Today in History
Travel to Germany
Facts About Germany
Thirty Years' War
German Chocolate Cake
How To in Germany
Total Mobilization, Resistance, and
the Holocaust in Germany
Once it became clear that the war would not be a short one, Germany's
industry was reorganized for a total mobilization. Between February 1942
and July 1944, armaments production increased threefold despite intense
Allied bombing raids. Much of the labor for this increase came from the
employment of some 7 million foreigners, taken from their homelands and
forced to work under terrible conditions. Also contributing to the Nazi
war effort was the systematic requisitioning of raw materials and food
from occupied territories. As a result, Germans remained fairly well fed
for most of the war, in contrast to the hunger endured during World War
Despite their comparative physical well-being until late in the war,
it gradually became clear to many Germans that the regime's series of
military triumphs had come to an end. Even the most intense, mendacious
propaganda could not conceal that Germany's forces were being beaten back.
Sharing this growing awareness that defeat was likely, a group of military
officers decided to assassinate Hitler. Although elements of the military
had long opposed him, no one had acted to this point. During 1943 and
1944, the conspirators, who included many high-ranking officers and numerous
prominent civilians, worked out elaborate plans for seizing power after
the dictator's death.
The Conference Room at the "Wolf's Lair" after the Assassination Attempt (July 20, 1944)
On July 20, 1944, the conspirators ignited a bomb
that would probably have killed Hitler except for a stroke of bad luck--the
misplacement of the device under a conference room table. The regime struck
back and after months of reprisals had killed several thousand people,
among them one field marshal and twenty-two generals. Several earlier
attempts on Hitler's life had also failed. Because of these failures,
it would be up to the Allies to remove Hitler and his regime from power.
Anti-Semitism was one of the Third Reich's most faithfully executed policies.
Hitler saw the Jews' existence as inimical to the well-being of the German
race. In his youth in Vienna, he had come to believe in a social Darwinist,
life-or-death struggle of the races, with that between the German race
and the Jews being the most savage. Because of his adherence to these
racist notions, he dreamed of creating a German empire completely free
of Jews, believing that if the Jewish "bacillus" were permitted to remain
within the Teutonic empire, the empire would become corrupted and fail.
Upon taking power, the Nazis began immediately to rid Germany of its
Jewish citizens. In the Aryan Paragraph of 1933, the regime decreed that
Jews could not hold civil service positions. The Nuremberg Laws of 1935
deprived Jews of the right to citizenship and restricted relationships
between "Aryans" (racially pure Germans) and Jews. After the Kristallnacht
(Crystal Night) of November 9, 1938, an organized act of violence perpetrated
by Nazis against Jews in all parts of Germany, the persecution of Jews
entered a new phase. Random acts of violence, by then commonplace, were
replaced by the systematic isolation of the Jewish population in Germany,
which had numbered about 600,000 in the early 1930s.
Until 1941 there had been plans to "cleanse" Germany of Jews by gathering
them together and expelling them from the Reich. One plan had as its goal
the transfer of Germany's Jews to Madagascar. A contingent of Jews had
even been moved to southern France in preparation. However, wartime conditions
and the presence of millions of Jews in Poland, the Soviet Union, and
other occupied areas in Eastern Europe gradually led to the adoption of
another plan: the systematic extermination of all Jews who came under
German control. Techniques that had been developed for the regime's euthanasia
program came to be used against Jews. Discussions in January 1942 at the
Wannsee Conference on the outskirts of Berlin led to the improved organization
and coordination of the program of genocide.
Killing came to be done in an efficient, factorylike fashion in large
extermination camps run by Himmler's Special Duty Section (Sonderdienst--SD).
The tempo of the mass murder of Jewish men, women, and children was accelerated
toward the end of the war. Hitler's preoccupation with the "final solution"
was so great that the transport of Jews was at times given preference
over the transport of war matériel. Authorities generally agree that about
6 million European Jews died in the Holocaust. A large number (about 4.5
million) of those killed came from Poland and the Soviet Union; about
125,000 German Jews were murdered.
- The Third Reich, 1933-1945:
Consolidation of Power
- Foreign Policy
- The Outbreak of World
- Total Mobilization, Resistance,
and the Holocaust