Understanding the rise and fall of Germany: 1933-1945 Essay

Understanding the rise and fall of Germany: 1933-1945

            The events that took place in Germany from 1933-1945 have been significant in explaining the conditions that brought about World War II. These years have been instrumental in solidifying, transforming and uniting Germany into one powerful state that in the end resulted to its defeat and eventual decline. In here, there were scenarios, individuals, and events that forever changed not only the history Germany but also of the world. In the end, by carefully looking into these elements, there can be a better understanding of how German power rose and fell from the period of 1933-1945.

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From Bismarck to Hitler

            Before understanding the important that paved the way for the rise of Germany in 1933, it is essential to look back in the vital elements that had paved the way for the rise of Hitler into power and stared the Nazi regime. One person who has been instrumental for the creation of the Second Reich was Ottoman Bismarck. Under Bismarck’s rule, he was able to unite the German tribes. At the same time, he was able to expand Germany’s territories that greatly influenced its growth and control of power. History World mentions that “he also laid the foundation for a colonial realm in Africa (Togoland, Cameroon, German Southwest Africa, German East Africa), China (Jiaozhou Bay in Shandong Province), and the Pacific (Kaiser Wilhelm’s Land, Bismarck Archipelago, Caroline Islands)”[1]

            These events then led to conflict with other states and resulted to the onset of the First World War. It was unfortunate for Germany to have sided with the wrong side and was part of the losing faction in the war. This then made them vulnerable to the liabilities which then resulted to the abolishment of the Northern German Confederate that Bismarck established. At the same time, the signing of the Versailles Treaty in 1918 left Germany without its territories and constant surveillance among the neighboring states[2]. This then was succeeded by the Wiemar Republic who then failed to restore Germany its presence and power in the international community.

            After the collapse of the Weimar Republic, a new figure was rising out in the open. He was Adolf Hitler. He had the objective to bring up the glory that is Germany and tries to restore the territories that the country had under the control of Bismarck[3]. He rose from power as a good orator and speaker that had captivated his fellow German’s in believing and advocating his intentions. After putting several maneuvers and using several occurrences to the benefit of his party, the Nazi Party won majority of the seats in both houses (Bundestag and Bundesrat). This in turn resulted in the creation of a new German government; the Third Reich.

Political and Economic Scenarios under the Nazi Regime

            Looking at it, the Nazi regime overall initiatives have been fostering and improving the welfare of the German people. It sought to find means that can implement and reinforce unity among citizens while reinstating the power and control Germany has over international and domestic affairs. German History Docs argues that “throughout the Third Reich, fostering a sense of unity among citizens remained a central goal of the Nazi Party, which, at its peak, claimed about ten percent of Germans as members[4]

            Operating on such ideals, the Nazi government was able to instill changes that the Weimar Republic failed to address. It is thus important to consider the changes that happened in the political and economic sphere of Germany to understand how it was able to mobilize effectively and efficiently. This is an important consideration to consider because it served as an important component in pursuing its national and foreign policies.

            In terms of economic platforms, the Nazi government advocated the role and importance of farmers in the overall development of the economy. They see these individuals as the main instruments that enforce change in Germany. At the same time, the decision given and made under that involves the economy involves the collaboration among important actors and the state since it has been Germany’s overall goal to make the country self sufficient. German History Docs mentions that “a mixture of government, party, and private economic authorities influenced economic decisions, complicating the pursuit of consistent or rational policies”[5]

            On the other hand, political policies are also regulated by the Nazi government and operate on the ideology of rationality and the needs of the general public. They create legislature and amends laws to better suite what Germany needs in the economy, society, and national affairs[6]. These initiatives then solidified both the political and economic scenario of Germany which led to its growth and development during the periods of 1933-1940. With a stable national policy, the Nazi regime now put its eyes on renewing the German power in the international realm and creating the important avenues towards its expansion

Foreign Policy and Militarization

            With the efforts in the domestic realm achieved, Hitler now looked into the possibility of reinstating Germany in the world political affairs. However, there were several hindrances that paved the way for such realization. One important impediment to this motive was the clause in the Versailles treaty that prohibits Germany from rearming and having a military sufficient for invasion or war. That is why the first initiative of the Nazi government primarily Hitler was finding the means to alleviate this problem. German culture mentions that “in a first step toward this goal, he made a de facto revision to the Treaty of Versailles by ceasing to heed its restrictions on German rearmament”[7] This was initiated secretly during the time when the Nazi Party was acquiring and gaining power in the government.

