknown number of Poles and gypsies.

Sobibor opened in May 1942. It was constructed and operated in the same manner as Belzec. In the spring of 1943 around 300 prisoners managed to escape. In November 1943 all remaining prisoners in the camp were shot. In total around 167,000 Jews were killed in this camp.

Treblinka II was built next to the Treblinka I concentration camp and opened in July 1942. It was constructed and operated in the same manner as Belzec and Sobibor. The bodies were initially buried in mass graves but later were burned in huge ovens. Around 925,000 Jews were killed in this camp.

Auschwitz-Birkenau (pictured above) was the largest killing centre and was designed to be used as a mass extermination camp for Jews as part of Hitler’s Final Solution. The first gas chamber was operational by March 1942 and by mid 1943 there were a total of four gas chambers. Trains arrived on a daily basis bringing Jews from all German-occupied countries and victims were taken straight to gas chambers disguised as showers. Zyklon B pellets were dropped into the chambers and the bodies were burned in crematoria. It is estimated that between 1 and 2 million Jews were killed in this camp

 

Anschluss: Nazi Germany Launches World War Two

By 1938, Hitler felt strong enough to plan a union or Anschluss with Austria. This was part of his aim to unite all German-speaking people in one country. It was forbidden by the Treaty of Versailles so Hitler had to plan very carefully.

Hitler began by ordering the Austrian Nazi Party to make as much trouble as it could. The Austrian Nazis held parades and marches, set buildings on fire, let off bombs and organised fights. When the Austrian government banned them, Hitler held a meeting with the Austrian leader Kurt Schuschnigg. Hitler threatened to invade Austria unless Schuschnigg gave all important jobs in his government to Nazis. Schuschnigg compromised by appointing the Nazi Seyss-Inquart as Minister of the Interior.

France, and Britain both refused to help Austria so on March 9th 1938 Schuschnigg announced his intention to hold a plebiscite to allow the Austrian people to decide for themselves whether to join with Germany or not. Hitler moved troops to the Austrian border and demanded that Schuschnigg call off the plebiscite. Schuschnigg had no choice but to comply and resign.

Seyss-Inquart, Nazi Minister of the Interior took his place and immediately asked Hitler to send the German army into Austria to help restore order. Hitler was now able to enter Austria on 13th March by ‘invitation’. Along with the army came the Gestapo and the SS to deal with opponents of the Nazis. Schuschnigg found himself cleaning public toilets while Austria’s Jews were made to get down and scrub streets on their hands and knees. Before long they would find themselves in concentration camps while the Austrian people lived under a Nazi regime of terror.

Having succeeded in gaining Austria, Hitler then used similar tactics to gain the Sudetenland area of Czechoslovakia that contained over three million Germans.

 

The Role of Women in Nazi Germany

Nazi women, far fewer in number than their male counterparts in the Third Reich, still played a critical role in the lead-up to and beginning of the Second World War. After all, Adolf Hitler had very clear ideas about the role of women in the Third Reich.

Women were to be the homemakers of society, cooking, cleaning, keeping house and making themselves healthy and beautiful for their racially pure husbands with whom they would produce numerous children.

From school age onwards girls were prepared for their future role and were taught appropriate subjects such as cooking and needlework as well as health and beauty.

The guidelines for being an ideal woman in Nazi Germany were as follows:

  • Women should not work for a living
  • Women should not wear trousers
  • Women should not wear makeup
  • Women should not wear high-heeled shoes
  • Women should not dye or perm their hair
  • Women should not go on slimming diets

On 5th July 1933 the Law for the Encouragement of Marriage was passed. This act gave all newly wed couples a loan of 1000 marks which was reduced by 25% for each child they had. If the couple went on to have four children the loan was wiped out.

The picture (above) entitled Family, painted by Wolf Willrich shows the ideal Aryan German family. The young blond-haired, blue-eyed couple are seated outside their rural cottage with their four children. The mother wears a plain dress and is shown suckling the couple’s newborn baby. She wears no make up and has her long hair in a bun. The father is proudly looking at his newborn child with a protective arm around his wife and elder daughter. The eldest daughter wears a plain dress and has her hair in pigtails. She is watching her mother, seeming to wish for the time when she has a baby of her own. The couple’s eldest son wears his Hitler youth uniform and is making earth pots. He is watched by his younger sister who is shown holding a doll.

Unmarried women were also encouraged to have children and for those without a husband they could visit the local Lebensborn where they could be made pregnant by a racially pure member of the SS.

