Things were bad for Germany at the end of World War One. They lost and had really harsh penalties placed on them by the winning countries. The nation felt like rubbish. People were starving and humiliated which was not a pleasant combination. A new government was set up that was supposed to be more democratic than the previous government, led by the Kaiser (basically they got rid of their monarchy), but nearly everybody hated it because it was new and they were the ones who had surrendered in the war and signed up for the nasty peace treaty.
In amongst those who were hating everything, including the government and life itself, was a young man called Adolf Hitler. His own life was a bit rubbish (nobody liked his paintings and he couldn’t get into art school – poor lamb) and as he looked around he could see his country was in a bit of a state too. For whatever personal and social reasons, he decided to take over a tiny political party and build it up as much as he could, so they could challenge the government that everyone hated. He called this group the Nazi Party.
The problem was there was a new Chancellor in 1923 called Stresemann who did some pretty cool stuff and got the German economy back on its feet. He also managed to start repairing Germany’s international standing. Because everything was going well and people felt better off again, they had no interest in extremist groups, who were spouting a load of stuff about how awful Jews and the government were.
However, disaster struck – Stresemann died and there was a crash on the New York stock exchange called the Wall Street Crash. People were poor and starving again. The government without Stresemann were made up of a coalition and couldn’t agree on what to do, so they did nothing. It didn’t endear the German population to the government. So what do they, the people, do? Well, they started to support anyone who gave them a. someone else to blame for their problems (government and Jews) and b. promises and hope for a better future full of nice things like jobs and money. Guess who was saying that? Go on, you know who. Hitler arrived and had a bit of a “ta da” moment, promising the earth to anyone who would listen. The problem with an economic crisis is that people were listening.
Hitler and the Nazis launched a massive campaign to get more votes in the upcoming elections. Hitler was flown all over Germany to attend rallies and suchlike – his face was literally everywhere. The Nazi Party became the most popular party in the Reichstag and Hitler used this to bargain (or threaten) his way into the position of Chancellor. Once there he was involved in a whole series of “events” (Reichstag Fire, Enabling Act, Night of the Long Knives, death of Hindenburg) that eventually secured him the position of dictator of Germany, or the Fuhrer, as he was affectionately known by many. Thus began his “reign” of (fill in a word of your choosing here)
Hitler set about changing Germany into his dream country. He wanted more living space for German people, women to produce more children (presumably to fill up the new living space) and stay at home to look after the family, that is until so many men were at war that they were asked to put their aprons away and go back to work again. Children were indoctrinated at school and in clubs into the Nazi way of thinking. Jews were given increasing harsh rules to stick to in a bid to get them to emigrate – Hitler’s ideal was a Jew-free Germany. He created loads of jobs for people such as building motorways and public buildings, however he didn’t really think it through and only later realised that the money to pay these people had to come from somewhere. Hitler set about undoing the Treaty of Versailles by refusing to pay reparations, rearming the country and increasing the number of soldiers and dabbling in a bit of invading other countries.
There was some opposition to Hitler from youth groups and the Church. Political opponents of any kind were dealt with severely – murdered in the main, or sent to a work camp.
Eventually the international community stepped in in 1939 when Hitler invaded Poland and World War Two began. Hitler made no attempt to cover up any of his plans anymore as it didn’t really matter what anyone thought of him. It became his urgent mission to solve the Jewish problem and so set about exterminating the entire race as efficiently as possible using gas chambers in death camps. He nearly succeeded – over 6 million people were killed.
When he realised the he was losing the Second World War and that he would be captured by the Allies, he shot himself in his bunker.
And thus ended an astonishing 25 years of European history.