This page is about the National-Socialist (shortened as "Nazi") era in Germany, when the nation was under the dictatorship of Adolf Hitler and his Nazi Party. Commonly known as "Third Reich", it lasted from 1933 to 1945.
The page is by no means meant to be totally inclusive of everything that defines the era, but rather to give an overview of what it was and the reasons it's important here on TV Tropes, as well as providing examples of tropable works that were produced there at the time and works that have prominently featured it since.
The Nazis were the second prominent fascist movement to arise in Europe following the rise of Benito Mussolini and Fascist Italy. The party was initially the DAP (Deutsche Arbeiter Partei, German Workers Party), and a short while after Hitler joined in 1920, it became the NSDAP, with "National Socialist" prefixed to it. It was originally a very small party, and Hitler was originally dispatched and ordered to visit it by the military (contrary to belief, he wasn't sent to spy on it, just sent to check up on it, and he then joined it openly). Originally it was more a club for army retirees venting about how much they hate the "November criminals" (their catch-all term for the Weimar Republic, founded in the aftermath of a Revolution that took place in November 1918). It had been founded by Anton Drexler along with his colleagues, Dietrich Eckart, Gottfried Feder and Karl Harrer, some of whom were part of the Thule Society. They had already by that point been a hodgepodge of Pan-German nationalist, anti-Marxist and anti-capitalist ideas all based around the framework of anti-Semitism. Hitler immediately became the leader, and gradually his speeches got attention in Munich and step by step, the party's membership rose exponentially. Munich was the city HQ for the Nazi party, and they managed to rise thanks to the covert and overt support of the Bavarian state. The party initially saw itself as anti-parliamentary, i.e. they wanted to topple the Weimar Republic by means of "national revolution" (Hitler's words). In the early years, a lot of features of the Nazi era were already defined as well as many of its later leaders (Göring, Rudolf Hess, Ernst Röhm) as well as the SA who already formed a paramilitary arm of shock troops ready for activation. This first era ended in the aftermath of the Beer Hall Putsch of 1923 that took place on November 8 and November 9, in anniversary of Germany's surrender of World War I and in mockery of the Weimar Republic. They took inspiration from Mussolini's "March of Rome" and Hitler believed he had the support of the army (since many World War I veterans and ex-generals like Erich Ludendorff openly backed him and supported him). During the Munich Putsch, the SA actually went around the city and rounded up many suspects and detained them in the Beer Hall, claiming "authority" to arrest them (they had none). This included many prominent Jews and Jewish families. One of the Beer Hall conspirators who died in the skirmish had a copy of the Nazi constitution they planned to install, which insisted on a mass purge and a special National court to kill "the November criminals" and Hitler promised a purge on the model of the proscriptions issued by the Roman dictator Sulla Felix. All of these ideas practiced with alacrity, waiting for the power to be enacted, show that the core of what Nazism was in its final goals, its practice, and its structure was consistent from the get-go.
The eventual failure of the Nazi Putsch, and Hitler's imprisonment, led the Nazis to give up on revolutionary seizure of power. The fact that the Bavarian government treated them with ludicrous lenience given the severity of their crimes made them play a more subtle and insidious game. Hitler moved the party, to initial reluctance, in a more parliamentary direction, albeit always with the direction to eventually get enough power to dissolve the Republic entirely and cement dictatorial authority that would radically change society in a revolutionary way. Hitler would publicly say and insist that the party would behave legally while in practice violating all norms, promises, and good faith. This was their strategy in the decade between 1923-1933. The major bits of luck that came their way was The Great Depression. Between 1923-1929, Germany had an economic recovery, and Hitler's statements about the decay and decadence of the Weimar years in this time sounded like he was still living in the year 1922-1923 and had been stuck in a time warp. After the Depression, Hitler came off as a prophet even though he was actually acting like a broken record. This set the stage for the Nazi seizure of power. Between 1933 and 1945, Germany's policies were dominated by Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party.
note note note
The party and the country it ruled are best remembered for being fanatically racist (even by the standards of the 1930s, their racism was off the charts). While fascism in general always had a social Darwinistic world view, the Nazis were the first fascist movement to tie their social Darwinism explicitly to race and culture (collectively known as "Volk"), due in large part to Hitler's utter obsession with both of these things. The Nazis despised Communists, Socialists, Eastern Slavs, Africans, Asians (Japanese and Manchus were an exception), and some other European ethnic groups (among them the Romani people) in that order. note However, they had a special hatred for Jews despite their European heritage, because their Conspiracy Theorist roots led them to consider Jews the mastermind behind the non-racial and non-national ideologies of "Judeo-Bolshevism" and "finance capitalism", as they put it.note These posed an existential threat to Racism and Nationalism. The ultimate goal of the Nazis was the complete extermination of these "inferior races"; in the case of Eastern Europe, the plan was to replace them with German settlers as a medium-term goal for improving the European races' odds in the eventual wars with the Asian and African races. Though this is by no means the only policy adopted by Nazi Germany, it was so prominent that it has become one of their defining characteristics. The belief in the superiority of what Hitler called the Aryan race would ultimately culminate in The Holocaust — the use of "fit" elements of these troublesome demographics as slave labor for the war effort and the systematic mass murder of their every "unfit" element, a campaign that claimed eleven million lives before it was finally stopped. Interestingly, the deaths of half of those 11 million people (the 5.5 million Jews) gave rise to the term 'genocide'.
