II. The 3rd Reich & the Holocaust Era, Jan 1933-May 1945
Murderous Racism and Antisemitism - Bureaucracy of Evil. “You let us do it!”
Perpetrators, Collaborators, Victims, Bystanders, Resisters, Rescuers

A. The prewar period, 1933-39: Nazism - A Monolithic Culture
The 3rd Reich & the racial totalitarian state - Foreign Policy

German Foreign Policy - The Road to War

Bauer, 104-06
World War II: Prelude, Conduct and Aftermath of the War
German-Soviet Pact:


With Germany firmly in his grip, a Nazified Europe was Hitler’s next goal. During his campaign of terror to rid Germany of Jewish influence -Nuremberg Laws, "Aryanization" of Germany, Hitler, the dictator & Fuehrer, started to activate his plans for world conquest.

Instructional Objectives - Students will learn:

1. Hitler's plans after he became leader of the German government followed closely what he dreamed of in his book Mein Kampf.
2. the international & domestic scene in Germany
3. certain historical events paved the way to the Second World War (WWII).

Objective. Students will be able to describe German expansion, and explain the policy of appeasement.

Discussion & Review Questions

1. What was the goal of the “New Order”?

2. What were the countries with which Hitler signed agreements in order to become allies?

3. What did Hitler discuss at the "Fuhrer Conference" in November 1937?

4. What were Hitler's first three territorial objectives? Describe whether they were taken politically or militarily.


: The Road to World War II

The two ‘world wars,’ one starting in 1914 & the other in 1939, are closely linked. Both were products of the prevailing international political system, which had been legitimized by the European powers. The 1st War ended not with a stable peace, but with a truce; the 2nd War was its nightmarish sequel. It was 1914, rather than 1939, that was the major turning point of modern history. For the events of that year set in motion an irreversible shift in the affairs & prospects of Western civilization.

•The Nazi Party's rise to power was built upon 2 dominant ideologies: RACIAL PURITY & LEBENSRAUM. These two became so intertwined over the following years (1933-1939) that it is almost impossible to separate them. They became the basis for Hitler's foreign policy.

From the early days of his political career, Hitler dreamed of forging a vast German empire in central & eastern Europe. He believed that only by waging a war of conquest against Russia could the German nation gain the living space & security it required and, as a superior race, deserved. WAR was an essential component of National Socialist ideology. Although historians may debate the question of responsibility for WWI, few would deny that WWII was Hitler’s war.

Western statesman had sufficient warning that Hitler was a threat to peace & the essential values of Western civilization, but they failed to rally their people & take a stand until Germany had greatly increased its capacity to wage aggressive war.

A. Causes

*Results of WWI: -economic depression in Germany, aggressive totalitarian nationalism: Revenge; -German resentment of Treaty of Versailles;“Sieg heil! -Hail to victory!” -Hitler’s aggression & foreign policy aims -supremacy of Aryan race. -Nationalism, imperialism. -League of Nations weak, inefficient. -Policy of appeasement, fear of communism

*A “New Order”

1933, Jan. 30 -Hitler (H) appointed chancellor,or prime minister by president Hindenburg.
Feb. 3, ‘33, H. revealed to leading generals his desire to create a new domestic unity that would enable Germany to rearm & prepare for the conquest of lebensraum ‘living space’ in the east; to achieve ‘a New Order’ of territorial conquests & introduction there of Nazi racial ideology. He called his future plans for a Nazi-controlled Europe the New Order.

Hitler intended to make his old dream of uniting all German-speaking peoples, come true. To form the New Greater Germany, he planned to annex, or join, to Germany his homeland of Austria, the Sudetenland of Czechoslovakia, Alsace-Lorraine, Danzig, Memel, & other scattered areas housing German-speaking people. Then, because Germans needed more farmland & living space, his armies would take over the Slavic lands to the east -Poland, Russian, & Czechoslovakia. All Slavic leaders & intellectuals were to be murdered, the remaining to be slave laborers for the Reich. German settlers would take over all Slavic land & property. And all of Europe was to be made Jew-free.

