On January 30, 1933, Hitler received the mandate of Reich Chancellor from Hindenburg. The National Socialist Party, which in the elections (November 1932) had obtained a third of the seats in the Reichstag, formed a minority government with the nationalists. From its inception the new government was characterized by the unhinging of the democratic system and the persecution of political opponents and entire social groups such as Jews and Gypsies. The fire of the Reichstag (1933) offered the pretext for the suspension of civil rights. On March 23, 1933 Hitler received full powers from a Parliament deprived of part of its members, declared forfeited or unable to take part in it by Nazi bullying.
The end of the autonomy of the Länder and their submission to the Reich was the beginning of the double process of destruction of every autonomous power and of centralization in a system governed by the principle of the head (Führerprinzip): the merger between the state and the single National Socialist party it accompanied the purge of the state apparatus of any elements unreliable for racial or political reasons. The construction of the regime’s summit was completed on Hindenburg’s death (1934), when Hitler assumed supreme command of the armed forces with the highest office in the state.
Once free trade unionism was dissolved, the law on the organization of “national labor” (1934) established the hierarchical organization of enterprises and the subordination of workers to the corporate authorities on the one hand, to the mass organizations of the regime on the other; the youth and women’s organizations of the Nazi party had already contributed to foreshadowing a colossal machine for organizing consensus. The regime’s goal of subjecting the German people to a process of uniformity and collective leveling of consciences was achieved thanks to the development of propaganda and the centralized control of the press and the organization of culture (under the direction of J. Goebbels) and the creation of coercive and intimidating means on a mass scale, such as concentration camps, for those who, at the will of the regime, were excluded from the “popular community” (Volksgemeinschaft).
In the Nazi version, traditional anti-Semitism was absolutized as the fundamental biological law of the survival and development of the German people. Discriminatory legislation was imposed with the Nuremberg Laws of 1935, which aimed to force Jews, once segregated from civilian life, to leave the Reich. The pogrom of 9 November 1938 marked the prelude to a growing pressure towards their expulsion: the climate of collective exasperation was artificially fueled in the context of the psychological preparation for war, all the more so after the conquest of Austria (Anschluss) in March had significantly increased the number of Jews subject to German sovereignty. Racism was an organic component of Hitler’s project of continental domination and was gradually developed by the foreign policy of the Third Reich.
The support of the armed forces, which had already supported his rise to power, was decisive for Hitler. The rearmament promoted by the regime, with the dismantling of the residual bonds of Versailles, consolidated the ties between National Socialism and the Wehrmacht and guaranteed not only, with the absorption of unemployment, the social peace necessary to face the war situation, but also the instrumentation military-technical to pursue the objectives of German expansionism.
After the annexation of the Saarland (1935), the regime carried out, one after the other, its territorial claims: in 1938, the Austrian Anschluss and the annexation of the Sudetenland were followed by the destruction of the remains of Czechoslovakia and the march of approach to Poland, the first stage of the expansion to E as a director for the conquest of living space (Lebensraum): a director contained in the secret protocol of the German-Soviet pact of 23 August 1939 (Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact), which was followed by the aggression against Poland and the unleashing of the Second World War, alongside Italy and Japan.
The war exalted and exasperated the oppressive features of the Nazi system: in June 1941 with the aggression against the Soviet Union it made a further qualitative leap, proposing itself as a war of annihilation. The Nazi Germany, conquered western and northern Europe without however breaking the British resistance, cultivated the dream of a “new European order”, based on a hierarchy of peoples and races gravitating around the Third Reich, coming to plan exploitation of millions of forced laborers and to carry out the extermination of millions of Jews. Defeated by the coalition of the allied powers, the Germany finally suffered the invasion of its territory. The unconditional capitulation of May 8, 1945 marked the end of the Third Reich.