Nazi Germany attempted to move its eastern border about 500km eastward as a stepping-stone to ensure her long-term destiny. Hitler believed that Nazi Germany and the Aryan race should be the rightful rulers over not just all the German-speaking peoples, or even the Germanic states, but all of Europe. This pursuit of territory led to the annexation of Austria and the Sudetenland, the invasion of Poland, and ultimately the start of World War II — the single most destructive war in human history, killing millions, of whom many were civilians.
The extent of the Nazis' desire for conquest is subject to some Alternative Character Interpretation, as certain historians - most infamously A.J.P. Taylor - assert that Hitler's foreign policy was opportunistic and the incompetence of his enemies was as responsible for German gains and the war as himself, while others even believe that Hitler had a Stufenplan (step-by-step plan) for total world domination that would have ended in a global showdown, with the United States on one side and Greater Germany, Italy, Japan and the British Empire on the other.... give or take one or two add ons or eliminations from the latter list. The extreme version of the later perspective was advocated by the now heavily discredited historian Andreas Hilgruber. Since Hilgruber first proposed it in the 1960s, the Stufenplan belief has largely died down, although Taylor's assertions that the annexations of Austria and Czechoslovakia were as much to do with diplomatic blunders as Nazi foreign policy has also failed to convince the mainstream.
Because of Nazi Germany's involvement in World War II and the unambiguous "evil-ness" of their racial policies, they make convenient enemies in fiction and Video Games. Unfortunately, this has also resulted in people (at both ends of the political spectrum) using the term "Nazi" as an insult towards anyone with whom they may disagree. This practice is strongly discouraged in intelligent debate and is now considered a sign that the name-caller has no actual argument for their case. It's also important to note that just because the Nazis did something doesn't mean that thing is inherently evil purely on account of that association. For example, the Nazis built the first modern highway network (the Autobahn)note , and it's safe to say that highways are not evil. Probably.
- Nazi Germany was heavily into "racial purity", believing in the superiority of the Aryan race, despite that:
- "Aryan" was a synonym for Indo-Europeans, who originated from just over the Caspian Sea, though today the term is usually used in reference to the specific group (Indo-Aryans or Indo-Iranians) who inhabit parts of India and most of Iran (which is a modern form of a word "Ariyanam", that means "[land] of the Aryans"). The Nazis believed that the Aryans (Indo-Europeans) were Nordics whose homeland was Iceland or somewhere else in Northern Europe, although some Nazi Occultists like Himmler proposed more zany origin stories, like that the Aryans were from Atlantis.
- Hitler, despite having brown hair, was among the many Germans regarded as Nordic. He possessed the characteristic features laid out in Hans Gunthers' The Racial Elements of European History (Hitler's favorite racial text after Madison Grant's The Passing of the Great Race), including a long, angular face, tall stature, light eyes (blue), light skin, and straight hair. Notably, the Nazis did not regard all of Germany as being Nordic, just majority-Nordic.note The only well-known Nazi who fit 100% of the Nordic description was Reinhard Heydrich, who was super tall (even by modern standards), had platinum blond hair, blue eyes, a long and narrow face, and was a champion athlete and renowned violinist. However, according to Himmler's doctor, Felix Kersten, Heydrich was half Jewish (although this is far from proven). Goering fit the description as well, but years of hedonism and morphine addiction took away from this and instead caused his stereotype of being an obese idiot.
- It was the world's first country to run regular TV services.
- It was the first country to engage in a major anti-smoking campaign.
- It was the first country to state animal protection laws.
- It was the first country to develop turbojet aircrafts.
- It was the first country to develop ballistic missiles and use them on enemy cities.
- It was the first country to put an object in space, with a V-2 launch in 1942.
- Hitler, mass butcher of human beings that he was, was a kind non-smoker who loved animals and never went near any of the prison camps and death camps himself. His personal views on killing off entire peoples are unclear, but he did approve a number of policies which did exactly that (starting in 1939 with T-4, the euthanasia of Germany's disabled people). He's often described as a vegetarian and teetotaler, but several people who knew him described him as eating and drinking at least some meat and sometimes alcohol, drinking high-class champagne together with his mistress Eva Braun. (One explanation is that Hitler, who had digestive trouble, was advised not to eat meat by his doctors, but didn't really listen. Another is that he only started being vegetarian when his most beloved niece, Geli, committed suicide, and ever since then he associated meat with corpses.) It's hard to be certain because for some reason, it's not just a purely academic question. Many people have been suspected of (usually very lazily) researching this topic in order to prove their preconceptions.
- The Nazis, however, didn't give vegetarian organizations exemption from banning, though they did introduce very tough anti-cruelty to animals laws by the standards of the time, with the implications that Jews were naturally cruel to animalsnote while Germans loved them. Himmler even pointed out, in his 1943 Poznan speech, that "we Germans, who are the only people in the world to have a decent attitude to animals, will also adopt a decent attitude to these human animals". (That last part referred to the Poles and Russians.)
