Portal:Nazi Germany

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Nazi Germany

World War II in Europe, 1942.svg
Nazi Germany and the Third Reich are common names 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), commonly known as the Nazi Party. On 30 January 1933 Hitler became Chancellor of Germany. Thereafter, the Nazi Party began to quickly eliminate all political opposition and consolidate their power. Racism, especially antisemitism, was a main tenet of society in Nazi Germany. The Gestapo (secret state police) and SS under Heinrich Himmler destroyed the liberal, competing socialist, and communist opposition, and persecuted and murdered the Jews. The state idolized Hitler as its Führer ("leader"). Germany was transformed into a totalitarian state where nearly all aspects of life were controlled by the state. The Germanic peoples—also referred to as the Nordic race—were considered by the Nazis to be the purest representation of Aryanism, and therefore the master race.

Germany made increasingly aggressive demands, threatening war if they were not met. Britain and France responded with appeasement, hoping Hitler would finally be satisfied. Hitler invaded Poland in September 1939, starting World War II in Europe. In alliance with Benito Mussolini's Italy, Germany conquered France and most of Europe by 1940, and threatened its remaining major foe: Great Britain. Concentration camps, established as early as 1933, were used to hold political prisoners and opponents of the regime. The number of camps quadrupled between 1939 and 1942 to 300+, as slave-laborers from across Europe, Jews, political prisoners, criminals, homosexuals, gypsies, the mentally ill and others were imprisoned. The system which began as an instrument of political oppression culminated in the mass genocide of Jews and others deemed undesirable in the Holocaust.

Following the German invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941, the tide turned against the Third Reich with the major military defeats of the Battle of Stalingrad and the Battle of Kursk in 1943. The Soviet counter-attacks became the largest land battles in history. Germany was overrun in 1945 by the Soviets from the east and the Allies from the west. After the surrender of Nazi Germany, the victorious Allies initiated a policy of denazification and put the Nazi leadership on trial for war crimes at the Nuremberg Trials.

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Map showing the course of the battle from 8–17 August 1944
The Falaise Pocket or Battle of the Falaise Pocket (12–21 August 1944) was the decisive engagement of the Battle of Normandy in the Second World War. A pocket was formed around Falaise, Calvados, in which the German Army Group B, with the 7th Army and the Fifth Panzer Army (formerly Panzergruppe West) were encircled by the Western Allies. The battle is also referred to as the Battle of the Falaise Gap, after the corridor which the Germans sought to maintain to allow their escape and is sometimes referred to as the Chambois Pocket, the Falaise-Chambois Pocket, the Argentan–Falaise Pocket or the Trun–Chambois Gap. The battle resulted in the destruction of most of Army Group B west of the Seine river, which opened the way to Paris and the German border for the Allied armies.

Following Operation Cobra, the American breakout from the Normandy beachhead, rapid advances were made to the south and south-east by the Third U.S. Army under the command of General George Patton. Despite lacking the resources to defeat the U.S. breakthrough and simultaneous British and Canadian offensives south of Caumont and Caen, Field Marshal Günther von Kluge, the commander of Army Group B, was not permitted by Adolf Hitler to withdraw but was ordered to conduct a counter-offensive at Mortain against the U.S. breakthrough. Four depleted panzer divisions were not enough to defeat the First U.S. Army. Operation Lüttich was a disaster, which drove the Germans deeper into the Allied envelopment.

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Albert Kesselring (1940)
Albert Kesselring (1885 – 1960) was a German Luftwaffe Generalfeldmarschall during World War II. In a military career that spanned both World Wars, Kesselring became one of Nazi Germany's most skilful commanders and was one of the most popular generals of World War II with the rank and file.

During World War II he commanded air forces in the invasions of Poland and France, the Battle of Britain, and Operation Barbarossa. As Commander-in-Chief South, he was overall German commander in the Mediterranean theatre, which included the operations in North Africa. In the final campaign of the war, he commanded German forces on the Western Front. He won the respect of his Allied opponents for his military accomplishments, but his record was marred by massacres committed by troops under his command in Italy.

After the war, Kesselring was tried for war crimes and sentenced to death. The sentence was subsequently commuted to life imprisonment. A political and media campaign resulted in his release in 1952, ostensibly on health grounds. He was one of only three Generalfeldmarschalls to publish his memoirs, entitled Soldat bis zum letzten Tag (A Soldier to the Last Day).

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December 1941. Fresh forces going to the front from Moscow.
The Battle of Moscow refers to two periods of strategically significant fighting on a 600 km (370 mi) sector of the Eastern Front during World War II. It took place between October 1941 and January 1942. The Soviet defensive effort frustrated Hitler's attack on Moscow, capital of the USSR and the largest Soviet city. Moscow was one of the primary military and political objectives for Axis forces in their invasion of the Soviet Union.

Initially, the Soviet forces conducted a strategic defence of the Moscow Oblast by constructing three defensive belts, and deploying newly raised reserve armies as well as bringing troops from the Siberian and Far Eastern Military Districts. Subsequently, as the German offensives were halted, a Soviet strategic counter-offensive and smaller-scale offensive operations were executed to force German armies back to the positions around the cities of Oryol, Vyazma and Vitebsk, nearly surrounding three German armies in the process.

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Eva Braun's 1940 picture of Hitler and Mussolini
Credit: Eva Braun (1940)

Eva Braun's 1940 picture of Hitler and Mussolini


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The Bismark in 1940
Bismarck was the first of two Bismarck-class battleships built for the German Kriegsmarine. Named after Chancellor Otto von Bismarck, the primary force behind the unification of Germany in 1871, the ship was laid down at the Blohm & Voss shipyard in Hamburg in July 1936 and launched two and a half years later in February 1939. Work was completed in August 1940, when she was commissioned into the German fleet. Bismarck and her sister ship Tirpitz were the largest battleships ever built by Germany, and two of the largest built by any European power. She was destroyed by a pair of British battleships on 27 May 1941.
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