WORLD WAR 2
(1939 - 1945)
THE GERMAN REICH DURING
WORLD WAR 2
World War 2 evolved from the European War, which started on September 1, 1939, when Germany invaded Poland. Many historians think it was the continuation of an
unresolved conflict that initially began in 1914 with the outbreak of World
War 1. Putting inhumane and barbaric behaviors aside, the narration of any war always depends on which side won. Human abysses were always brushed under the carpet in the
histories of different nations. However, one of the darkest ideologies failed, and the former Allies brought many of the most shocking human behaviors of National Socialism to light. The emotionless persecution of a whole religious group and
those considered inferior was a humanitarian disaster. So was the unconditional bombardment of German cities that did not distinguish between civilians and soldiers, grown-ups and adolescents. In
the end, those who followed the guidance of one leader were for a very long time deprived of their national dignity. Many lost their patriotism, and all of them lost their
The British Prime minister Neville Chamberlain seemed becalmed when he gave his famous "Peace for our time" statement on September 30, 1938. He had just convinced Hitler not to use any military force to solve the conflict in Czechoslovakia concerning Sudeten Germans. One year later, the world was upside down.
On September 1, 1939, the Germans invaded Poland. On September 3, France and Great Britain declared war on the German Reich but withheld their troops. On September
28, Poland surrendered, and German troops took control of the country. The war against Poland was also for the purpose of carving out living space in the east for the German nation (The
strategical eastward movement can be compared with the ideology which justified the westward movement in North America). The effective deployment of tanks and airplanes made Germany's swift
victory possible, a strategy that became known as "Blitzkrieg." The former state of Poland was divided by Germany and Russia. The German Reich implemented special criteria for the Polish
■ Group 1: Poles who were capable of being turned into citizens of the Reich.
■ Group 2: Poles who were given a German ID and were on trial to see if they could be made into true German citizens. Some of them may had Aryan features but were not "Germanized" enough and remained dependants.
■ Group 3: "Protected" Poles who were there to serve their German superiors.
■ Group 4: Jews, Romani people, and people who were in rebellion against their new regime. Their journey usually ended in one of the concentration camps (right there in
Such a division may have manifested in the collective memory of Poles today.
The so-called "Weser Übung" (Weser Exercise) and the Western campaign were a success and gave Hitler the image of the greatest field commander of
all time. Denmark, Norway, the Netherlands, Belgium, and Luxemburg were all successfully invaded by German troops in 1940. After France's capitulation on June 16, 1940, The Nazi Party lay on his
feet. Tank units and the Blitzkrieg strategy contributed to the victories. The ceasefire with France was officially signed on June 22 in Compiègne. The Germans used the same railroad car in which
they were forced to sign the truce with France back in 1918. One day later, Hitler visited Paris, and pictures of him in front of the Eifel Tower went viral and made headlines across the
France was divided into the bigger northern part of German occupation and a southern part in which a puppet government was implemented. After the victory against
France, Hitler turned his attention to Great Britain and sought a peace agreement. This undertaking failed, not least because Neville Chamberlain was replaced by Winston Churchill, who was
willing to fight against Germany to preserve Britain's naval power in Europe.
"Seelöwe" (Sea Lion) was launched against Great Britain on August 13, 1940. Hitler wanted to win absolute
control in the air. Therefore, German planes flew massive attacks and bombed the British aircraft industry and commercial centers during night flights. Still, the British defense could not be
broken, and the British radar caused high casualties. The aerial battle was the first biggest defeat for the German Luftwaffe. The submarine war to weaken the British economy was only, in the beginning, a
To keep the United States out of the war, Germany signed with Italy and Japan the so-called Tripartite Pact on September 27, 1940. Hungary, Romania, and Slovakia
joined the pact in November of the same year, Bulgaria and Yugoslavia in March 1941. The alliance was created to assist one another politically, economically, and with military force if one of
them was attacked by a Power at present not involved in the European conflict. The strategic Tripartite Pact was intended to keep the United States out of the European War and exclude the Soviet
Union because they claimed territories in Romania. It was invoked in 1940 during the Balkans Campaign when Germany supported Italy and again in 1941 when Italy asked Germany for help to fight the
British in North Africa. The Italian autocrat Benito Mussolini tried to equal Hitler and sought several times to increase his influence but expected too much of his military. A potential
British victory could have opened another front in the South, putting Germany in danger. The Tripartite Pact was also invoked when the U.S. declared war on Japan after the attack on Pearl Harbor.
A few days later, Germany and Italy declared war on the United States. Japan terminated the Tripartite Pact in April 1941 when it signed a neutrality pact with the Soviet Union and refused to
assist Germany's war against the Soviet Union.
