Nazi Germany

German Reich (1933–1943)
Deutsches Reich

Greater German Reich (1943–1945)
Großdeutsches Reich

1933–1945
Anthems: Das Lied der Deutschen
("The Song of the Germans")
and Horst-Wessel-Lied[a]
("The Horst Wessel Song")
Germany's territorial control at its greatest extent during World War II (late 1942): *   German Reich[b] *   Civilian-administered occupied territories *   Military-administered occupied territories
Germany's territorial control at its greatest extent
during World War II (late 1942):
Administrative divisions of Germany, January 1944
Administrative divisions of Germany,
January 1944
Capital
and largest city
Berlin
52°31′N 13°23′E / 52°31′N 13°23′E / 52.517; 13.383
Common languagesGerman
Religion
[1]
Demonym(s)German
GovernmentNazi, one-party, totalitarian dictatorship
Head of State 
• 1933–1934
Paul von Hindenburg (President)
• 1934–1945
Adolf Hitler (Führer)
• 1945
Karl Dönitz (President)
Chancellor 
• 1933–1945
Adolf Hitler
• 1945
Joseph Goebbels
LegislatureReichstag
• State council
Reichsrat (abolished 1934)
Historical eraInterwar / World War II
30 January 1933
23 March 1933
• Anschluss
12 March 1938
1 September 1939
30 April 1945
• Surrender
8 May 1945
23 May 1945
Area
1939[c]633,786 km2 (244,706 sq mi)
1940[2][b]823,505 km2 (317,957 sq mi)
Population
• 1939[3]
79,375,281
• 1940[2][b]
109,518,183
CurrencyReichsmark (ℛℳ)
ISO 3166 codeDE
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Weimar Republic
Saar Basin
Austria
Czechoslovakia
Lithuania
Poland
Danzig
Yugoslavia
France
Luxembourg
Occupied Germany
Occupied Austria
Poland
Czechoslovakia
Yugoslavia
France
Luxembourg
Soviet Union

Nazi Germany is the common English name for Germany between 1933 and 1945, when Adolf Hitler and his Nazi Party (NSDAP) controlled the country through a dictatorship. Under Hitler's rule, Germany was transformed into a totalitarian state where nearly all aspects of life were controlled by the government. The official name of the state was Deutsches Reich (German Reich) until 1943 and Großdeutsches Reich (Greater German Reich) from 1943 to 1945. Nazi Germany is also known as the Third Reich (Drittes Reich), meaning "Third Realm" or "Third Empire", the first two being the Holy Roman Empire (800–1806) and the German Empire (1871–1918). The Nazi regime ended after the Allies defeated Germany in May 1945, ending World War II in Europe.

Hitler was appointed Chancellor of Germany by the President of the Weimar Republic, Paul von Hindenburg, on 30 January 1933. The NSDAP then began to eliminate all political opposition and consolidate its power. Hindenburg died on 2 August 1934 and Hitler became dictator of Germany by merging the offices and powers of the Chancellery and Presidency. A national referendum held 19 August 1934 confirmed Hitler as sole Führer (leader) of Germany. All power was centralised in Hitler's person and his word became the highest law. The government was not a coordinated, co-operating body, but a collection of factions struggling for power and Hitler's favour. In the midst of the Great Depression, the Nazis restored economic stability and ended mass unemployment using heavy military spending and a mixed economy. Using deficit spending, the regime undertook extensive public works, including the construction of Autobahnen (motorways). The return to economic stability boosted the regime's popularity.

Racism, especially antisemitism, was a central ideological feature of the regime. The Germanic peoples were considered by the Nazis to be the master race, the purest branch of the Aryan race. Discrimination and persecution against Jews and Romani people began in earnest after the seizure of power. The first concentration camps were established in March 1933. Jews and others deemed undesirable were imprisoned, and liberals, socialists, and communists were killed, imprisoned, or exiled. Christian churches and citizens that opposed Hitler's rule were oppressed, and many leaders imprisoned. Education focused on racial biology, population policy, and fitness for military service. Career and educational opportunities for women were curtailed. Recreation and tourism were organised via the Strength Through Joy program, and the 1936 Summer Olympics showcased Germany on the international stage. Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels made effective use of film, mass rallies, and Hitler's hypnotic oratory to influence public opinion. The government controlled artistic expression, promoting specific art forms and banning or discouraging others.

The Nazi regime dominated neighbours through military threats in the years leading up to war. Nazi Germany made increasingly aggressive territorial demands, threatening war if these were not met. It seized Austria and almost all of Czechoslovakia in 1938 and 1939. Germany signed a non-aggression pact with the USSR, and invaded Poland on 1 September 1939, launching World War II in Europe. By early 1941, Germany controlled much of Europe. Reichskommissariats took control of conquered areas and a German administration was established in the remainder of Poland. Germany exploited the raw materials and labour of both its occupied territories and its allies. Einsatzgruppen paramilitary death squads inside the occupied territories conducted mass killings of millions of Jews and other peoples deemed undesirable by the state. Many others were imprisoned, worked to death, or murdered in Nazi concentration camps and extermination camps. This genocide is known as the Holocaust.

While the German invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941 was initially successful, the Soviet resurgence and entry of the United States into the war meant the Wehrmacht (German armed forces) lost the initiative on the Eastern Front in 1943 and by late 1944 had been pushed back to the pre-1939 border. Large-scale aerial bombing of Germany escalated in 1944 and the Axis powers were driven back in Eastern and Southern Europe. After the Allied invasion of France, Germany was conquered by the Soviet Union from the east and the other Allies from the west, and capitulated in May 1945. Hitler's refusal to admit defeat led to massive destruction of German infrastructure and additional war-related deaths in the closing months of the war. The victorious Allies initiated a policy of denazification and put many of the surviving Nazi leadership on trial for war crimes at the Nuremberg trials.

Name

The official name of the state was Deutsches Reich from 1933 to 1943 and Großdeutsches Reich from 1943 to 1945, while common English terms are "Nazi Germany" and "Third Reich". The latter, adopted by Nazi propaganda as Drittes Reich, was first used in Das Dritte Reich, a 1923 book by Arthur Moeller van den Bruck. The book counted the Holy Roman Empire (962–1806) as the first Reich and the German Empire (1871–1918) as the second.[4]