10 Disturbing Facts about Nazi Germany During World War II
World War II was the most destructive war in the history of the world. It was also the most expensive, it damaged the most property, and it killed more people than any war previous or since. At the middle of all of this, and the catalyst for this destruction, was Nazi Germany.
The National Socialist German Workers’ Party, or Nazi Party, was led by Adolf Hitler, and it grew into a huge movement. This party enacted totalitarian rule. This political party was founded many years before, in 1919, as the German Workers’ Party, which promoted anti-Semitism and German pride. The party was dissatisfied with the Treaty of Versailles, which ended World War I and also forced Germany to make a number of reparations and concessions.
Hitler joined the party almost as soon as it was founded, and he worked his way up to lead the party by 1921. In 1933 he became Germany’s chancellor, and as his Nazi ideals spread across the nation, he created a dictatorship. The Germans were defeated at the end of the war, and the Nazi Party was outlawed. Many of the top Nazi officials were also convicted of war crimes, most connected to the massacre of 6 million Jews during the reign of the Nazi.
Today, one can only imagine the horrors that occurred during this time in history, but millions lived through this disturbing time in the history of the world. Here are the 10 most disturbing facts about Nazi Germany during World War II:
10The Nazis Were Lovers of Animals
Though the Nazi Party was largely horrible in its treatment of fellow humans, animals enjoyed great rights during the party’s reign. Adolf Hitler was a well-known vegetarian, and was said to absolutely despise any form of cruelty to animals. Most of the leaders of the Nazi party were supporters of animal rights and were staunch animal conservationists. Schoolchildren were subject to information about animal rights, animal testing was outright banned, and the Reich Hunting Laws were enacted to limit the number of animals that could be hunted.
Cats, horses and apes received special protection, and in 1936, there was a special law passed that forced people to prepare crabs and lobsters in a humane way for eating by tossing them into boiling water.
All of this was seen as a new concept, and Berlin even hosted an international conference on animal protection in 1934. At the conference, the podium was decorated with swastikas while a banner flowed above that said “Entire epochs of love will be needed to repay animals for their value and service.”
Nazi leaders at the time had dogs, and held these dogs to the highest respect, and even Hitler, before he committed suicide, is said to have spent his final day in the company of his dog.
The irony of all of this, and the most disturbing part, is that these men and women treated animals as they should have treated their fellow humans, and they treated humans worse than most animal abusers treat their animals.
9The Nazis Planned on Introducing Polygamy
Another disturbing fact about Nazi Germany is that the Germans planned on introducing polygamy to the culture. The Nazis were insatiable when it came to maintaining and ultimately raising the birthrates of those whom they considered to be the perfect Germans. These people, who Hitler considered the “master race,” had blond hair, blue eyes and were tall.
The Nazis wanted this master race to take control of the world, and approached German scientists to limit the reproduction of those whom they considered to be “inferior.” In fact, in 1933, physicians were legally allowed to perform a forced sterilization on anyone who was not part of the “master race,” in order to ensure that these people could not have children. The most targeted people were those who were Roma, or gypsies, people who were mentally ill, and those who were born blind or deaf. African-Germans and Jewish people were also targeted for this practice.
With the rest of the population under control with these forced sterilizations, now the Germans had to improve the numbers of their “master race.” One way that they planned on doing this was to allow men to marry more than one woman. This way, when the men were at home the more wives they had, the higher the chance they had to reproduce. Additionally, since men can reproduce at a much older age than women can, they could still produce children with a younger wife.
Though the end of the war ultimately put this plan to rest, the idea was out there, and it gives us an idea of their ideals on race.
8Heinrich Müller, the Head of the Gestapo, Simply Vanished and Has Never Been Found
The Gestapo, or the Secret Police of Nazi Germany, were the fists, so to speak, of the Nazi machine. These people were the ones who rounded up the Jews to either kill them or send them to concentration camps, and they were far from the police most of us know of today. The head of this group, Heinrich Müller, was a well-known criminal, and was in charge of some of the most egregious acts in the war. This was disturbing in itself, but what is even more disturbing, is that he simply vanished and has never been found.
There have been people claiming, such as a new group of German researchers in 2013, that Müller died in 1945. They make this claim due to a death certificate that they found claiming that Müller’s body was found in downtown Berlin and then buried in a Jewish cemetery.
Though these claims are out there, no body has ever been found, which leaves this chapter of Nazi Germany not quite closed. Why? Because faking death certificates was a very common practice among high ranking Nazi officials, such as Müller, and they would do this in order to escape without being noticed. Since the exact date of Müller’s death on the certificate coincides with the final day of the war, there is a lot of speculation as to if this tactic was used.
So, if Müller didn’t die, where did he go? There were several reports that he actually escaped to South America. Additionally, Adolf Eichmann, who was a close colleague of Müller’s, claimed in 1960 that Müller escaped. No one, however, knows where he nor his body lays today.