German troops started to invade the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941. The invasion happened without a declaration of war and followed the playbook of the Blitzkrieg
strategy. Operation Barbarossa was designed as a war of extermination, characterized by sheer brutality against Soviet civilians. It was part of the eastward expansion to create living space much
the same as with the invasion of Poland in 1939. In contrast to the Blitzkrieg against Poland, the invasion front between the Baltic Sea and the Black Sea hit the Soviet army at full tilt. At
first, the operation Barbarossa looked like it followed the Blitzkrieg pattern, but a harsh Russian winter made it impossible for the Wehrmacht to move their companies towards Moscow. The
Germans' defeat at Stalingrad (today Volgograd) marks the turning point of the war.
Air Raids against Germany started in 1942 and targeted industrial facilities and cities. Whereas Adolf Hitler forbade bombardments against British residential areas, the British targeted mainly civilians during their first air raids. They were carried out during nighttime and were later intensified during the daytime. The Allies wanted to demoralize German society through fear and terror. The first German city that was attacked was Lübeck, followed by Rostock and Cologne. Since 1943 Berlin had been in focus. The air raids against the German capital caused 30000 deaths. Also, Dresden was heavily destroyed between February 13 and 14. Air raids were not a phenomenon tied to World War 2. During World War 1, German Zeppelins were used to fight from the skies. However, new aircraft technology brought air raids to a new level.
On February 18, 1943, Joseph Goebbels, minister of propaganda, coined the term "Total War" at a rally at the Berlin Sports Palace. His speech was given
after the defeat in Stalingrad and achieved public acclaim. The term had two meanings—first, the mobilization of all strengths to turn the war in the east in Germany's favor. Hitler had ordered
already the mobilization of all men of fighting age the previous month. Second, the psychological aspect of unifying the German people in their believe that they are invincible if they all
contribute to the cause and are willing to make sacrifices. German businesses that were not important for the war were closed or transformed into arms industries. The term "Total War" is
characterized by a negative connotation since also minors were inducted. All boys who turned 16 had to defend their homeland like every other man. Girls who were 17 had to defend the Reich in one
of Germany's war industries if needed. In the war's final stage, even 12-years-old boys were inducted by a military operation named "Werwolf" (Werewolf), authorized by Hitler.
(Kistler) Also, the laws of war were tightened, which resulted in more death warrants. (Scriba)
Therefore, those who use the propagandistic term "Total War" today act with reckless disregard for minors who may be involved in their policies.
The United States, Great Britain, France, and the Soviet Union formed the allies. The U.S. entered the European theater after their naval base had been heavily attacked by Japan on December 7, 1941, in Pearl Harbor (Hawaii). Germany and Italy had declared war on the United States. The war had now turned into a World War, which was fought on almost every continent.
On June 6, 1944 (D-Day) the Allies launched the greatest landing operation in military history and opened the Western front. Nine months later, on March 7, 1945, Americans crossed the Rhine at Remagen. The Wehrmacht signed their capitulation on May 7, 1945, at the U.S. headquarters in Reims.
The distinguishment between nationalism and patriotism is perhaps best expressed by Hitler's principle of the concept. Besides absolute obedience and loyalty, he shaped one core element of nationalism, namely the all or none mentality. He was determined to lead Germany towards the path of victory or to lead the nation into the abyss if necessary. It all depended on the course of the nation: destiny and the willingness to fight.
He stated already in 1942 that his attitude is ice-cold concerning Germany in case its people are not willing to fight hard enough. If Germans are unwilling to
ensure victories, he argued, they should disappear from the earth, and he meant what he said. Hitler repeated his intention when he said that there is no need to consider the essential needs a
nation depends on to continue to exist, not even in its most primitive form. It is better to destroy all these things au contraire and open the door for the strongest nation of the east.
Those Germans left were the inferior ones anyway since the stronger ones sacrificed everything on the battlefield. When it was crystal clear that National Socialists were about to lose the war,
he ordered the destruction of Germany's institutions - emotionless.
Nationalism is the application of Darwin's survival of the fittest theory in politics and the human race. Keep in mind that it is the only concept that can flush away its healthy counterpart, namely patriotism and, in the worst case, even a fatherland.
As the historian Martin Kitchen already pointed out,
nationalism "left nothing behind it but horror. The horror of tens of millions of dead, of a continent laid waste, the horror of a great nation reduced to barbarism, moral squalor, and mass
murder, and soon to be crippled by guilt. It is a horror that will not go away, that refuses to distance itself by becoming history."
(Kitchen, pp. 301)
However, what if an Ally-related association that is officially registered supports a civilized party from one of the former Allies by blatantly referring to codes of Nazism?
Sources / Quellenangabe:
Kistler, Helmut. "Der
Zusammenbruch des Dritten Reichs" Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung, 27 April 2005.
Kitchen, Martin. A History of Modern Germany. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2012.
Naumann, Günter. Deutsche Geschichte. Wiesbaden: marixverlag, 2018.
Scriba, Arnulf. "Der Totale Krieg."LeMO, 19 May 2015.