- The Nazis also enacted conservation laws to preserve German forests. This was motivated in large part by their beliefs that the physical strength and hardy character supposedly emblematic of the Germanic peoples were originally forged over many millennia in the primeval woods of northern and northeastern Europe through their struggles against the rough environment and the ferocious beasts that lived there. Göring and some Nazi scientists decided in 1941 to apply these hypotheses to the newly-conquered forest of Bialowieza in Poland (covered in a kind of untouched woodland once common across northeastern Europe in ancient times) by forcing out its human inhabitants, filling it with horses and cattle bred to resemble their wild ancestors, and turning it into the world's largest game preserve where Germans could once again satisfy their primal urges. The Red Army pushed the Nazis out of the region before this revived Prehistoria could be fully realized, but the communists decided to implement their own conservation laws for the area.note Today, the descendants of those horses and cattle still roam the forest, having been named Heck horses and Heck cattle after Lutz Heck, the man who organized the breeding project; the latter also known as "Hell cattle" because of their reputation for being very aggressive towards people.
- While homosexuality and interracial relationships were strictly outlawed, the attitude towards straight sex between "Aryans" was quite liberal in the Third Reich, and Aryans were encouraged to have lots of sex and have many children, within marriages or not. Women received welfare from the state to support them if needed, or in rare cases, the children were seized by the SS and raised by them if proven to be genetically Aryan (the "Lebensborn" project). Nude bathing was legalized in 1942.
- Nazi sexual policy was less about liberated morals, however, and more about filling the vast swaths of eastern Europe that they intended to capture and depopulate (in fact, German population growth had been declining in the Interbellum). The Nazis preached "Aryan" fertility, and their idea of the woman's place leaned heavily towards "barefoot and pregnant". The phrase "Kinder, Küche, Kirche" ("Children, Kitchen, Church"), often attributed to either Kaiser Wilhelm II or to his wife Empress Augusta Victoria, gained new currency as a propaganda slogan within Nazi-era Germany. Contraception and abortion were also banned for Aryans, except in cases of euthanasia.
- Heinrich Himmler ran the "Lebensborn" program, which was a series of houses created to produce more Nordic blood in the overall German population. If the wife of an SS soldier, who was required to be a non-Jewish Nordic, needed help raising their children, she would receive help at these houses. Nordic women could also put their children up for adoption here, providing the child was pure as well. And single women who wanted children of their own could either adopt or get impregnated by one of those strapping young SS men at a Lebensborn house.
- It's commonly known that when Himmler led the SS into Poland, he either killed or enslaved Jews, Slavs, Gypsies, and anyone else who wasn't Germanic. However, as eluded to earlier, if a young Slavic child had Nordic features, he or she would be kidnapped and taken to a Lebensborn house to be raised as a German. Although the Norwegians weren't treated nearly as bad as the Polish, the SS also kidnapped many Norwegian children for the same purpose.
- Its trains ran on time, although history tends to overstate this. Hitler liked fostering competition among his underlings — even at the expense of efficiency. Towards the end, the only trains running on time were those heading to Auschwitz...
- It actually banned Gothic (Blackletter) writing in 1941 when they were declared to be "Jewish letters," (though Fraktur, a subtype of Blackletter, still remained in use.) in spite of its pop-cultural association with Nazi Propaganda and the image of Nazi Germany as dark, edgy, and Gothic (which was arguably true even after that).
- The SS uniform, which serves as fetish appeal Impossibly Cool Clothes featured all the time in BDSM porn, was NOT designed by Hugo Boss. SS-Oberführer Karl Diebitsch designed SS uniforms and much of the organization's regalia. Hugo Boss was just one of several manufacturers of uniforms.
- The display of Nazi Germany as "the most effective/well-organized/hard-working society ever created" that abounds in older fiction has been convincingly disproved, with the modern view of Nazi Germany being Fascist, but Inefficient becoming just as popular. Hitler created a confusing mass of bureaucracies all hampering and spying on each other, which also prevented any one of them from gaining enough power to be a danger to himself or his all-important periods of lazing about. They were, however, amazingly anal-retentive. It has been guessed this helped the International Criminal Court a lot during the Nuremberg Trials. It's probably why the term Grammar Nazi exists.
- About Nazi gun control laws:
- The Weimar Republic (the democratic government after World War I) was forced to enact very strict gun control laws, as part of the disarmament agreement required by the Versailles Treaty.
- By 1928, gun ownership was allowed again, but in very strict conditions, as the Social Democratic government was fully interested in getting rid of armed militias, which included both the Nazi SA and the various communist paramilitaries.
- In 1938, the Nazis softened these laws, increasing the length of a permit from one year to three years, lowering the age requirement for said permit from 20 to 18, and eliminating long-gun restrictions altogether. The same law forbade Jews from manufacturing or selling firearms, but they did not lose their right to own guns until two days after Kristallnacht. By that point, they were no longer able to hold government office, marry Germans, or go to school with Germans, and the Wehrmacht and SS had all but fully mobilized. It was essentially too late.
- The reason why Nazi gun policy is over-exaggerated might be because the Nazis did strip occupied countries of firearms. This is understandable to some degree, since the last thing you want an occupied nation to have is easy access to weapons for La Résistance (and indeed similar restrictions were levied on Japan and Germany by the Allies), but since more people lived in the occupied countries than did in the Reich proper, the image of draconian Nazi gun control owes more to people writing about the policy for occupied countries than the more nuanced one "in the Reich".
- The 1936 Olympics were the first to feature the Olympic torch relay carrying the Olympic flame from Olympia, Greece to the host city (in this case Berlin). Everyone knows Jesse Owens won the 1936 Olympic gold medals for the 100m sprint, the long jump, the 200m sprint, and the 4x100m relay, but the first blow to the idea of European eugenically-bred super-athletes was the 1912 Olympics. Oddly, Owens himself is quoted as saying "Hitler didn't snub me; it was FDR that snubbed me."Note Although when you factor in the fact that, at the time, America's racial policies and attitudes weren't a million miles off from those of Nazi Germany, and that Owens never received any kind of official acknowledgement of his achievements until Eisenhower's administration in the 1950s, this ire becomes a bit more understandable.
