Nazi Germany, or the Third Reich, is the popular name for the country of Germany while governed by Adolf Hitler and his National Socialist German Workers' Party (NSDAP) from 1933 to 1945.
On 30 January 1933, Adolf Hitler was appointed Chancellor of Germany.
Although he initially headed a coalition government, he quickly
eliminated his government partners. The Nazi regime restored economic
prosperity and ended mass unemployment using heavy spending on the
military, while suppressing labor unions and strikes. The return of
prosperity gave it enormous popularity, and no serious opposition ever
emerged (apart from an assassination attempt by aristocrats in the army
in 1944). The Gestapo (secret police) under Heinrich Himmler
destroyed the liberal, Socialist and Communist opposition and
persecuted the Jews, trying to force them into exile, while taking
their property. The Party took control of the courts, local government,
and all civic organizations except the Protestant and Catholic
churches. All expressions of public opinion were controlled by Hitler's
propaganda minister, Joseph Goebbels,
who made effective use of film, mass rallies, and Hitler's hynoptic
speaking. The Nazi state idolized Hitler as its FÃ¼hrer (leaders),
putting all powers in his hands. Nazi propaganda centered on Hitler and
was quite effective in creating what historians called the "Hitler
Myth"--that Hitler was all-wise and that any mistakes or failures by
others would be corrected when brought to his attention. In fact Hitler
had a narrow range of interests and decision making was diffused among
overlapping, feuding power centers; on some issues he was passive,
simply assenting to pressures from whomever had his ear. All top
officials reported to Hitler and followed his basic policies, but they
had considerable autonomy on a daily basis.
Hitler's diplomatic strategy in the 1930s was to make seemingly
reasonable demands, threatening war if they were not met. When
opponents tried to appease him, he accepted the gains that were
offered, then went to the next target. That aggressive strategy worked
as Germany pulled out of the League of Nations (1933), rejected the Versailles Treaty
and began to re-arm (1935), won back the Saar (1935), remilitarized the
Rhineland (1936), formed an alliance ("axis") with Mussolini's Italy
(1936), sent massive military aid to Franco in the Spanish Civil War
(1936-39), seized Austria (1938), took over Czechoslovakia after the
British and French appeasement of the Munich Agreement of 1938, formed a peace pact with Stalin's Russia in August 1939, and finally invaded Poland in September 1939. Briatain and France declared war and World War II began--somewhat sooner than the Nazis expected or were ready for.
During the war, Germany conquered or controlled most of Europe and Northern Africa. The Nazis persecuted and killed millions of Jews, Romani people and others in the Holocaust Final Solution. Despite its Axis alliance with other nations, mainly Italy and Japan, by 8 May 1945 Germany had been defeated by the Allied Powers, and was occupied by the Soviet Union, US, UK and France.