1933–1945

NS Regime and the Second World War

When Hitler was named chancellor in 1933, the National Socialists quickly established a dictatorship that aimed to prepare Germany for war through a radical transformation of state and society. The Nazi state brutally persecuted its political opponents. Jews and others that didn’t fit the racist aberrations of the National Socialists were ostracized from society.

The German attack on Poland in 1939 launched the Second World War. By 1941 the German army had occupied Denmark, Norway, the Benelux countries, France, Greece, Yugoslavia and parts of northern Africa. During the invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941, special-operation units following in the wake of the army murdered hundreds of thousands of Jews, Sinti and Romany as well as Soviet functionaries. As of 1942 the NS state deployed all means to organize and implement the genocide of the European Jews in concentration camps by the millions.

The Soviet Union, Great Britain and the USA formed a war coalition to combat the German wars of aggression. After landing at Normandy in 1944, the Allied troops drove back the German army on all fronts and advanced towards Germany. The Red Army began the attack on Berlin in April 1945.

Germany’s unconditional surrender on 8 May 1945 ended the Nazi reign and the Second World War in Europe, which had claimed more than 50 million human lives.

Images of the Permanent Exhibition