            These objectives have been stimulated by two purposes. The first one involves reinforcing the German army and strengthening its security that has been hampered by the Versailles Treaty[8]. The other objective revolves around not only reclaiming Germany’s boundaries but also creating a German empire that expands from East and West of Europe[9]. This vision has been the main element of the Nazi regimes foreign policy and intentions during the succeeding years.

            When Hitler became chancellor, there was no stopping him from rearming and increasing the military size. He first started to reorganize the German military and started producing weapons in small scales. The first bold move made by Hitler and the Nazi government was its withdrawal in the League of Nations in 1933[10]. This was done with the belief that the German militarization can take into full scale without the intervention and restrictions brought about by the League and member states.

            After two years since its withdrawal in the League, Hitler pronounced that Germany is now ready to militarize and has the capability to protect its boundaries against aggression. Though there were objections from European powers such as Britain, France and Italy, there was little that they can do as Germany started to develop its own air force and troops in a wide scale[11]. Likewise, Hitler expanded the control of his military by reinforcing Germany’s naval capacity. German culture points out that “Hitler soon signed an agreement with Britain permitting Germany to maintain a navy one-third the size of the British fleet”[12]. These events then highlighted the rise of German power which would later result to the onset of the Second World War.

            At the same time, Hitler’s foreign policy also centered on gaining allies towards their cause. One important actor that came forward was Italy. With the growing relationship with Germany and Italy, Hitler began focusing on enhancing Germany’s role in the international community. This was manifested during their help and aide in overthrowing the Republic of Spain and putting General Francisco Franco in 1936[13]. This then solidified the foundation of understanding between two states which resulted to the signing of the Berlin-Rome Axis Treaty in the same year.

            These then prompted the German government to take into consideration the plans towards expansion that Hitler had envisioned. In here, he tried to influence on the German economy to prepare resources for the upcoming invasion. Seeing this, Hitler needs to solidify German ideals and create a strategy that can make this a possibility. The creation of the Four-Year plan highlighted and marked the start of production and guidelines towards creating the appropriate weaponry and emphasizing on various economic platforms to increase the capability of the German economy to sustain and process raw materials[14]. As these changes began to be manifested, the period of 1933-1939 was a preparatory stage for Hitler to gain advantage over other states and legitimize the capability to enter into war with Europe.

Towards the onset of War

            The initial moves towards World War II became manifested in a series of events that the German government was part of. It can be seen here that Hitler wanted to test the capability of the international community to sanction and protect the sovereignty of several European states. Thus, the following events drew the line towards the perception of the ability and capability of Germany towards war.

            First of these series of events revolve around the march of German troops towards Austria in 1938. It can be seen here that Hitler used the advantage of Austria having a weak and beaten government to take over and exercise power over the land. Likewise, taking into consideration the acceptance of the government for Hitler’s arrival, he sought to establish control by exercising annexation (Anschluss). German culture argues that “the annexation (Anschluss) of Austria was welcomed by most Austrians, who wished to become part of a greater Germany, something forbidden by the Treaty of Versailles”[15].

            Another event that Hitler used to his advantage was the clamor of German inhabitants in Sudetenland to gain autonomy from the region. Using this as a reason, Hitler sought the approval of the international community to gain control of the area and grant sovereignty to the region. During March of 1939, Britain and Germany signed a pact that allows Germany to take control and exercise control over the region[16]

            However, Hitler’s intentions did not stop at Sudetenland. He wanted to take full control of the country. That is why when conflict emerged within the region, he took this as a signal and intervened and created a puppet government. In this process, he was able to take the remaining of Czechoslovakia and the territories of Bohemia and Moravia and Slovakia[17].

