History of Nazi Germany, 1943-1945

Administration . President 1934-1945 Adolf Hitler (NSDAP), Karl Dönitz May 1945 (non-party, military); chancellor 1933-1945 Adolf Hitler (NSDAP), May 1945 J.L. Graf Schwerin von Krosigk (non-party) no general elections held in 1943-1945.

Foreign Policy - The War
Stalingrad and El Alamein . Eastern Front . Africa, Italy . Normandy . The Final Months
A.) The Tide Turned : Stalingrad and El Alamein
In November 1942, German forces occupied an area stretching from the Atlantic coast to Stalingrad on the Volga river, from the North Cape to the Sahara desert. German propaganda called it Fortress Europe. However, fortress Europe had no roof. The Royal Air Force, after winning the Battle of Britain, had begun to systematically raid German cities, and the Air Bombardments made it more and more difficult for German industry to supply the fighting front.
On November 4th 1942, the Battle of El Alamein was fought. The German and Italian forces were outnumbered, without supplies and reinforcements. And they were ordered to hold out to the last. In January 1943, Soviet forces advanced, encircling the 9th German army in Stalingrad. The Russian artillery constantly battered the 230.000 German soldiers. An attempt to relieve them failed, the German Luftwaffe could not sufficiently supply the besieged army from the air. Hitler forbade any retreat. The Red Army took the city on Feb. 2nd, and 90.000 German soldiers were taken prisoner. El Alamein and Stalingrad mark the turning point of the war in the European theatre. From now on, the Axis Powers were on the retreat.

B.) The Eastern Front
Hitler channeled the new recruits into newly established SS divisions, thus withholding the armies on the fighting front desparately needed reinforcements. The front also experienced a severe lack of supplies. Since Stalingrad, it had to cope with a Soviet army with a dangerous heavy artillery, with robust tank units and a confident leadership. The advancing Red Army applied a lesson learned from Rommel, encircling German units, the most famous fought at Kursk. The Siege of Leningrad was broken. By december 1943, the Red Army had reached the Dnjepr line. The decision fell in the central sector; the Red Army broke through west of Kiev, reaching Rovno, Tarnopol and Chernovits in April 1944. In German occupied areas, Partisan activity increased.

C.) The Fall of Africa and the Campaign in Italy
After El Alamein, the Afrika Corps fought a battle of retreat, with the British under field marshal Montgomery on their heels. Afrika Corps surrendered on May 13th 1943. The allies landed in Sicily on July 10th 1943. After the conquest of Sicily, the allies landed in Italy. However, because of the mountainous landscape, and because the Italians defended their homeland, progress was very slow and costly. On July 25th, Mussolini was arrested, on the order of king Victor Emmanuel, and a new government was formed the next day marshal Badoglio. The fascist party was dissolved, secret negotiations with the allies begun.On Sept. 8th, the new government published an Armistice Agreement. Now German troops occupied Rome, liberated and reinstalled Mussolini. The Badoglio government had fled; Italy now had two governments - the Badoglio government in the south, liberated by the allies, and the Repubblica Sociale Italiane under Mussolini, now a mere German puppet, in the north.
The allies inched their way up the boot by landing behind German lines. A tough battle was fought over Monte Cassino (Feb. 15th 1944); Rome was liberated June 4th.

D.) The Invasion of Normandy
Stalin had demanded the opening of a new front for a long time. A first attempt to land allied troops in France was made by Canadians in Dieppe on Aug. 19th 1942. It ended up in a complete failure, the survivors either shipped back or taken prisoner. The Germans fortified the coastline between Skagen and the Pyrenees. The allied assembled a huge invasion force in southwest England : 11.000 planes, 4.000 ships, 3.000.000 soldiers. They massed mock airplanes and camps near Dover, creating the impression of a landing at the Pas de Calais. The decoy worked; Hitler, expecting the invasion there, ordered German forces to be massed there. On D-DAY, June 6th 1944, allied forces landed on the beaches of Normandy (Operation Overlord). Overcoming heavy resistance, they established a beachhead.