B. Events leading to War, 1933-1939

March 23, Enabling Act passed by Reichstag. By the end of 1933, Hitler had begun the process of consolidating power over Germany, assuming dictatorial powers for himself, mobilizing the nation’s will, & controlling the military, economic structure, and the whole of German society; -domestically, during the next 6 years, Hitler completely transformed Germany into a police state - June 1st: Nazis set up 1st concentration camp at Dachau. 1st inmates are 200 Communists. With Germany firmly in his grip, a Nazified Europe was Hitler’s next goal. Hitler moved to implement this foreign policy objective which includes:

- the destruction of the Versailles Treaty,
- the conquest & colonization of eastern Europe, and
- the domination & exploitation of racial inferiors’ by Aryan race (West civ. by Perry, p. 797)

Hitler now turned his attention for Lebensraum living space, for Germany, in the East (Russia), (Hitler's long-standing commitment to lebensraum, was an obsession almost as important as the solution of the Jewish ‘problem’), and to fulfilling his dream, as outlined in Mein Kampf, of dominating the world and inculcating it with Nazi philosophy.

1. Europe’s ‘New Order’ Diplomatic Revolution Nazi Military Alliances

‘In foreign policy, Hitler sought to overturn the European status quo in order to restore Germany as the continent’s preeminent nation. In 1933 Germany was withdrawn from the League of Nations; in 1934 Austria was targeted for destabilization.’

Loudly affirming his peaceful intentions, while denouncing the iniquities of the Treaty of Versailles imposed on Germany at the end of World War I/the Great War, Hitler set about burying the Treaty of Versailles one clause at a time. Democraciew were preocupied with their own problems, and hoped that concessions would calm the dictator. Hence, they stood by as Germany rearmed in March 1935 - ‘ in 1935 the military draft was reintroduced; in 1936 the Rhineland was remilitarized; in 1937 the remaining provisions of the Versailles Treaty limiting German rearmament were repudiated; in 1938 Austria was annexed & Czechoslovakia dismembered; then in 1939 it was Poland's turn. During the 1930's, fascism was on the march everywhere in Europe. The Western democracies -too fearful of Moscow to cooperate with it effectively against Berlin- failed to resist its advance.:’

1933 Oct. 14, 1st offensive step: Germany withdraws from the League of Nations & the Versailles disarmament pact. At the same time, Hitler announces dissolution of the Reichstag.

Internationally, Hitler engaged in a "diplomatic revolution" by skillfully negotiating with other European countries and publicly expressing his strong desire for peace.

1934 Feb: Nonaggression Pact, neutrality treaty with Poland who fears Communist Russia; ‘this prevented subsequent Warsaw governments from preparing to meet the German danger until it was too late. It also provided the model for Hitler's alliance with other dictatorial regimes run by military strongmen or reactionary kings. The list of fascist - leaning governments stretched from the Baltic States of Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia, through Rumania under King Carol II, Yugoslavia under Prime Minister Stoyadinovich, and Greece under General Metaxas, to Franco's Spain and Salazar's Portugal.’

August 1934 - Hitler proclaims himself Füehrer und Reichskanzler. With an improving economy, German industrial machine was built up in preparation for war. Germany steadily began rearmament of its military, in violation of the 1919 Treaty of Versailles. Stealthily, the armaments factories in Germany expanded, & production of tanks, planes, guns, & ammunition was doubled & redoubled.

1934 Austria was targeted for destabilization;
1935 March 1st: return of Saar industrial/mineral region - a plebiscite in the Saar region
determined by overwhelming majority to return the region to Germany.
Mar 16: military draft reintroduced; Hitler violates Versailles Treaty, with military conscription
Mar: Hitler announces German rearmament in violation of Versailles Treaty.
Sept.10 The 7th National NSDAP (National Socialist German Workers Party) Congress
Sept. 15 Nazi Congress adopts the swastika as the Reich's national flag.
Sept 15 Nuremburg Laws redefine German Jews as non-citizens
Oct. Italy’s invasion of Ethiopia; neither Britain nor France seeks to restrain it
1935: Naval Agreement with Great Britain allowed Germany to build a big fleet - Germany a major naval power (Hitler managed to play off England against France by convincing London to sign naval treaty with Germany but without the knowledge of Paris).