            This then made the Western European powers doubt the intention of Germany. With the threat of expansion eminent in Poland, the alliance among these powers was formed and vowed to protect the sovereignty of the country if German attacks would indeed happen. On the other hand, the Nazi Regime also sought to gain allies in the process. Since there was the Berlin-Rome Axis treaty with Italy, it now sought to gain a non-aggression pact against the Soviet Union and Japan to solidify their capabilities and prevent the mistakes of the past[18].

            Seeing this scenario, the European powers are now split into two factions; the Allies and Axis powers. These alignments of states are particularly important because it will serve as the parameters of how World War II will escalate and develop in the process. In the end, as Hitler saw his plans come into effect, he now shifts his attention towards invading Poland. Such move will now in turn catalyze WWII and forever change the history of the German people and the world.

World War II

            The involvement of the European states in the aggression employed by Germany started with its invasion of Poland in September 1 1939. Reacting in congruence to the agreement made by the Western powers with Poland, Great Britain and France declared war with Hitler and the Nazi regime three days after the invasion[19]. Together with the Soviet Union, Germany carried out its military campaign and occupied the territory after a few months.

            The next campaigns stretched during 1940 as German troops marched into the northern regions of Europe and conquered Denmark and Norway[20]. The success of this invasion can be attributed to the ability of Hitler to mobilize his troops and have the adequate amount of weaponry, preparation and planning to initiate attacks. In May, after five months of campaign, Germany then initiated attacks Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, and France[21].

            During these battles, the German forces have been successful in their missions primarily because of the strategy and objective that they are advocating. It can be seen here that Hitler’s generals used a strategy called ‘blitzkrieg’ that uses lightning fast attacks which garners opposing forces with limited or no resistance at all[22]. Such feat gives capability for Germans to exercise effective attacks and bombardments to selected territories.

            With the surrender of France, the next phase of invasion concentrated on Britain. However, Hitler suddenly changed his objectives and halted the further movement to the West. One thing that can be attributed to such change was his intention to now expand and move eastward towards the Soviet Union[23]. It can be remembered that Hitler’s initial plan was to expand the boundaries of Germany and create a German empire expanding from Western and Eastern Europe. That is why, he now redirected his attention to his ally; the Soviet Union and sought to break the 1939 non-aggressive Pact and start invasion[24]

The Reversal of Fortune

            The periods of 1941-45 served as a catalyst towards a reversal fortune for Germany as it became susceptible to losses and increased resistance among conquered states. The first defeat experienced by German forces occurred during the Battle of Britain wherein the Britain’s Royal Air Force crushed German airplanes in a battle for aerial control[25]. This occurred when Winston Churchill, Britain’s prime minister rejected the offer of Hitler to surrender the country to the Germans. Though the Nazi Regime suffered its first military loss, Hitler undermined such actions and moved towards the invasion of the Soviet Union.

            On June 22, 1941, Hitler administered the order to invade the Soviet Union by sending in his best troops to combat[26]. Like his previous campaigns, Hitler used the blitzkrieg to gain advantage over the enemy in this military campaign and expected to complete this objective within 3 months. However, the Soviet Union had been prepared for these attacks and valiantly resisted the German attacks. At the same time, the rigid winter in Russia resulted in a huge loss among German troops. After this, German culture argues that “A counteroffensive, launched in early 1942, drove the Germans back from Moscow”[27]

            Another important effect that resulted in such reversal of fortune is the declaration of war by Germany to the United States. This was in response to Japan; its ally attacks in Pearl Harbor. Seeing this, German culture argues that “with the United States involvement, a coalition now existed that, with its vast human and material resources, was almost certain to defeat the Third Reich”[28] This then started the counteroffensive aimed at gaining back the territories from Germany and defeating the German army to prevent its rearming and remobilization.

