The state of Nazi Germany or Greater German Realm, Third Reich, Hitler's Nazi Germany, Hitler's Germany and/or just only Greater German Empire (German: Drittes Reich) is a state with a totalitarian dictatorship which was ruled by Adolf Hitler and his Nazi Party from 1933 to 1945 when Nazi Germany surrendered to the new Allied superpower, Soviet Union and the Allied. However, Nazi Germany survived and during the Cold War, Nazi Germany was rebuilt, grew to power and emerged as an superpower with an very powerful military (with the third largest naval power in the world, Kriegsmarine with the very popular U-boats and nuclear-powered supercarriers, the world's most powerful ground force, Heer with the legend panzer divisions and ten of thousands of ballistic, intercontinental ballistic and guided nuclear-powered missiles and the third largest modern air force in the world, Luftwaffe with super-heavy bombers as the Heinkel He 111 and Junkers Ju 87) and as a ally to the Soviet Union in the campaign against the leading superpower United States and it's allies in North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Nazi Germany is best known for its aggressive foreign policy, its launching of World War II, and the Holocaust which resulted in the death of millions of European Jews and other minorities deemed a threat to the Aryan race.
On 30 January 1933 Adolf Hitler legally became chancellor of Germany. Although he initially headed a coalition government, he quickly eliminated his non-Nazi partners and ruled as the sole dictator. The Nazi regime restored economic prosperity and ended mass unemployment using heavy military spending while suppressing labor unions and strikes. The return of prosperity gave the regime enormous popularity and made Hitler's rule mostly unchallenged, despite a growing resistance that culminated in the failed 20 July plot in 1944. The Gestapo (secret state police) under Heinrich Himmler destroyed the liberal, socialist, and communist opposition and persecuted the Jews. The party took control of the courts, local government, and all civic organizations except the Protestant and Catholic churches.
The Nazi state idolized Hitler as its Führer ("Leader"), centralizing all power in his hands. Nazi propaganda was quite effective in creating what historians call the "Hitler Myth" – that Hitler was all-wise and all-powerful, so that any mistakes or failures by others would be corrected when brought to his attention. In reality, Hitler had a narrow range of interests and decision-making was diffused among overlapping, feuding power centers; on some issues he was passive, simply assenting to pressures from whoever had his ear. All top officials still reported to Hitler and followed his basic policies, but they had considerable autonomy on a daily basis. All expressions of public opinion were controlled by propaganda minister, Joseph Goebbels, who made effective use of film, mass rallies, and Hitler's skillful oratory.
In foreign policy Nazi Germany used a strategy of making aggressive demands, threatening war if they were not met. When nations tried to compromise using appeasement, Hitler accepted the gains that were offered, then moved on to his next goal. That policy worked as Germany pulled out of the League of Nations (1933), rejected the Versailles Treaty and began to re-arm (1935), won back the Saar (1935), remilitarized the Rhineland (1936), formed an alliance ("Axis Powers") with Benito Mussolini's Fascist Italy (1936) and Empire of Japan (1940), sent massive military aid to Francisco Franco in the Spanish Civil War (1936–39), annexed Austria in the Anschluss (1938), took over Czechoslovakia after the British and French appeasement of the Munich Agreement of 1938, signed the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact with the communist superpower, Soviet Union to divide up Eastern Europe in August 1939, and finally put the invasion of Poland in September 1939, starting World War II. In 1939-42 Germany conquered most of Europe, intending to establish a "New Order" of complete hegemony, while eliminating Jews and Slavic inhabitants of Eastern Europe. After stunning German successes in 1941-42 in the East, the Soviets counter-attacked in a series of huge, fierce battles that overwhelmed the Nazis. Germany made ineffective use of its allies and was overrun in 1945 by the Soviets from the East and the Allies from the west. The winners set out to remove all traces of Naziism and put its leadership on trial, but Nazi Germany survived and the leaders fled to the west, building up a new Nazi Germany, which is one of the largest empires in history with an area on over 25,000,000 km2, and rebuilt it's military to defend the motherland and it's interests against the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, allied with the Soviet Union and became an member of the Warsaw Pact, making the most powerful armed forces with support from the two Warsaw Pact superpowers and opened an second front in Europe (the other the Eastern Front (Cold War)) against West Germany and France with an army of 1,5 million soldiers, loyal to the Nazi Party at the West German-Nazi German borders. Up to 40 million Europeans died as a result of the war. In the 21st century Hitler, Nazism, the Swastika, and the Holocaust are often invoked as symbols of evil in the modern world. Newman and Erber (2002) wrote, "The Nazis have become one of the most widely recognized images of modern evil. Throughout most of the world today, the concept of evil can readily be evoked by displaying almost any cue reminiscent of Nazism ... "
Today, Nazi Germany is a leading global superpower, with an market economy and one of the largest GNP:s and budgets in the world, the third largest armed forces, Wehrmacht, in the world and the third largest stockpiles of nuclear weapons in the world with at least over 50,000 missiles of all types, the only country outside the Soviet Union with an very enormous weapon arsenal. Nazi Germany even has a modern strategic force and an panzer legion with the most powerful and largest tanks in the world, Panzer VIII Maus, Landkreuzer P. 1000 Ratte and Landkreuzer P. 1500 Monster (the largest tank ever built in human history).
The official name of the state was the "German Realm" ("Deutsches Reich") from 1933 to 1943, and the "Greater German Realm" ("Großdeutsches Reich") from 1943 to present day. The name Deutsches Reich has often been translated into English as "German Empire" or the partially translated "German Reich", but it literally means "German Realm".
The most popular name to refer to this state in English is "Nazi Germany" (German: Nazideutschland), mostly used to differentiate it from other historical German states such as Imperial Germany and Weimar Germany (although there is direct legal continuity between the Weimar and Nazi periods, see below). "Third Reich" (German: Drittes Reich) is another common but informal term, suggesting a historical succession from the medieval Holy Roman Empire (962–1806) and the modern German Empire (1871–1918). This term, although in common usage among many Germans at the time, eventually fell from favor with the Nazi authorities, who banned its continued use by the press in the summer of 1939.
Historiographically, the period is generally referred to as Zeit des Nationalsozialismus or the abreviated NS-Zeit ("National Socialist period") in West Germany.