In the words of Indiana Jones: "Nazis. I hate these guys."
People almost universally agree that Nazism is one of the most disgusting ideologies ever to darken the planet. At its core is a set of beliefs, each one worse than the last. First, Nazis embraced a fundamentally racist and pseudoscientific worldview about human potential and morality, that justifies enslaving and murdering those from races that said "science" labels inferior. This was expanded to include anyone deemed genetically deficient, such as the disabled and the homosexual.
Second, Nazi policy permitted wars of conquest, with colonization of countries without their consent, with the best art and culture of those lands to be looted and taken for Nazis to enjoy themselves, and their populations then exploited for gain.
Third, Nazi society itself was arranged with a fascist leadership, zero freedom of speech, a patriarchal hierarchy that reduced women to broodmares and little else, and a corporatist economic structure that doled out wealth and advantages to friends of the regime, using a false populism to promise comfort to the working man while screwing him behind his back.
Fortunately, only once in human history has this despicable creed managed to take over a country. Even so, while it only happened once and lasted just fifteen years, it wiped out millions of people, invented industrialized genocide and leveled whole nations.
It's vital to know how it happened, so that we can truly say, "Never again." Let's see whether you know the facts of this horrific past and fill in any gaps.
Nazi Germany is the name for the period of German History from 1933-1945 when Hitler ruled over Germany. This period is also known as The Third Reich and the National Socialist Period.
The 1919 Treaty of Versailles demanded that Germany make reparations payments for damages caused in World War I, the equivalent of $33 billion US. The government printed mass amounts of money to pay off their debt, which resulted in economic disaster and food riots. The Great Depression also led to massive unemployment, creating a vulnerable Germany, which the Nazi party took full advantage of.
In 1933, Adolf Hitler was appointed chancellor of Germany by the president of the Weimar Republic. After this, the Nazi Party began to destroy all political opposition in the quest for total control.
Post World War I Germany was a chaotic and economically depressed place, and Germans felt internationally embarrassed. The Nazi Party promised to return them to their former glory and comfort, partially through creating an ethnically pure society by removing Jewish people and others considered "undesirable."
In 1934 Hitler became the Führer, or total leader, of Germany. His word was the ultimate law and under his rule, disorganized factions of the government fought for his favor.
The Nazis were a right-wing fascist regime obsessed with racial purity. They considered Germanic peoples the master race, and sought to force out or kill others they considered impure.
The Nazi party killed, jailed and suppressed all political opposition. Members of the communist, socialist and liberal opposition were murdered, imprisoned or exiled, leading to the creation of a one-party state.
It is estimated that 15-20 million people died as a result of the Holocaust. This includes Jewish people, Soviet POWs, Roma, religious people, political opposition, the mentally ill, the disabled, and LGBTQI people.
While the Nazis targeted many groups, they murdered about 1/3 of the entire world's Jewish population and 2/3 of Europe's. It is estimated that 80-90% of those who died in concentration camps were Jewish.
Nazi Germany began making aggressive territorial demands and threatening war early in its existence. It first seized Austria in 1938 and then Czechoslovakia in 1939.
The Nazi invasion of Poland in 1939 began World War II in Europe. The Axis Powers fought the Allies until the 1945 Allied victory.
By 1940, the Nazis had taken most of Europe and were starting to threaten the UK. At the height of their power in 1942, they held control of almost all of Europe with the exception of Portugal, Spain, Switzerland, Ireland, The UK and Sweden.
The original Axis Powers were Germany, Italy and Japan, who joined forces out of a shared desire to expand. Hoping for preferential economic treatment, protection from Soviet invasion, or bowing to German pressure, a number of European countries joined the Axis Powers.
Operation Barbarossa was the code name for the Axis Powers' failed 1941 invasion of the Soviet Union. The Axis and Soviet armies fought the largest battles in the history of world warfare, leading to over 5 million military casualties and the decline of Nazi power.
World War II pitted the Axis Powers against the Allied Powers. The principal Axis Powers were Japan, Germany and Italy. The "Big Four" among the Allied Powers were the Soviet Union, America, The UK and China.
On June 6, 1944, Allies invaded Normandy, France in the largest seaborne invasion in history. This successful invasion led to the liberation of northwestern Europe from Nazi control.
Following D-Day, Allied forces, led by the US and UK, conquered Germany on the Western Front. The Soviet Union took control of the much of Eastern Europe and Germany itself.
After World War I, Germany was economically destroyed, leading to widespread poverty and unemployment. The Nazis returned economic stability, which caused many average citizens to overlook the atrocities they were committing.
Hitler refused to admit defeat as Allied forces closed in around Germany on two fronts. This led to massive destruction and war-related deaths throughout 1944 and 1945.
In the closing months of World War II, Hitler refused to admit defeat and demanded that the war be fought to the last man. He had anyone who did not appear "ready to fight" court-martialled - and thousands of people were killed.
While Nazi Germany murdered many, those who lived under it had no civil liberties or rights under the regime. Almost all German civil liberties were taken away in 1933, and it was done with public support due to fear mongering and clever propaganda.
In 1933 the Enabling Act was passed. This allowed Hitler and his cabinet to make and pass laws, even if they were unconstitutional, without any input from the rest of the government.
The Nazi Party killed, exiled or jailed all opposing parties, and made founding new parties illegal. There was only one party with total control in Nazi Germany.
Joseph Goebbels was the Reich Minister of Propaganda of Nazi Germany and one of Hitler's closest associates. He fed the German people strategic information and misinformation to keep them under control.
The first concentration camp built by the Nazi Party was Dachau. It was initially intended for political prisoners.
First, laws were implemented which stripped Jewish citizens of their rights. A constant onslaught of legalized oppression and propaganda worked to desensitize many citizens.
Despite both belonging to the Axis Powers, there was little actual communication and cooperation between the two countries. There was little actual practical coordination.
Germany invaded Poland in 1939. Britain and France declared war on Germany 2 days later, which began World War II.
In 1941, Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Days later, Germany declared war on America.
Allies bombed factories and oil refineries which provided valuable resources to the Nazis. This made them unable to supply their troops as they suffered terrible losses on multiple fronts.
In the last days of World War II, when defeat was inevitable but before official surrender, Hitler and his longtime partner Eva Braun married and then committed suicide together. This was on April 30th, 1945.
Ethnic Germans who did not comply with Nazi laws and propaganda faced dire consequences. They could be killed, arrested, jailed, have their rights stripped away and even be sent to concentration camps.
In early May 1945, the vast majority of remaining German forces surrendered unconditionally to the Allies. In areas where it was known that the Red Army was coming, some committed suicide.
On May 8, 1945, the German Instrument of Surrender was signed. This marked the end of World War II in Europe.