On the birthdate of Hitler’s mother, August 12th, awards of the Motherhood Cross were given to women who had produced the most children. A gold cross was awarded to mothers of 8 or more children, silver to mothers of 6 children and bronze to mothers of four children.

Not all women approved of Hitler’s view of their role. Many of these were intellectuals – doctors, scientists, lawyers, judges, teachers etc who did not want to give up their jobs and stay at home. In protest against Hitler’s anti-feminist policies they joined left-wing opposition groups. If caught they faced being sent to concentration camps as political prisoners.

In October 1933, the first concentration camp for females was opened at Moringen, Germany.  In 1938 a second camp for women was established at Lichtenburg and in 1939 a third at Ravensbruck.

In 1937, as Germany prepared for war, Nazi women were needed to supplement the male workforce and a new law was passed which stipulated that all women should work a ‘Duty Year’ of patriotic work in one of the country’s factories to further the Nazi cause. Some women were persuaded by advertising posters to volunteer for the SS support service for women. The Nazi women selected were mostly lower or lower middle class; after undergoing a period of training they were put to work as female guards at the concentration camps.

 

The Josef Mengele Experiments

Josef Mengele was an anthropologist and SS physician, who is infamous for his inhuman medical experiments on the prisoners in Auschwitz, a Nazi concentration camp. He used to be an assistant to Dr. Otmar von Verschuer, a scientist who did a lot of research on twins, and did his own thesis on the genetic factors that can cause a cleft chin or cleft palate, for which he earned a cum laude doctorate. All of this may have been his inspiration for the “research” he did on the Jewish and Gypsy twins at Auschwitz.

Type of Experiments

Mengele was not the head physician at Auschwitz, but he was part of a team of doctors that had to select which people were suitable for work and which had to be gassed right away. With so many subjects to experiment on, he grabbed the opportunity to continue his previous research on genetics. He was particularly interested in twins as twin research was seen at the time to be the ideal way to determine how the environment or human heredity influence the human body. Most of his subjects were children, and he would reportedly do blood transfusions from the one twin to the other, do amputations and try to sew it onto the other twin, stitch two twins together to form Siamese twins, infect one twin with typhus or another disease and many other experiments. More often than not, the twins died during the procedures or he would have them killed afterwards so he can do an autopsy. If one twin died from a disease, he would often kill the other as well to mark the differences between the sick and healthy subjects.

Mengele was also very interested in heterochromia, where people have irisis of different colors and he would collect eyes and bodyparts of his victims and send it through for research. He would also inject chemicals in victims’ eyes to attempt to change their eye color. Other subjects of interests included dwarfs, people with deformities and he also documented a disease that broke out in camp, Noma. He also experimented on pregnant women before sending them off to the gas chambers (they were not fit for work, after all) and caused incestuous pregnancies, which he researched. He tried sex change operations, removing organs and operating on victims without anaesthesia. He also tried to prove that Jewish and Gypsy people were genetically inferior through several experiments. The Mengele experiments were all done in secrecy but most of the information we have today are because of the accounts of Dr. Miklos Nyiszli, a prisoner-physician who was forced to assist Mengele.

 

Deaths of Minority Groups in Nazi Germany

Adolf Hitler was familiar with the work of 19th century scientists who spoke of Northern European blond-haired, blue-eyed peoples as being Aryan, a ‘Master Race’ because they had remained racially pure throughout the ages.

In his book, Mein Kampf (Mein Struggle), Hitler explained how he believed that the German people were the true Aryan race and that their purity and superiority had to be maintained at all costs by prohibiting intermarriage and expelling or eliminating those who had no place in the master race. Hitler also explained how the Aryans had been responsible for all major advances in civilisation but that the Jews wanted to destroy everything they had achieved.

The persecution of those who did not fit Hitler’s ideal Aryan master race began soon after Hitler became Chancellor of Germany in January 1933. They included Jews, homosexuals, gypsies, the disabled, Jehovah’s witnesses, political opponents, the unemployed, the homeless and ethnic minorities.

As a result of the Nazi’s desire to achieve the perfect Aryan master race:

7 million non-Jewish Soviet people were killed
6 million Jews were killed
2.8 million Soviet prisoners of war were killed
2.5 million non-Jewish Poles were killed
1.5 million non-Jewish Poles were sent to forced labour concentration camps
500,000 gypsies were killed
400,000 people were forcibly sterilised
250,000 disabled people were killed
15,000 homosexuals were sent to concentration camps
10,000 Jehovah’s Witnesses were sent to concentration camps

 

Bibliography of Nazi Germany

German Election Results – Trotsky Internet Archive

Axis History Factbook – Marcus Wendel

Mein Kampf – Adolf Hitler