- There was very little to any rationing in the first half of the war. You know how Americans had victory gardens, were encouraged to recycle everything (scrap metal, kitchen grease, etc)? How Brits and Soviets rationed everything, from gasoline to food? Yeah, Germany had none of that up until Stalingrad. To the average German, it wasn't obvious there was even a war on. They lived in Bread and Circuses. The carpet-bombing campaigns over German cities (which were a British initiative to which Americans rallied themselves) were part of a grand strategic plan based exactly on this: bringing the misery of war to a population that had not yet felt it.
- It is often brought up that "socialist" was in the Nazi Party's full name. The full name of the Party — "National Socialist German Workers' Party" — would have sounded to a German living in the 1920s and '30s something like "Democratic Republican Nationalist Progressive Party" would sound to an American living today. On the political compass, they're generally placed as authoritarian centrists, scoring very high on the social control axis, but medium on the economic control axis.
- Keep in mind that none of this was particularly new in Germany. A regulated-but-still-profit-driven market economy with a heavy military element had been the standard policy of German monarchists and their socialist rivals going all the way back to the 1870s; one of the defining political conflicts was just over where the emphasis was between the reactionary, militaristic autocrats and the (at the time) pacifist socialists. In Germany, and continental Europe in general, there was no association between right-wing politics and strict laissez-faire capitalism, as there is in America both then and now. In fact, many conservatives saw state control of industry (as long as the state was run by the aristocratic or military elite) as a bulwark against socialism, to the extent that it could be used to break unions and other workers' organizations, while anarchism (which opposes the state by definition) was a major tendency in radical left-wing politics through the 1930s, even if it was falling into decline with the ascendancy of the USSR.
- The one constant element in Nazi ideology and practice was genocidal racism and brutal dictatorship, which is what they are remembered for, but in matters of economics, they were a little flexible, at least at first. They had both "left-wing" and "right-wing" factions on economic matters, with the "left" (led by Ernst Röhm, his SA, and Goebbels, as well as the Strasser brothers, who were pushed aside before 1933) advocating nationalization of industry, while the "right" (led by Himmler, the SS, and Schacht) advocated an alliance with the wealthy capitalists and big business. Hitler made a pretext at being willfully aloof, at least until it became clear how important the alliances with Germany's old-school industrialists and militarists was to gaining power and how much of a thorn and threat Röhm's SA was becoming, at which point Hitler swung behind the SS, the "right-wing" faction quickly gained the upper hand, and Röhm and the SA were purged and/or driven into hiding during the Night of Long Knives, with Gregor Strasser and Röhm being amongst the more high profile people killed in the purge. In the end, the Nazis came to power as part of an alliance with conservative political forces. This however came to bite the conservatives in the ass as their party was banned and some members either arrested or killed on the Night of the Long Knives, whereas the industrialists, many of whom came to support Hitler after the Reichstag fire and the crushing of the unions, eventually saw their industries coming under stricter regulations and restrictions under the four-year plan. Some traditional conservative economic policies such as limited welfare were expanded under the Third Reich, much of it funded by the plunder of Jewish wealth as well as the wealth of occupied countries later down the line.
- They also placed price and wage controls on the economy, cartelized industries, and strictly controlled the work force under the government Labor Front when unions were banned. Four-Year Plans were implemented to rival the Five-Year Plans of the Soviet Union, aspects which fit the ideas of herrenvolk democracy whereby government programs and benefits are doled out exclusively and partially to a herrenvolk (German for Master Race) who are identified to be equal amongst themselves and superior above others, by publicly excluding and persecuting those who are part of the out-group.note "National" and "German" were right-wing conservative catchphrases (the main conservative party at the time was called the German National Party), and "Socialist" and "Workers" were of course left-wing catchphrases. The name was meant to sound vague and all-embracing, to attract as wide an audience as possible. This reflected the Nazis' nationalist ideology: they always insisted they were the party of all Germans, and opposed democracy and internationalist socialism for being "divisive".
- According to the 2016 biography of Hitler by Volker Ullrich, Hitler repeatedly insisted that race trumped class, and repeatedly insisted that the Nazism was about uniting all the classes of the same race together. Hitler throughout his career repeatedly courted favor from industries and always shut down any plans by his underlings to make real moves against big business. He and his party in their earlier years were funded and subsidized by some wealthy patrons and backers (although most had remained with the conservatives until 1933, not trusting an ideology they saw as socialism in disguise), and Hitler allied himself with and got support and advice from heavy industry magnates like Thyssen and Krupp. There's far more evidence and consistency of Nazis being pro-capital than pro-labor, and to the extent they were socialist, it was always socialism for the chosen few Aryan Germans. Still, during the four-year plan, many of these same businessmen would become disillusioned with Nazism after tightening economic restrictions, despite some room to maneuver, the market itself was becoming ever stricter under the totalitarian regime. Even then however, the majority of businessmen saw increased profits from the regime, and many participated in the Holocaust.