Towards Germany’s Defeat

            The defining moment of the Second World War can be characterized as the decline of German power over its territorial control. This became evident in the defeat of the German army in Stalingrad as Soviets drove away the German forces in 1942. German culture mentions that “the Soviet victory at Stalingrad in the winter of 1942-43; some 300,000 of Germany’s finest troops were either killed or captured”[29]. This has then provided the boost for the Allied forces to counterattack and reclaim their territories from German forces.

            As German forces continue to suffer battle defeats left and right, the Allied forces are slowly regaining the territories lost. During 1943, a huge victory was achieved by the Allied forces as they liberated Ethiopia and scored a great naval victory by defeating German U-boats that can give them the opportunity to send troops towards effectively so that combat can now be pursued in land[30]. This event renewed the vow among the Allied forces to end the war in the next 2-3 years and finally defeat Germany.

            By the following year, Allied forces started to reclaim France and were able to drive the German forces back in August of 1944[31]. After this campaign, the combined force of Americans, Canadians and British then sought to move eastward towards Berlin. At the same time, the Soviet troops headed towards the west to create a barricade that will prevent German troops from escaping the Allied attacks. Though the Nazi Regime faced the inevitable outcome of defeat, Hitler urged all Germans to fight and defend their motherland and be heroes[32]

            On 1945, both Allied and Soviet forces reached Germany which then resulted to the defeat of the German army. Seeing what happened to his dreams and country, Hitler committed suicide in a bunker at Berlin. Seeing that their leader had fallen, the Third Reich surrendered unconditionally to the Allied forces[33]. This surrender has brought about the end of the Second World War which cost nearly 8 million in deaths and many cities, towns and buildings destroyed.

German atrocities and Holocaust

            Overall, the Second World War proved to be disastrous as it cost millions of lives. At the same time, the Germans also practiced prejudice and discrimination against other races particularly the Jews. Under Hitler’s leadership, he created and passed laws that negate the liberties and freedoms of many Jews. Moreover, he initiated violent attacks on these individuals and often associating them as savages. Browning mentions that “Random acts of violence, by then commonplace, were replaced by the systematic isolation of the Jewish population in Germany, which had numbered about 600,000 in the early 1930s”[34]

            Likewise, the degree of violence and extermination became evident during the war. In this stage, genocide became an option for Germans as they created prison extermination camps. German culture argues that “Killing came to be done in an efficient, factorylike fashion in large extermination camps run by Himmler’s Special Duty Section (Sonderdienst–SD)”[35]. In the end, such atrocities left many innocent civilians particularly Jews suffering untimely deaths and were estimated to have reached around 6 million.

The Aftermath of War

            With the loss of Germany, the Allied forces then provided the sanctions and conditions that should be followed and administered. InfoPlease mentions that these include “Germany’s complete disarmament and demilitarization, destruction of its war potential, rigid control of industry, and decentralization of the political and economic structure[36]. Another result that occurred was that it divided Germany into different sectors controlled by different states. History-world points out that “Allied leaders met at Potsdam in 1945 and divided Germany into four occupation zones–French in the southwest, British in the northwest, American in the south, and Soviet in the east. Berlin, deep in the Soviet zone, was also divided into four sectors”[37]

            During the advent of the Cold war between the United States and the Soviet Union, the cooperation between two states diminished. This has then resulted to the creation of blockade and wall that separates between the two regions. InfoPlease mentions that “the USSR reacted by clamping a blockade on all ground communications between the Western zones and West Berlin, an enclave in the Soviet zone”[38]

Conclusion

            To conclude, the years of 1933-1945 were significant to German History because it became an avenue for both success and loss. At one point, with the tutelage of Hitler, he was able to reunite Germany once again and create drastic changes in the economy, policies and issues surrounding the society. At the same time, the Nazi government was able to bring back the glory of Germany that was done by Bismarck because of adequate and effective strategies in both the local and domestic arena.