1936 - Germany Tests its Strength
- rebuild its fighting forces

March 7: Rhineland Occupation, Germany remilitarizes the Rhineland -violation of Treaty of Versailles. The Treaty of Versailles, signed on June 28, 1919, was the agreement which officially ended World War I. Under this agreement, the Rhineland Province of Germany was demilitarized. In direct contravention of this Treaty, Hitler sent the German army into the Ruhr & demilitarized Rhineland in 1936. The German troops were cheered by their countrymen in the Rhineland just as they had been the year before when France had turned over the Saar following the plebiscite.

In many ways, this was a test of the resolve of the other signatories to the Treaty, particularly Great Britain and France, whose humiliation of Germany during World War I sowed the seeds of revenge. When there was no challenge to this effort - French did not react, Hitler interpreted this as weakness, and began planning the next steps which he believed would eventually lead to the "Thousand Year Reich."

May 9: Mussolini’s Italian forces take Ethiopia
July 1936-39 Spanish Civil War between republicans & nationalists, prelude to war;
: Italy withdrew from League of Nations, sent troops to fight with General Francisco Franco's fascist forces in Spain

July 1936-39 Spanish Civil War
between republicans & nationalists, prelude to war; aided by Fascist Italy & Nazi Germany, Franco overthrow the republic, establishes dictatorship. The Civil War in Spain made the international situation clear. Germany & Italy were allied, rearming, & aggressive; oct. 1: Franco declared head of Spanish State

Germany, Italy, Japan formed the Rome-Berlin-Tokyo Axis to fight spread communism:
Oct 25, Berlin-Rome Axis
: agreement between Hitler & Benito Mussolini, Fascist dictator of Italy, pledging mutual military cooperation. Axis Powers: Germany, Italy, Franco Spain

Nov. Anti-Comintern Pact: German-Japanese anticommunist pact; a similar pact, asserting mutual sympathy & opposition to communism was signed between Germany and Japan, another nation which was expanding its military capability. Italy joined Germany & Japan in the Anti - Comintern Pact.

1937, July - Japan begins the conquest of Southeast Asia; invades China
- remaining provisions of Versailles Treaty limiting German rearmament repudiated
In German Upper Silesia, where the Jews were under the protection of the German-Polish Convention of May 15, 1922, the restrictions imposed by the Convention on the exercise of German sovereignty terminated on July 15, 1937.

Nov. 5: Hitler reveals war plans during Hossbach Conference. By 1937, H. was comfortable enough to put his master plan, as outlined in Mein Kampf, into effect.Calling his top military aides together at the "Fuhrer Conference" in November 1937, he outlined his war plans for world domination, & disclosed his plans for building his empire, during Hossbach Conference. Those who objected to the plan were dismissed.

2. Aggression & Appeasement. 1938 - Reich expands

For 18 months, Hitler orchestrated a series of escalating demands that culminated in the outbreak of World War II

as part of Hitler's aggressive quest for uniting all German-speaking people and for Lebensraum, or more living space, Germany took over Austria without bloodshed. Without engaging in war, Germany was able to annex neighboring Austria and carve up Czechoslovakia: Hitler ordered the annexation of Austria and German speaking Sudetenland in 1938 to the Third Reich, by threats & propaganda:

March 11-12: Germany invades Austria. Hitler is now the undisputed ruler of over 70 million people. Austrian political leaders who had opposed Hitler's invasion are now under arrest.