- Despite the popular culture image of rural conservatism based on the rhetoric of "blood and soil" and Heinrich Himmler's career as a farmer (an image that the Nazis themselves loved to cultivate), the core of the National Socialist political machinery was the urban lower-class, made up of a mixture of punkish characters, impoverished skilled workers and professionals, intellectuals, and nationalistic military men. This gives an insight into the reasons for which they were hated by the Prussian aristocracy, the established bourgeoisie, and the intellectual class of the Weimar Republic. The hatred was mutual, and Hitler spent much of his time figuring out how to ease the imperial military aristocracy out of power.
- The historian Joachim Fest basically says that the Nazis consisted of these outcasts of German society, the massive demographic of angry lower-class men who had no direction in life after World War I and the Depression. The important thing about them is that they were overwhelmingly recent arrivals into the lower class. These were not people who had been lower-class all their lives, but people who were used to being (relatively) well-off and respected, who had lost their businesses or otherwise fallen into the lower class as a result of the Depression. They were angry for being "robbed of their rightful place" in the high-status parts of society, and wanted to get back up there, to form a new ruling elite. As it turned out, they were forced to accept an uncomfortable compromise with the old elite, in order to destroy their mutual enemies (Jews, communists, unions, and of course those pesky French and subhuman Russians).
- There were at least three distinctive periods in the 12 years of the Nazizeit ("Nazi Times", as modern Germans call them), so different that it can be inferred there were three different Reichs. For some complex reasons, the post-1945 media has a tendency to prominently display the second period.
- The first period, roughly from 1932, before Hitler assumed Chancellorship, to late 1939, had leaned less on the "Nazi" side and more on the "racist anti-Marxist militaristic nationalist" side. The military had been dominated by the anti-socialist and militaristic Prussian senior military class, the stuffy and conservative Weimar Republic civilian bureaucracy held sway over most day to day running of the administration, the cultural system grunted and groaned under the Nazi purges, yet the way of thinking and ordinary life of most people changed only very gradually and subtly. There were massive NSDAP rallies, public construction projects, industrial development, and Bread and Circuses meant to gain popular support, like film, public television, paid vacations for the working class, saving for your VW Beetle, and so on. The early campaigns of the war were more or less classic military conquests. All things that were unpleasant enough and soiled with blood, like extermination of the mentally ill, sterilization, mass murder by the Einsatzgruppen (SS death squads), happened somewhere far away from the eyes of the general population. Death camps were not built yet. Battlefield troops were the old drilled regiments raised under the eye of Prussian generals. The Waffen-SS existed just under the guise of a few units armed with leftovers from the arsenals. Official ideology was Germanic, racist, anti-Semitic, and nationalist.
- The second period, from late 1939 to late 1942, was starkly different and could be surmised as 'megalomaniacal and exponentially more genocidal'. It was marked by a great deal of optimism about the future and what could be accomplished in wartime. For a short time, it seemed as if the sky was the limit, and everything was possible. Germany's disabled and mentally ill were being euthanized, Germany was initiating ethnic cleansing to free up most of Poland for German settlers, Germany was eliminating every possible threat to national security in the occupied Soviet Union, and Germany's total victory over the Soviet Union seemed at hand. Filled with joy and hope, Hitler approved an escalating series of more extreme measures to ensure Germany's future. In 1942, these included the euthanasia of the unfit (for war-work) two-thirds of the Jewish population outside the Soviet Union.
- The third period, from late 1942 to the end, was quite different again and was essentially characterized by ruthless and desperate pragmatism. It was no longer Germany against everyone, no easy conquest in sight, no quick victory, and no expenses were to be spared. Suddenly, the war in the east became a "pan-European fighting against the deadly threat of Bolshevism" and the previously despised non-Germans were to be drawn to this cause. The Waffen-SS opened itself to recruitment from all available populations (literally all, down to the "non-Aryan" Turkics and Tatars from Central Asia), the political power of the military class was stymied, and the top figures of the NSDAP and SS came out under the limelight. Armed forces inflated themselves overnight, the research projects that had been shelved "if no usable result is expected earlier than one year" in expectancy of a short war were reactivated, and the mass-murders were rolled back considerably and streamlined to cut down on personnel. This was the time of the Cool Tanks, Cool Planes, cool weapons, secret weapons, berserker tactics, mass murder, violence in the extreme to nearly-cartoonish levels, the time of Sven Hassel books.
- Much like with the Soviet Union and East Germany, there were forbidden political jokes that poked fun at the regime. Here are some:
- What's the difference between between Christianity and National Socialism? In Christianity, one died for all. In National Socialism, all die for one.
- Two Jews are about to be shot. Then the order comes to hang them instead. One turns to the other and says, "You see, they're running out of bullets."*
- In 1945, one German asked, "What will you do after the war?" The other replied, "I shall take a trip around Greater Germany." The first said, "And what will you do in the afternoon?"
- Hitler and Göring are standing atop the Berlin balcony. Hitler says he wants to do something to put a smile on Berliners' faces. So Göring says: "Why don't you jump?"note
- A Jewish man is charged with killing a Nazi officer and eating his brain. "Impossible," says the man. "Nazis have no brains and Jews can't eat pork."
- Late in the war, one German asked how to distinguish enemy aircraft. "It's very simple," another replied. "British planes are brown, American planes are silver, and German planes are invisible."
- Hitler goes to a fortune-teller and asks, "When will I die?" And the fortune-teller replies, "On a Jewish holiday." Hitler then asks "How do you know that?" And she replies, "Any day you die will be a Jewish holiday."
- In 1944, how would you tell an Optimist German from a Pessimist German? The Optimist would study English, while the Pessimist would study Russian.