E.) The Final Months
In August 1944, Soviet troops invaded Romania. Romania signed an armistice on Sept. 12th, Bulgaria on Oct. 28th. Tito's partisans had liberated Belgrade on Oct. 18th. The Balkans front was collapsing; the German forces from Greece were withdrawn. Further north, the Red Army had reconquered the Baltic republics and marched into eastern Poland. Meanwhile, the allies had landed troops in the Provence; by the end of the year, France was liberated.
Finland, Germany's last ally, meanwhile had to face a second invasion of the Red Army. Unlike the Germans, they were able to stop it, but still had to sign a peace treaty on Stalin's terms.
Hitler had used another year's recruits to establish new army divisions. In January 1945, he threw these new forces against American forces, in what is known as the Battle of the Bulge. The German advance was stopped after a few days, but it succeeded in halting the western allies' advance for a while. Germany still did not surrender. When the Red Army entered Germany's capital, and battle was raging in the streets of Berlin, Hitler committed suicide. On May 8th/9th, Germany surrendered unconditionally - the war in Europe was over.

Domestic Policy . The defeat in the Battle of Stalingrad (Feb. 1943) and the Allied invasion of Normandy (June 1944) indicated, that unless major changes were implemented, Germany was to lose the war. The Nazi administration responded to the defeat at Stalingrad with the proclamation of Total War. It was illegal to talk of potential defeat, the term used to talk about an end to the war was "Endsieg" (Final Victory), Germany how was to be called "Grossdeutschland" (Great Germany). While the allies hoped for an early German surrender, Hitler was to hold out til the last man, hoping for a miracle similar to that which had saved Frederick the Great in the 7 Years War. Hitler based his hopes on a Final Victory on Wunderwaffen (miracle weapons), mainly on the missile project (V-1, V-2), the jet fighter and on the nuclear bomb project.

Stamps as instruments of propaganda :
Stamps of the Grossdeutsches Reich featuring was scenes, picturing war in a romanticised, heroic way.
On the left : U-Boat Captain looking for target, through periscope.
On the right : Ack-ack team lighting the sky looking out for bombers.

On July 20th 1944 a group of officers, led by Generaloberst Stauffenberg, attempted to assassinate Hitler and establish a new government. The bomb detonated, but Hitler survived; the conspirators were executed the same day. With the front coming closer, air raids taking their toll, the state, the economy, society began to fall apart. The number of deserters grew; those caught were immediately executed. The essentials - food, clothes, shoes - were hardly available in the stores. Cityfolk toured the countryside to barter food from the farmers; money was worthless. In a last effort to save the Heimat (Homeland, the Volkssturm was established, a unit formed of poorly armed, untrained school students and of those too old to be previously drafted. With food, medical supplies and coal becoming extremely scarce, forced labor and the inmates of concentration camps suffered even more.
Finally, Hitler's suicide made the German surrender possible (May 7th/8th 1945). The war was over.

The Economy . After the fall of Stalingrad, the tide turned against Germany. Minister of propaganda Joseph Goebbels in February 1943 proclaimed the Total War. All aspects of society were to be streamlined to serve the war effort. Theaters and libraries were closed, non-essential workers and employees drafted. The program was successful as industrial production peaked in 1944.. From late 1944 on the system keeping the population supplied with the essentials, the industrial production going and the German war machine supplied began to fall apart. Air bombardment had seriously affected the infrastructure, raw materials were scarce, most notably gasoline. There was a lack of everything, food shortage being a pressing issue.
Forced labour was essential in keeping the civilian production going.
Fortress Europe - the accumulation of territories occupied by or allied with Germany, stretching in 1942 from the French Atlantic coast to the steppes of Ukraine - had a serious deficiency : it lacked a roof. Large areas were vulnerable to air raids - most of Italy from Malta, the west of Germany from airbases located in England. The Royal Air Force, later joined by the US Airforce, flew many raids against German cities and created serious damage. The raid on Dresden in Feb. 1945 utterly destroyed the city in an inferno few survived. In the later years of the war, Germany tried to respond by sending V-1 and V-2 missiles against targets in England. Both in Britain, Germany and elsewhere the population tried to cope with the permanent threat of an air attack. Alarm systems and bomb shelters were installed, the Dark Out ordered. Important facilities and cities were protected by Ack-Acks (Ger.: Flak). In certain cases, the non-essential population was evacuated.
The war impacted every area of society, everywhere. The Axis powers found themselves under a sea blockade, though undeclared. Britain's import shipments from overseas were under permanent threat by German U-Boats. Early in the war all belligerents introduced a centrally managed war economy, with prices controlled to check inflation, with production oriented on the wartime demands, with Coupons being handed out to ensure a fair distribution of scarce consumer goods. Industry had to cope with a severe shortage of labor, as most able-bodied men were drafted into the army. Skilled workers sometimes were classified as indispensable and exemted from military service. Women were asked to join the labor force in large numbers. The German administration of occupied countries required citizens of these countries to work in Germany (Forced Labour).

