The rise of National Socialism in Germany came about during the tumultuous years following the First World War. The dire economic and political situation due in part to the reparations payments required by the Treaty of Versailles destabilized the country and a hotbed of political extremism and revolutionary activism took hold in what could otherwise be considered a conservative nation. It was in this environment of hyperinflation, poverty, and misery that the National Socialist German Worker’s Party and their leader, the Austrian Corporal Adolf Hitler, ultimately gained popular support and power.
Hitler intended on not just establishing a dictatorship in Germany under the Führerprinzip and Gleichschaltung but also form a racial state based on anti-Semitism, pseudo-scientific racial science, and eugenics. With the passing of the Enabling Act and Emergency decrees, Germany became a de facto single-party state when the founding of new parties was made illegal. Further elections were entirely Nazi-controlled and by 1935 the symbols of the Weimar Republic were abolished and replaced by the Nazi swastika. This was only the beginning of the human tragedy that ultimately led to the extermination camps and genocidal war.
The nature of the Nazi regime makes it one that holds many sobering lessons. Although the atrocities committed by the dictatorship are so severe that many may wish to gloss over it or forget it entirely, it is important to understand the regime since its influences can still be felt. In this section of our collection, we preserve a wide array of stories and material in order to capture snapshots of what life was like for ordinary citizens, Nazi perpetrators, and the victims of all backgrounds to create an intimate picture of how the system of repression functioned on one hand and how those caught in the web were dealt with on the other.