Mar 13: Anschluss - Austria was annexed: political unification with Germany
Mar 14: Hitler rides victorious into Vienna and announces the "Anschluss," or union/annexation of Austria. A half-million Viennese lined the streets to welcome him. Masses waving to Hitler. Schwarzach/Salzburg, Austria, 1938. @"I have in the course of my political struggle won much love from my people, but when I crossed the former frontier (into Austria) there met me such a stream of love as I have never experienced. Not as tyrants have we come, but as liberators." Adolf Hitler. The Anschluss occurred with the overwhelming approval of the Austrian people. No countries protested this violation of the Treaty of Versailles. After the Austrian Anschluss, the Nazi policy of ‘voluntary’ emigration of Jews changed to one of outright expulsion, with Adolf Eichman in Vienna.

Reichstag members applaud Hitler following his annexation of Austria, March 13, 1938

July, 1938: Evian Conference.
Aug. 12: German military mobilizes

September 1938 - The Failures of Diplomacy

In Sept. 1938, Hitler eyed the northwestern area of Czechoslovakia, the Sudetenland, which had 3 million German-speaking citizens. Hitler did not want to march into the Sudetenland until he was certain that France & Britain would not intervene. First, he met with British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain and threatened to go to war if he did not receive the territory:

1938, Sept. 29/30, The Munich Agreement

At the Munich Conference, Hitler prevailed upon Britain, France &, Italy to agree to the cession of the Sudetenland. Munich Agreement was signed. Britain & France agreed to the German annexation of the Sudetenland (part of Czechoslovakia) in exchange for Hitler's assurance that he would not attack the remainder of Czechoslovakia -Chamberlain, British Prime Minister appeases Hitler. No representative of Czechoslovakia was present at meeting. Munich Conference caps 3 years of Nazi expansionism in Europe in accordance with Hitler’s promise to roll back the ‘unfair’ terms of Versailles.

Sept. 30, Czechoslovakia dismembered: Germany’s annexation of Sudetenland is approved by Britain & France; at Munich Conference - policy of appeasement: British Prime Minister Chamberlain appeases Hitler at Munich

Munich averts war in Europe when Britain & France give in to Nazi Germany’s demand for the Sudetenland. Britain, France, & Russia were afraid of entering into war & their collective diplomatic stance was to appease the bully Germany. Western powers chose appeasement, (policy of giving in to the demands of an aggressor in order to maintain peace) attempt to preserve peace by yielding to demands of aggressor, rather than military confrontation. Chamberlain claims: Peace in our times. Hitler seen as bulwark against communism

Oct 15: Germany occupied Sudetenland; Czech government resigns. As a result of annexation, over 120,000 additional Jews came under Nazi control. Antisemitic laws were applied to new territory.


‘Achieving all the territorial annexation without firing a shot, Hitler lifted the pride of a humiliated nation. The political, economic, and foreign policy victories were basis of Hitler’s great popularity in the 1930s. They also made the less attractive aspects of Nazism easier for ordinary German to swallow: obstrusiveness of the party in all areas of life was an acceptable price to pay for national resurgence.’


- Fate of European Jews was directly linked to Hitler's preparations for war.
Jan. 20:
Hitler threatens Jews in Reichstag speech: if war erupts it will mean the
Vernichtung (extermination) of European Jews.

Feb. 22: 22,000 American Nazis hold a rally in New York City's Madison Square Garden,
denouncing America's Jews. Synagogues in city were defaced with Nazi swastikas.
March 15/16: Germans invade & occupy all of Czechoslovakia
- absorbed in 3rd Reich -occupied Prague (Bohemia), complete annexation of Czechoslovakia; in fulfillment of the 1st stage of Hitler’s plans for European conquest & in open violation of treaty agreements. The German Protectorate of Bohemia & Moravia was established, and Slovakia turned into a client-state. This act of aggression against Czechoslovakia -breach of promises at Munich- began to swing public opinion in Britain against the policy of appeasement.