Demography . No reliable statistics are available. The civilian population was affected by enlisted soldiers being removed from hometown and, often, from Germany. Air bombardment caused the evacuation of the non-essential population from urban centers to the countryside, for weeks, even months, at a time. The bombardment of cities caused the relocation of the residents of burnt-out houses into undamaged ones. As the destructiveness of air bombardment increased over time, the size of the internally displaced population increased. The most destructive Allied air raid on Germany was that on Dresden in February 1945. The number of victims is estimated somewhere between 60,000 and 200,000. Nobody knows for certain; the city, rather undamaged before the attack, housed a large number of internally displaced; any documents on the size of the population at that time burnt in the inferno.
While many German men were in uniform, serving abroad, a considerable number of working-age foreign men and women, as forced labour, served in Germany's production and added to the population. To these have to be added Allied P.O.W.s held in Germany.
The Holocaust was going on, much of it outside of German territory, but under exclusive German (Nazi) management. Among the German victims were Jews, Gypsies, homosexuals, political opponents of the Nazi regime.

Cultural History . The German film industry continued to turn out movies which, of course, had propagandistic purpose. Josef von Baky's Mül;nchhausen (1943) was seemingly unpolitical, escapist, provided the stressed Germans with an opportunity to laugh, and perhaps to believe in the impossible. It also was a film-technical achievement, as Münchhausen was portrayed riding a cannon ball etc. Helmut Weiss' Die Feuerzangenbowle (Punch Bowl) 1944 features a high school in the years prior to World War I. The story's protagonist, a writer, assumes the role of a high school student and cooks up one prank after the other, at the expense of teachers and principal. The viewers experience in the movie what was impossible in their real lives - to criticize, make fun of authority; another opportunity to laugh.
The song Lili Marleen, recorded by Lale Andersen in 1938, was the most popular tune broadcast by German radio stations between 1938 and 1945. The text (texted by Hans Leip, 1937) told the story of a girl waiting in front of the barracks for her soldier lover, appealing to emotions millions of German men wearing uniform could associate with.

Articles from Wikipedia : Volkssturm, Total War : Germany, Operation Walküre, July 20 Plot, Claus Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg, Arbeitseinsatz (Forced Labour in WW II Germany), Category : World War II Strategic Bombing, Bombing of Hamburg in World War II, Bombing of Dresden in World War II, Feuerzangenbowle, Münchhausen (film), Lili Marleen
Library of Congress Country Studies : Germany
Nationalsozialistische Europapläne (National Socialist Plans for Europe), by Daniel Spichtinger, in German
Long live our sacred Germany, the story of Claus Count von Stauffenberg, from Ursula's History Web
DOCUMENTS ----- note : some of the documents listed below are propagandistic and/or offensive. Discretion is advised -----