If you want to read more about the regime:
- The most acclaimed modern comprehensive survey of its era is The Third Reich Trilogy by Richard J. Evansnote , which includes the books The Coming of the Third Reich, The Third Reich in Power, and The Third Reich at War, which are also available in audiobook at Audible.com.
- The Hitler duology by Ian Kershaw. Pretty much any book by Kershaw on the era, actually.
- Hitler: A Study in Tyranny by Alan Bullock.
- The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich by William L. Shirer, who was a radio correspondent for CBS in Germany and Austria until 1940, and actually witnessed some of the events he wrote about, like the 1934 Nuremberg rally, the Anschluss, and the French surrender in June 1940.note
- The Third Reich: A New History by Michael Burleigh.
- The Hitler State by Martin Broszat.
- Hitler's Empire by Mark Mazower.
- Hitler's Beneficiaries by Gotz Aly.
- The Wages of Destruction by Adam Tooze.
- The Vampire Economy by Gunter Reimann.
- The Dictators: Stalin's Russia and Hitler's Germany by Richard Overy.
- Goebbels: A Biography by Peter Longerich.
- Heinrich Himmler by Peter Longerich.
- Becoming Hitler: The Making of a Nazi by Thomas Webber.
- Hitler's True Believers by Robert Gellately.
- Understanding Nazism by Johann Chapoutot.
Questionable or avoidable books include:
- Quite obviously, Mein Kampf. While it is useful as a first-hand source for analyzing Hitler's beliefs and thought process, it was written and distributed solely for propaganda purposes. However, there are annotated versions which provide historical context to the passages and point out where Hitler is being liberal with the facts. Same goes for Zweites Buch.
- Albert Speer's memoir Inside the Third Reich is a fascinating view from someone with an inside perspective on Hitler and the upper echelons of Nazidom, but it should be read after you read some of the more reputable books, as Speer (understandably but not really excusably) whitewashes most of the worst Nazi atrocities, particularly as regards his own role in them.
- Hitler & Stalin: Parallel Lives by Alan Bullock because Bullock got many basic facts of Stalin's life and personality wrong due to poor research.
- Hitler: Memoirs of a Confidant by Otto Wagener. While also a memoir from an ardent Nazi, it is also flawed because of that, with any Nazi obviously having an extreme devotion to Hitler and thus is blinded by that devotion. Same goes for Goebbels Diary.
- The Testament of Adolf Hitler by François Genoud. To quote Kershaw "This English version contains a very loose and untrustworthy translation of the German textitself not guaranteed to be identical with any long-lost original or the lost copy of that originalwhich was eventually published only in 1981... The available German text is, therefore, at best a construct; neither the original nor the copy of that original exists. [Eduard] Baumgarten tended, since the content was consonant with Hitler's thinking and expression, to accept the authenticity of the text. There is, however, no proof and, therefore, no reliable German text whose authenticity can be placed beyond question."
- Hitler Speaks by Hermann Rauschning. Used to be heavily quoted by historians, but has since been debunked and discredited, with the majority of the conversations recorded having never happened.
- Hitler's Table Talks. While the overwhelming majority of historians agree it's authentic, many also caution that the English translation is inaccurate and not totally reliable.
- The Hitler Diaries, forgeries by Konrad Kujau passed off as real.
- The Kersten Memoirs, 1940-1945 by Felix Kersten. Kersten was Himmler's personal masseur during the war and documented many of their conversations. Dutch historian Lou De Jong later proved that Kersten had falsified documents to present himself as a hero who talked Himmler out of forcibly deporting the entire Dutch population to Poland and Ukraine.
- The Pink Swastika by Scott Lively and Kevin Abrams. Dismissed as pseudo-history by most historians for invoking Godwin's Law as part of an overall homophobic agenda, this hugely controversial book alleges that the Nazi Party was run by a homosexual elite (including many Nazis with documented exclusively heterosexual relationships, such as Hitler, Goering, and Goebbels) and that their super-manliness drove the militarism of the Third Reich.
- Anything by the convicted Holocaust denier David Irving because he constantly and consistently lied to make Hitler and the Nazis look less evil. The exceptions include The Mare's Nest, an account of the German V-weapons programme and the Allied intelligence countermeasures against it, and The Virus House, an account of the German nuclear energy project for which Irving conducted many interviews, both of which are still highly regarded by mainstream historians.
- The Reichstropen page regroups the tropes that refer to/originated in Nazi Germany.
- Subjects related to Nazi Germany:
- Abwehr — The army's Intelligence Service.
- The Gestapo — The Nazi state's infamous Secret Police.
- Willi Herold — A young German soldier who carried out a massacre of deserters from his own country.
- Reinhard Heydrich — One of the key figures of the regime.
- The Hindenburg — The famous zeppelin, which famously crashed in a horrific scene that showed the dangers of working with hydrogen on such aircrafts.
- Adolf Hitler — The Nazi regime's leader and central figure.
- The Holocaust — Nazi Germany's infamous campaign of industrialized murder during World War II. The prosecution of it gave prominence to the word "genocide".
- Josef Mengele — A Nazi physician responsible for inhumane experimentation on Auschwitz inmates.
- Nazis with Gnarly Weapons — The armed forces.
- Leni Riefenstahl — Prominent filmmaker, made some famous documentaries for propaganda purposes.
- Erwin Rommel — A famous military figure of the era.
- World War II — The war Nazi Germany started in Europe, fought and lost.