At last, reluctant Britain & France threatened war if Germany targeted Poland &/or Rumania
-March 17: Chamberlain accuses Hitler of breaking his word
-March 22: Hitler occupies old German city of Memel in Lithuania
-March 28: Spanish Civil war ends
-April 1: Chamberlain announces Britain has revised its policy of appeasement
-April 7:Mussolini invades Albania
-April 26: Britain introduces conscription
April, Italy invades Albania.
May 3: Hungary adopts anti-Jewish legislation calling for the deportation of 300,000 Jews.

May 22, Hitler’s Germany & Mussolini’s Italy, sign the ‘Pact of Steel,’
a 10-year military agreement that invites Japan to join them; treaty in which the two countries are bound together economically, politically and militarily. Germany, Italy, Japan formed the Rome-Berlin-Tokyo Axis to fight spread communism

June 6: St Louis; Cuba denies entry to 907 Jewish immigrants from Germany

3. Poland: the final crisis

a. “The Polish Question”

The last remnants of Czechoslovakia were devoured by Nazi Germany in March1939. Immediately, Hitler turned his attention to solving "the Polish Question." Reestablished as an independent nation in 1919 by the Versailles Treaty, Poland had been given a strip of territory the so - called "Polish Corridor" -running north along the Vistula River to the Baltic Sea. The Corridor divided East Prussia from the rest of Germany. In addition, the Peace Treaty had made Danzig-formerly part of Prussia-a "free city" in order to give Poland a port on the Baltic.

b. To the Brink of War

Hitler demanded unimpeded access to the Polish Corridor for the purpose of building railroad links between divided German territory. He also insisted on the immediate reincorporation of Danzig into the German Reich (that free city Danzig be returned to Germany & land in Poland, which had once belonged to Germany (the abolition of the Corridor which separated Germany from its eastern territories). Poland refused. Much to the surprise of Hitler and the rest of Europe, British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain abandoned appeasement and defied the new German demands. He convinced the French to join in extending military guarantees against aggression to the Warsaw government (Britain & France promised to help Poland). A diplomatic race followed between London and Paris on the one side and Berlin on the other to gain Moscow's backing. Hitler won. On August 23, 1939, Germany and the USSR announced to a stunned world that they had signed the Hitler - Stalin Pact guaranteeing Russian neutrality in the event of war over Poland.

Aug. 23, ‘Nazi-Soviet’ Non-Aggression Pact signed, agreeing to partition of Poland. One week before the invasion of Poland, Hitler signed a secret non-aggression pact with Stalin (the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, so named after the respective Foreign Ministers of the Soviet Union & Nazi Germany). Both agreed to remain neutral if either was to participate in a war, and to Poland partition between them. H. no longer had to fear the Soviet Union if Germany moved against Poland. The treaty shocked the world because the 2 nations were thought to be enemies. Hitler had the "green light" he needed to start World War II.

-Aug. 25: Britain & Poland sign a Mutual Assistance Treaty

c. Fall Weiss ("Plan White")

Aug. 26: Hitler tells his generals ‘Our enemies are little worms, I saw them at Munich.’ Believing that the western powers (the United States, France and Britain) would not honor their commitment to protect Poland, Hitler announced his intent to invade Poland and take back those areas lost in the war. The successful annexation of Austria and the successful conquest, first of Czechoslovakia and then, of Poland opened up vast territories of available space to Hitler for colonization and resettlement. It also brought into focus the ‘Jewish Problem’& the quest for a ‘Final Solution.’

On August 26th, Germany secretly completed mobilizing its forces for Fall Weiss or "Plan White" -the invasion of Poland. On the 31st, the Germans planted inside their own territory the corpses of murdered concentration camp inmates, dressed in Polish uniforms, in order to provide a pretext for launching a "defensive" war. (Aug. 31: British fleet mobilizes; civilian evacuation begin from London). After midnight on September 1st, Germany commenced without prior warning combined naval, air, and land operations against Poland. World War II had begun.

