This article is part of the
History of Germany series.
 Holy Roman Empire
 German Confederation
 German Empire
 Weimar Republic
 Nazi Germany
 Germany since 1945

Nazi Germany or the Third Reich commonly refers to Germany in the years between 1933 and 1945, when it was under the firm control of Adolf Hitler's dictatorship and the ideology of National Socialism (a variant of fascism and totalitarianism).

The term Nazi is a short form of the German Nationalsozialismus; the ideology was institutionalized in the NSDAP (Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei) , the National Socialist German Workers' Party, or Nazi Party for short.

The Nazi regime was characterized by political control of every aspect of society (Gleichschaltung) in a quest for racial (Aryan, Nortic white), social and cultural purity. The Nazi Party pursued its aims through persecution of those considered impure, especially against targeted minority groups such as Jews, Gypsies, and homosexuals, as well as political opponents. For political opposition during this period, see German resistance movement.

This persecution reached a peak in the last years of the regime, in which some 6 million Jews, 10 million Slavs, and sundry others, were systematically killed. This genocide is referred to as the Holocaust in English, "Shoah" in Hebrew. (The Nazis used the euphemistic German term "Endlösung" -- the "final solution.")

Table of contents
1 Chronology of events
2 World War II
3 Organizations in The Third Reich
4 Related Articles

Chronology of events

World War II

Start of the War

In September of 1939 Germany's invasion of Poland led Britain, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa and France to declare war on Germany. After the capitulation of Poland the war entered a period of relative inactivity known as the Phony War. This ended when Germany invaded Denmark and Norway in April of 1940 and the Netherlands, Belgium and France in May. All of the invaded countries swiftly capitulated and the forces of Britain and its Commonwealth allies suffered a humiliating defeat in Norway (see British campaign in Norway) and a near-disastrous retreat from France (see Battle of Dunkirk). Britain was threatened with an amphibious invasion (see Operation Sealion) but during the Battle of Britain the Luftwaffe failed to achieve air superiority and the invasion was postponed indefinitely.

North Africa

After Italy's declaration of War on Britain and France in June of 1940 Italian forces in Libya came under punitive attack from the British in Egypt. The Italian forces soon took the initiative by occupying British Somaliland in August and invading Egypt in September. The British and Commonwealth forces initially lost ground but managed to turn the situation around after reinforcements were sent to the region in December. In February of 1941 the Afrika Korps were sent to the Libya to reinforce their Italian allies and a hard fought campaign ensued.

South Eastern Europe

The Italian invasion of Greece in December of 1940 was a disaster and Italian forces were driven back into Albania which Italy had occupied in 1939. Germany attacked Yugoslavia and Greece in May of 1941 to assist their allies and prevent any possibility of disruption to the production of oil from their oilfields of Romania by hostile forces.

Soviet Union

The Soviet Union had invaded Poland in an agreement with Germany in 1939 (see Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact) and occupied half of the country. The USSR seemed oblivious of German preparations to invade and made few defensive preparations. The German campaigns in Greece and North Africa delayed the planned invasion by several weeks and a large period good weather had been lost by the time the invasion was launched on June 22 1941. For details of this campaign see Operation Barbarossa.

The first major defeats

Germany declared war on the United States immediately after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in December of 1941. The USA had been supplying and offering increasing non-combative support to the British since the outbreak of the war and now the full force of the American military and immense war production capbility were brought to bear in the conflict against Germany. The first major defeat was in North Africa at the second Battle of El Alamein in 1942. Around about the same time the tide was turning for the Germans in Russia. The defeat at the Battle of Stalingrad shocked many in the German High Command and the realisation that the German forces were not invincible began to permeate through the minds of the German people.

Italian Armistice

The German and Italian defeat in North Africa allowed the Allied forces to contemplate opening up a new theatre of war in the south. Sicily was invaded in July of 1943 leading to the overthrow and imprisonment of Mussolini. In September the Italian mainland was invaded. Shortly afterwards an armistice was signed and Italian troops found themselves arrested and imprisoned by the Germans. The Germans fought on in Italy and in October the new Italian government declared war on Germany. The campaign in Italy eventually bogged down as the focus of attention for the Western allied was drawn to opening up a new front.

Defeat in the East, the Invasion of Normandy and final defeat

In the east the Germans had been steadily withdrawing in the face of increasingly capable Red Army offensives. While the Battle of Kursk in July 1943 was not an overwhelming victory for the Soviets it seriously depleted the Germans arsenal of much needed armoured vehicles and Germany was unable to launch another serious offensive in the east. By the time of D-Day invasion on 6 June 1944, German forces were stretched thinly on three fronts. By August, Soviet forces had crossed into eastern Germany. Allied forces crossed the Rhine a month later. In December of 1944 a last ditch effort to strike a blow to the western allies (The Ardennes Offensive) ground to a halt through to lack of fuel and supplies. By the beginning of 1945 the regime was beginning to disintegrate. In April, Hitler committed suicide and Germany finally surrendered in the first week of May.


After the war, surviving Nazi leaders were put on trial by the Allied tribunal at Nuremberg for crimes against humanity. In all non-fascist European countries there were established legal purges to punish the members of the former Nazi and Fascist parties. An uncontroled punishment hit the Nazi children and the children fathered by German soldiers in occupied territories, the so-called lebensborn children.

Organizations in The Third Reich

The leaders of Nazi Germany created a large number of different organisations for the purpose of helping them in staying in power. The character of the most of them is typical for totalitarian regimes, although most countries do have armed forces of some sort.


Paramilitary organisations

State police

Reich Central Security Office (RSHA - Reichssicherheitshauptamt)

Political organizations

Prominent persons in Nazi Germany

Nazi Party leaders and officials



Noted victims

Noted refugees

Terms closely related to Nazi Germany

Many of the following terms are German expressions that are now used as words in English -- a short english description is given here and the explanation can be found in the articles themselves. See also List of German expressions in English.

Related Articles