World War II Documents, from the Avalon Project from Yale Law School
The German Surrender (1945) : Documents, from totse.com
German Propaganda Posters, from Earth Station #1
A personal account of childhood years in Nazi Germany by Ursula Grosser-Dixon, from Ursula's History Web : From the Supreme Teachings of Nazi Ideology to the Ramifications of Unprecedented Betrayal, Living Through the Götterdämmerung of the Third Reich
Images from Chronik 2000 Bilddatenbank : Cologne, Air Raid Victims, May 1942; Bombs are dropped over a German town; Weisse Rose : Hans Scholl; Air Raid Alarm in Berlin, c.1943; Berlin Sportpalast, Feb. 18th 1943 : Goebbels' Total War Speech; Weisse Rose : Alexander Schmorell; Weisse Rose : Sophie Scholl; Weisse Rose : Hans Scholl; Weisse Rose : Christoph Probst; Berlin Sportpalast, Feb. 18th 1943 : Goebbels' Total War Speech; Weisse Rose : Sophie Scholl; Bishop Count von Galen; Hamburg Air Raid Victims, July 28th 1943; Hannover's Inner City, Oct. 19th 1943; Kassel, Air Raid Victims, Oct. 22nd 1943; Berlin, Air Raid Alarm; Munich burning after an Air Raid, 1944; Volkssturm men receive instruction, Sept. 25th 1944; Establishment of the Volkssturm, Sept. 25th 1944; Germany, Air Raid Victims; Ostpreussen, Refugee Treck; Aachen (US Army apporaching) : civilian population flees; Hitler shows Mussolini destroyed bunker, after July 20th 1944; July 20th 1944 : slightly wounded Hitler holds his arm; July 20th 1944 : Hitler, Keitel (with bandaged head); Claus Count Schenk von Stauffenberg; Rastenburg, Jult 20th 1944 : Wolfsschanze Bunker after Explosion; Volksgerichtshof : Freisler reads death sentences against plotters; Berlin Ploetzensee, place of execution; Gen. von Witzleben in front of Volksgerichtshof; Lt. Gen. Ludwig Beck; Volksgerichtshof : Freisler in Action; Treck of Refugees from Ostpreussen; A Refugee Treck has come under fire, Kurisches Haff Jan. 1945; The main task of the German Navy is the evacuation of Ostpreussen's population, Jan.- May 1945; Vice Admirals Thiele and Rogge organize the evacuation of Ostpreussen's population, Jan.-May 1945; The "Wilhelm Gustloff", which in Jan. 1945, overloaded with refugees, was torpedoed; Refugee victims on the overfrozen Kurisches Haff, Jan. 1945; Refugee Treck from Ostpreussen; Air Raid on Dresden, April 13th/14th 1945; Air Raid on Dresden, April 13th/14th 1945; Ostpreussen refugees, leaving all belongings behind, reach the "Sanga"; Dresden after the raid : collection of corpses; Dresden after the raid : burning of corpses; Red Flag hoisted on the Reichstag, Berlin, May 2nd 1945; US troops cross the Rhine at Remagen, May 3rd 1945; Gen. Jodl signs unconditional surrender at Reims, May 7th 1945; Gen. Keitel signs unconditional surrender to Soviets, Berlin-Karlshorst, May 8th1945 (1); Gen. Keitel signs unconditional surrender to Soviets, Berlin-Karlshorst, May 8th (2)
Lothar's Story : The Fire-Bombing of Dresden, an eyewitness account, from
Stories from the 1940's
World War II, selected letters of German soldiers, from Feldpost Archiv, available in German and in English translation
Archivalienkatalog des Deutschen Exilarchivs, at Univ. Regensburg
REFERENCE Karl Dietrich Erdmann, Kriegswirtschaft und Kriegsfinanzierung (War Economy and War Financing), in : K.D. Erdmann, Der Zweite Weltkrieg (World War II), Gebhardt : Handbuch der Deutschen Geschichte, Vol.21, pp.123-130; in German [G]
J. Heideking and C. Mauch, American Intelligence and German Resistance to Hitler, Westview 1996, 457 pp., document edition [G]
Article : Germany, in : Americana Annual 1940 pp.333-338, 1943 pp.314-317, 1944 pp.301-303, 1945 pp.318-321, 1946 pp.314-321 [G]
Article : Germany, in : Britannica Book of the Year 1944 pp.311-315, 1945 pp.312-316 [G]
Article : Germany, in : New International Year Book, Events of 1940 pp.306-314, 1941 pp.236-242, 1942 pp.278-283, 1943 pp.235-242, 1944 pp.247-254, 1945 pp.236-244 [G]
Article : Germany, in : Funk & Wagnall's New Standard Encyclopedia Year Book 1940 pp.269-274, 1941 pp.219-224, 1942 pp.192-197, 1943 pp.193-198, 1944 pp.132-134 [G]
Article : Germany, in : Statesman's Year Book 1943 pp.951-977 [G]

This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted in 2000, last revised on November 7th 2007

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