Sept. 1, 1939: the Germans launched an invasion of Poland.
Sept. 3, Britain, France, Australia & new Zealand declare war on Germany

Europe on the Eve of World War II, 1939


Complete the sentences

1. Term Anschluss refers to the political unification of Austria & _____
2. At Munich Conference 1938 -Germany, France, Italy, & England-, Chamberlain followed a policy of appeasement toward Hitler, giving him courage to occupy________________

3. British prime minister who gave in to Hitler’s territorial demands was ____________

*4. Major reason for British appeasement of Hitler: he was seen as the bulwark against __________________________

5. Term _________ when applied to diplomatic developments in 1936 refers to an agreement between Rome & Berlin


Copyright November 2003 Edith Shaked

Credit: Gary M. Grobman, The Holocaust - A guide for Teachers, 1990
http://motlc.wiesenthal.org/text/x22/xm2232.html - Courtesy of: Based on Time-Life Books Inc.

Timeline 1933-1939

Jan. 30 Hitler is appointed Reich Chancellor of Germany by Hindenburg
Feb. 3, ‘33, H. revealed to leading generals: to rearm & conquest of lebensraum
March 23 Enabling Act passed by the Reichstag
April 1 General boycott of all Jewish businesses - One day
Apr 1 All religious literature printed by
Jehovah's Witnesses banned from circulation
April 26 Gestapo formed
May 10 Public burning of books written by Jews, and others not approved by the state

1934 August 2 Hitler proclaims himself Füehrer und Reichskanzler; allegiance to him

Mar. Hitler (H) announces German rearmament in violation of Versailles Treaty
Mar. 1st: return of Saar industrial/mineral region - a plebiscite
Mar. 11 Nazi race hygienists & civil servants plan sterilization of ‘Rhineland Bastards
Mar. 16: H. violates Treaty of Versailles by introducing military conscription
May 31 Jews barred from serving in the German armed forces
Sept. 15 First of Nuremberg Laws (Anti-Semitic) passed

March 7, Germany remilitarizes the Rhineland -in violation of the Treaty of Versailles
June Central Office to "Combat the Gypsy Nuisance" opened in Munich
July 1936-39 Spanish Civil War between republicans & nationalists, prelude to war
Aug. 1 - Olympic Games open in Berlin.
*Oct 25, 1936 Berlin-Rome agreement - Axis: Hitler and Mussolini form Rome-Berlin Axis
Axis Powers: Germany, Italy, Franco Spain
Nov. 25, 1936 German-Japanese anticommunist pact -Anti-Comintern Pact - Military pact signed between Germany and Japan

1937 Spring Sterilization of the "Rhineland Bastards" begins

Mar 12/13, Nazis entered Austria (200,000 Jews, mainly in Vienna).
Mar 13, Anschluss: H. occupied Austria: political annexation with Germany
Mar 14 - Hitler rides victorious into Vienna & announces the Anschluss (union) of Germany
& Austria - political unification
Sept. 30 *Munich Conference: Chamberlain appeases Hitler; England, France agree to German occupation of the Sudetenland, previously western Czechoslovakia - - policy of appeasement

Oct 15 - Nazi troops occupy the Sudeteland

Jan 30 Hitler predicts that Jews will be "exterminated" in the event of another war
Mar. 13 Anschluss: The annexation of Austria
Mar. 15/16 Nazis seize all of Czechoslovakia (350,000 Jews) -part of 3rd Reich.
Apr. Italy invades Albania.
Neuengamme and Mauthausen concentration camps established
May 22- Germany & Italy signed the ‘Pact of Steel’ treaty in which the 2 countries are bound to economically, politically & militarily.
Neuengamme and Mauthausen concentration camps established

Aug. 23 Soviet-German Non-Aggression Pact -
Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact signed

Sept 1 Nazis invade Poland starting WWII; SS activity there
Sept 3 Britain, France, Australia & New Zealand declare war on Germany


Copyright November 2003 Edith Shaked
Credit: Gary M. Grobman, The Holocaust - A guide for Teachers, 1990