            On the other hand, these objectives went the opposite direction as Germany began to expand and used aggression and war as a tool. This created a mark in world history as these atrocities left wounds to the innocent lives that were sacrificed. Likewise, the intention of Hitler towards Utopia led to the massacre and genocide of Jews and minorities within Europe. In the end, the ambition of Hitler in creating and unifying Germany was successful in its pure sense. However, because of his ambition, it resulted to the loss of many lives, and the eventual fall of Germany.

Works Cited

Browning, Christopher R. One day in Jozefow: Initiation to Mass Murder in ‘Nazism and

German Society, 1933-1945. 1994 (Routledge; New York) accessed 12 March 2009 pp. 300-315

Crew, David F. Nazism and German Society, 1933-1945. 1994 (Routledge; New York)

accessed 12 March 2009 pp. 41-66

German Culture. The Outbreak of World War II. 2001 accessed 12 March 2009 from

<http://germanculture.com.ua/library/history/bl_world%20_war_2.htm>

German Culture. The Third Reich. 2001 accessed 12 March 2009 from

 <http://germanculture.com.ua/library/history/bl_3_reich_foreign_policy.htm>

German Culture. Towards Mobilization, Resistance and the Holocaust in Germany.

2001 accessed 12 March 2009 from <http://germanculture.com.ua/library/history/bl_holocaust.htm>

German Culture. World War II – Defeat. 2001 accessed 12 March 2009 from

<http://germanculture.com.ua/library/history/bl_ww2_defeat.htm>

German History Docs. Economy and Labor. 2003 accessed 12 March 2009 from

<http://germanhistorydocs.ghi-dc.org/chapter.cfm?subsection_id=103>

German History Docs. The Military, Foreign Policy, and War. 2003 accessed 12 March

2009 from <http://germanhistorydocs.ghi-dc.org/chapter.cfm?subsection_id=102>

German History Docs. The Nazi State. 2003 accessed 12 March 2009 from

<http://germanhistorydocs.ghi-dc.org/chapter.cfm?subsection_id=95>

History-World. German History. 2002 accessed 12 March 2009 from <http://history-

world.org/German%20History.htm>

InfoPlease. Germany. 2002 accessed 12 March 2009 from

<http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0107568.html>

Kitchen, Martin. Nazi Germany: 1933-1945 in ‘A History of Modern Germany’ 2006.

(Replika Press; India) accessed 12 March 12, 2009 pp. 284-313

[1] History World, p.1
[2] Infoplease, p.1
[3] Kitchen, p.284
[4] German History Docs, ‘The Nazi Party’ p.9
[5] German History Docs ‘Economy and Labor’, p.27
[6] Crew, p.69
[7] German Culture ‘Foreign policy’, p.1
[8] German History Docs, ‘Foreign Policy’, p.23
[9] Kichen, p.290
[10] German Culture ‘Foreign Policy’, p.1
[11] German History Docs, ‘Foreign Policy’ p.1
[12] German Culture ‘Foreign Policy’, p.23
[13] German Culture ‘Foreign Policy’, p.23
[14] Kitchen, p.291
[15] German Culture, ‘Foreign Policy’, p.23
[16] Kitchen, p. 295
[17] German Culture ‘Foreign Policy’, p.23
[18] Kitchen, p.293
[19] German Culture ‘The Outbreak of World War II’, p.1
[20] Kitchen, p.305
[21] German Culture ‘The Outbreak of World War II’, p.1
[22] Kitchen, p.305
[23] German Culture ‘The Outbreak of World War II’, p.1
[24] German Culture ‘The Outbreak of World War II’, p.1
[25] Kitchen p.309
[26] Kitchen, p.309
[27] German Culture ‘The Outbreak of World War II’, p.1
[28] German Culture ‘The Outbreak of World War II’, p.1
[29] Kitchen, p.311
[30] German Culture ‘The Outbreak of World War II’, p.1
[31] German Culture ‘World War II – Defeat’, p.1
[32] Kitchen, p.313
[33] German Culture ‘The Outbreak of World War II’, p.1
[34] Browning, p.304
[35] German culture, ‘Total Mobilization’, p.1
[36] Infoplease, p.1
[37] History-world, p.1
[38] Info Please, p.1