- The Testament of Dr. Mabuse, 1933 — The last film Fritz Lang made in Germany, completed two months after the Nazis seized power. Banned by the Nazis and not screened in Germany until 1961.
- Triumph of the Will, 1934 — Leni Riefenstahl's infamous 1934 propaganda film and her best known work. It notably inspired George Lucas, who based the last scene of Star Wars on this very film.
- The films of Hans Detlef Sierck, before he defected from Germany in 1937, made his way to Hollywood, and changed his name to Douglas Sirk.
- Pillars of Society, 1935 — A Norwegian man who emigrated to America and became a farmer returns to his old home town, where he falls in love with a local girl. Adaptation of Henrik Ibsen's play The Pillars of Society.
- La Habanera, 1937 — Starred a young Swedish newcomer named Zarah Leander, who would become Nazi Germany's biggest movie star and singer.
- Die Unbekannte, 1936 — tragic melodrama with Sybille Schmitz falling in love with a man who already has a fiancée
- Glückskinder, 1936 — A screwball comedy and semi-remake of It Happened One Night (yep)
- The Four Companions, 1938 — Starred a young Swede named Ingrid Bergman that Goebbels was grooming for stardom. Bergman soon left for Hollywood.
- Olympia, 1938 — Leni Riefenstahl's second most well-known propaganda film, chronicling the 1936 Berlin Olympics.
- Die Reise nach Tilsit, 1939 — remake of the classic American silent film Sunrise.
- Jud Süß (Jew Süss), 1940 — A notoriously anti-Semitic historical film, very loosely based off a 1925 novel by Lion Feuchtwanger. The novel's other cinematic adaptation, made in Britain in 1934, is a lot Truer to the Text and actually condemns anti-Semitism.
- Der Ewige Jude (The Eternal Jew), 1940 — A propaganda film presented as a documentary, one of the most virulent anti-Semitic films ever produced. It was reported that even German audiences thought it was banal at best and crass at worst, compared to other propaganda films. Overt anti-Semitic propaganda on film pretty much ceased afterwards, or at least went infinitely more "subtle".
- Das Herz der Königin (The Heart of a Queen), 1940 — A lavish historical biopic, also starring Zarah Leander. The film makes selective use of the life story of Mary, Queen of Scots for anti-British propaganda purposes. Das Herz der Königin is a common example of the Nazi propaganda machine's portrayal of their British enemies as corrupt, vindictive, and hell-bent on world domination. Oddly enough, this is one of very few films to accurately show that Mary and Queen Elizabeth never met in real life.
- Wunschkonzert, 1940 — Wartime propaganda about the star-crossed romance between a woman and her Luftwaffe pilot boyfriend.
- Frauen sind doch bessere Diplomaten (Women Are Better Diplomats), 1941 — A musical comedy. Germany's first feature-length color film (using the Agfacolor technology), starring actress, dancer and singer Marika Rökk.
- Die Frau meiner Träume (The Woman of my Dreams), 1944 — Another Agfacolor musical comedy by the same production team starring Marika Rökk.
- Titanic, 1943 — First feature film about the sinking of the RMS Titanic, made as anti-British propaganda in the same vein as Das Herz der Königin. Surprisingly influential on later portrayals such as James Cameron's Titanic.
- Münchhausen, 1943 — An adaptation of the Munchausen folk tales
- Die Feuerzangenbowle (The Punch Bowl), 1944 — Comedy starring Heinz Rühmann, one of Germany's most beloved actors. The most durable audience success produced in Nazi Germany.
- Opfergang, 1944 — Tragic Victorian Novel Disease romance that also contains some subtle Nazi propaganda about self-sacrifice and euthanasia
- Kolberg, 1945 — A film about the defense of Kolberg during The Napoleonic Wars. The most expensive picture to be produced during the Third Reich era, it saw a very limited release in early 1945 due to Germany being invaded and roads being under constant Allied air attacks. The movie paints a picture of Kolberg being successfully defended against overwhelming odds (glossing over such "minor details" as Britain and Russia being Prussian allies at the time) which was intended to inspire Germans to fight to their last breath rather than to give up on the hopeless and lost war.
- Mein Kampf (My Struggle): While written in the 1920s, it was definitely the era's best seller. It was even given for free to every newlywed couple and every soldier fighting at the front.
- Auf den Marmorklippen (On the Marble Cliffs): A novella written in 1939 by Ernst Jünger, it describes the upheaval and ruin of a serene agricultural society. Prone to Alternate Aesop Interpretation, as many people see a parable on nazism in it.
- The Fernsehsender Paul Nipkow (TV Station Paul Nipkow), based in Berlin, was the first public television station in the world. It was on the air three times per week for ninety minutes, from March 22, 1935 until it was shut down in November 1944. It was receivable only in and around Berlin, and had the first TV announcer in history.
- Rumor has it that a proto-Reality TV program called Ein Abend mit Hans und Gelli (An Evening with Hans and Gelli) was to be aired on the country's burgeoning (but never completed nor widespread) TV network as part of the regime's propaganda, depicting the wholesome Aryan life of a young German couple for the rest of the population to model themselves on. It seemingly went into Development Hell.
- Carl Orff's Carmina Burana, 1935-1936
- Popular singers of the time included the likes of Lale Andersen, Johannes Heesters (who remained well loved in Germany up until his death in 2011 at age 108), Zarah Leander, Lilian Harvey (emigrated to the USA in 1942), Evelyn Künneke, Marika Rökk and Lizzi Waldmüller. Most of them were also actors/actresses and dancers.
