The Third Reich existed from 1933 to 1945; during the height of WWII in 1941 and 1942, Germany, along with its allies and puppet states, controlled much of continental Europe.
However, Nazi Germany was far from being monolithic: various factions existed within the Nazi regime, and they often competed for power and influence in the Nazi state.
Below is the list of the lesser-known things about the Nazis and their reign over Germany and Europe.
Animal Protection Laws
When Hitler assumed power in 1933, the Nazis enacted Tierschutzgesetz – a number of animal protection laws.
They passed a law regulating the slaughter of animals and banned hunting. Hitler himself announced that “In the new Reich, no more animal cruelty will be allowed.”
Hitler Had an Army of Female ‘Fans’
During his early years in power and later, Hitler enjoyed huge popularity among women and carefully maintained an image of a Viennese charmer. It has even been suggested that one of the reasons he refused to marry was not to disappoint his female admirers.
Hitler’s secretaries received thousands of letters from women all across Germany, stating their love and admiration for their Fuhrer.
The Members of the Party Rarely Used the Term ‘Nazis’
The term ‘Nazis’ and ‘Nazi’ is an abbreviation for National Socialist(s) which itself comes from the name of the party – National Socialist German Worker’s Party. It was developed by the German press, but Hitler apparently disliked it and it was rarely used within the party itself.
Homosexuals Within the Ranks
One of Hitler’s earliest allies, Ernst Rohm, the commander of the large Nazi paramilitary force – SA, was a homosexual, which was widely known in party ranks. Rohm was far from being alone though, as the SA enjoyed the reputation of being a den of homosexuality.
The SA was the target of Hitler’s purge during the Night of the Long Knives, when numerous others of his opponents were arrested or killed.
Rohm was arrested in a hotel and was found in his room, in bed with a teenage member of SA who was allegedly his lover. Hitler, who was personally present during the arrest, had remarked: “You pigs, you should be shot!”
Kurt Franz was one of the most sadistic SS officers. He served as a commander of the Nazi extermination camp, Treblinka in Poland, where he personally massacred hundreds of prisoners. When he was finally arrested in 1959, a search of his home yielded a scrapbook with horrific photos of the massacre titled “Beautiful Years’.
‘Is Paris Burning?’
As the Nazi armies were retreating in front of the advancing Allied forces on the Western front, Hitler gave an order to Dietrich von Choltitz, German commander of the city, and told him that “The city must not fall into the enemy’s hand except lying in complete rubble”. Choltitz, believing Hitler to be insane, disregarded the order and likely saved the ‘City of Lights’ from destruction.
According to a popular account, Hitler telephoned Choltitz a week later, screaming: “Brennt Paris” – “Is Paris Burning”? In a different version of the story, Hitler addressed this question to Alfred Jodl, his Chief of Staff, at a meeting in his headquarters, the Wolf’s Lair.
Changing the Landscape
The Nazis had planned to completely destroy Moscow and turn it into an artificial lake. They had similar plans for Warsaw. The Wehrmacht had failed to capture Moscow, although a German army reconnaissance unit had reached a town less than 20 miles far from the Kremlin.
The infamous SS chief, Heinrich Himmler, set up a government agency called Lebensborn – “Spring of Life” with the aim of providing financial assistance to single mothers. The children had to be Aryan. It has been suggested that Lebensborn was a breeding program. SS officers were encouraged to impregnate single women before joining Germany’s war effort.
Despite some commonly held views that Hitler engaged in occult practices, the Nazi Dictator was suspicious of such activities by certain party officials, most notably Himmler.
Himmler was obsessed with the past of the ‘Aryan race’ and founded an institute called ‘Ahnenerbe’. The organization was engaged in various research projects, but its main purpose was to find evidence of the racial heritage of Germanic people.
The Sun Gun
German scientists were pioneers of rocket science. In the later stages of the war, as fortunes changed and German armies found themselves in retreat, the Nazis turned to exotic weaponry in hope it would help them win the war.
Among numerous secret weapon programs, the ‘Sun Gun’ was perhaps the most bizarre. A rocket scientist, Hermann Oberth, came up with the idea in 1923.
The Sun Gun would be able to boil the seas and burn cities to the ground.
Due to enormous costs and time limitations, the project was never realized. It remains unlikely that the weapon would have worked in the first place.
Images: Rare Historical Photos