- "Lili Marleen", the love song performed by Lale Andersen for the first time in 1939, became a smash hit among German troops in 1941 when it was broadcast on Radio Belgrade. Even the Allies loved it, so much so that singers like Vera Lynn, The Andrews Sisters and Marlene Dietrich and countless others performed covers of it.
- Brechtian actor and singer Ernst Busch sang quite a few pamphlet songs against the nascent regime in 1933 such as "Marsch Ins Dritte Reich", which forced him to leave Germany.
See Works Set in World War II for the works set between 1939 and 1945.
Many works that are set during The Great Depression or very early World War II but do not take place in Germany will nonetheless refer to it one way or another. Usually through newspapers or the radio or by having the protagonist go to a movie theater that screens Newsreels from Europe (real life footage from Nuremberg rallies and Hitler's pre-war speeches, usually).
- 38 Vienna Before the Fall is set in Austria during the Anschluss (annexation) in 1938.
- Ace of Aces is set during the Berlin Olympic Games in 1936.
- Berlin 36 tells the story of Jewish track and field athlete Gretel Bergmann in the 1936 Summer Olympics. She was replaced by Nazi authorities by an athlete later discovered to be an intersex man.
- Cabaret is set in pre-war Berlin. It's based on a set of short stories by Christopher Isherwood which were collected in Goodbye To Berlin and based on real events and people.
- Charlie Chaplin's The Great Dictator is a Take That! of epic proportions to Hitler and the way he reshaped Germany.
- Indiana Jones fights Those Wacky Nazis over ancient relics before the outbreak of World War II in Raiders of the Lost Ark and The Last Crusade. The latter features Nazi rallies and book burnings in Berlin, which is about the only serious and realistic detail about Nazis that's featured in the Indiana Jones movies (and it's still Anachronism Stew — there were no more book burnings by 1938, the bulk of them happened in 1933, not much was left to burn afterwards).
- Jew Süss: Rise and Fall chronicles the production of the notorious propaganda film and how Joseph Goebbels strong-armed actor Ferdinand Marian to play the part.
- The Man with the Iron Heart, a biopic about the life of Reinhard Heydrich from the sex scandal that got him fired from the German navy to his assassination in Prague in 1942, with emphasis on his role in purging the SA in 1934 and planning and launching The Holocaust at the Wannsee Conference.
- Mephisto: Adaptation of the novel (see Literature below). An actor sells out to the Nazis and becomes director of state theater.
- The Mortal Storm: Dramatizes the suffering of an anti-Nazi family in a German town after Hitler takes over in 1933.
- Munich - The Edge of War: Spy thriller set during the 1938 Munich Conference that resulted in the infamous Agreement that left Hitler free to occupy major parts of the Czech Republic.
- None Shall Escape, a 1944 film about a trial against a Nazi officer following the end of the (then-ongoing) second world war, told via flashbacks from the points of view of the witnesses at the trial. The first flashback takes place the newly-formed Polish state in 1919 right after the end of WWI, the next one takes place in the Weimar Republic in 1923 right before and after the Beer Hall Putsch before skipping ahead to 1929 and then to Nazi Germany in 1934 after the Night of the Long Knives, and the third and last one takes place in Nazi-occupied Poland during WWII.
- Resistance starts in Munich during the pogroms of the Kristallnacht in November 1938. It then follows the destiny of Jewish resistant Marcel Mangel (the future mime Marcel Marceau) during the Occupation of France in 1940-1944.
- Seven Years in Tibet, about Heinrich Harrer's expedition in Tibet in 1939. Harrer was involved in the Nazi party but later recognized it was a youth mistake.
- The Bernie Gunther series by Philip Kerr, a series of mystery novels that follow Berlin detective Bernie Gunther from 1928 to 1959. Of sixteen novels, four are set in whole or in part in Nazi Germany 1933-39. (Four more are set During the War).
- Mephisto, about an actor who sells out to the Nazis and becomes head of state theater.
- The Tin Drum (novel and film)
- Reunion, novella by Fred Uhlman. The impossible friendship between the son of a Jewish doctor and a young aristocrat in Stuttgart during the rise of the Nazis.
- The Alternative Hypothesis (La part de l'autre) by Éric-Emmanuel Schmitt has two parts, one part is Alternate History and the other is Real Life. The What If? point concerns Adolf Hitler being admitted at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna in 1907 in the former, and him being rejected from it in the latter.
- Cabaret is set in pre-war Berlin. It's based on a set of short stories by Christopher Isherwood which were collected in Goodbye To Berlin and based on real events and people.
- Enfin...Redde m'r nimm devon (At last... let's not talk about it anymore), the best known play by Germain Muller, takes place during the de facto annexation of Alsace by Nazi Germany between 1940 and 1944, which saw a brutal germanization and nazification and the conscription of many young men (including Germain himself) in the German armies.
- Cubby's World Flight by Van Beuren Studios is the earliest known piece of animation depicting Adolf Hitlernote . He is simply seen wearing Lederhosen and greeting Cubby with a beer Maß as he passes over Germany in his plane, alongside Paul von Hindenburg and an unidentified blond officer.
- Bosko's Picture Show (September 1933) is much more offensive, depicting a literally Ax-Crazy Hitler chasing big-nosed actor Jimmy Durante with an axe in the fictional town of Pretzel.
The Nazi Flag