7Nazis Bred Giant Rabbits for Fur
Though the Nazi’s were big animal lovers, they still utilized animals for what they required, such as fur from rabbits. Project Angora was one such way they used rabbits, and they used their fur to create fur-lined clothing for the armed forces. This project produced more than 65,000 rabbits and these rabbits produced more than 10,000 pounds of fur. This fur was used for sweaters, socks, long underwear and hats, and it was collected in some of the most notorious concentration camps including Dachau, Auschwitz and Mauthausen.
The contrast between the conditions these rabbits were kept in and the conditions that the prisoners were kept in was startling, but this isn’t even the most disturbing part of this project. What was? Operation Munchkin.
Operation Munchkin was a crazy plan by the Nazis to breed giant Angora rabbits in the concentration camps. They did a number of genetic tests on these rabbits, and attempted to create the largest rabbits possible at the breeding stations in the concentration camps. They were able to breed as many as 25,000 giant rabbits, but the total wool collected was a disappointment. By this point, the Nazis knew they were facing imminent defeat, and the program fizzled out quickly. The weirdest thing about Project Angora and Operation Munchkin is that, to this day, there is no physical evidence that these projects ever existed, as after the war was over, the remaining Nazis destroyed all of the evidence.
6The Nazis Forced Prisoners to Kill Their Own People
Another extremely disturbing fact about Nazi Germany during World War II is that they forced their prisoners to essentially kill other prisoners. In the prison camps, there was a position known as the Sonderkommando. These were Jewish males who were in good health and youthful. These men had several jobs in the concentration camp including leading new prisoners to the gas chamber and loading them in, and removing the corpses after the gassing was done.
These men were chosen for their physical abilities, and those who refused were immediately killed. Those who did do the work did so in order to delay their own imminent deaths, to protect their family and friends and to take advantage of the perks that being Sonderkommandos brought them. These included better food, normal clothing and straw mattresses.
One of the most disturbing jobs that the Sonderkommandos had was after the gassing when they had to pull the bodies out of the chamber. They had to go through the clothing of every prisoner and take their valuables, and then pull out any gold teeth that the prisoners had.
There were more than 1,000 of these men in various prison camps throughout Europe, and ultimately, those who held this position were killed themselves, usually randomly by an officer shooting them. The reason? The Nazis didn’t want people getting too much information about what they were doing in these camps, and the Sonderkommandos often knew too much for comfort.
5The Nazi Germans Controlled the Trains
At first glance, you might not think that the fact that the Nazi Germans controlled the trains is that big of a deal, but in reality, this was a huge deal, especially for those who rode these trains.
Moving thousands of Jewish prisoners was not an easy feat, and it required a large number of trains to transport these people from across Europe to the camps. Each of the cars on these Nazi trains were design to hold 50 people, but often more than 200 people were put into the cars. The passengers were not given water, food or any protection from the weather, and it was not uncommon for people to die while traveling. If they did make it to their final destination, it was a concentration camp where they would be put to work and had low odds of survival.
If these “murder trains,” as they were often called, were not disturbing enough, the Nazis also charged the people for the ride. Yes, that’s right, a Jewish person had to pay a standard-fare ticket for the ride from where they were taken to the prison camp. Children under four, however, did not have to pay the fee. Nice, right?
Between the beginning of 1942 to the end of 1943, the Gestapo deported more than 1.5 million Jews from their home cities to concentration camps including those in Belzec, Reinhard, Treblinka and Sobibor. On top of that, approximately 1.1 million were sent by train to Auschwitz. Out of this 1.1 million, only about 100,000 survived their time at Auschwitz.
4The Nazis Turned Their Own Soldiers Into Drug Addicts
Though the Nazis ultimately lost the war, the early years of the war were kind to them. However, we now know that the secret of their success was due to drug use among the Nazi soldiers. The Nazis distributed meth to their soldiers after learning about the effects of the drug after testing it on students in college. By using meth, the soldiers were able to perform their work for longer periods of time without resting, and they were able to take on more risk. In order to promote the use of the drug, the Nazis covered them in chocolate or candies. Unfortunately, people became highly addicted to the meth, and in order to battle the negative side effects of the drug, they used opiates or alcohol, which turned them into heavy drinkers and opiate addicts.
The Nazis also experimented with more powerful drugs, too. They took the meth that they already had, and then they mixed it with morphine and cocaine to create a drug called D-IX. They tested this drug on prisoners, and after the prisoners started to display superhuman strength, they knew that they had something that would turn them into human war machines.
Fortunately, mass production of D-IX was not meant to be, as the Allies were rapidly advancing onto Germany. Across the world, the Japanese were doing similar things, and giving their soldiers a drug called Hiropon, which contributed to the willingness of the kamikaze to take on their missions and to never surrender.
3The Nazis Forced Jewish People to Live in Ghettos
Not all Jewish people were sent to the prison camps. Some were simply sent to the ghetto area of the cities they lived in. In addition, before heading to the camps, Jews were often forced to leave their homes and move into the ghetto until they were shipped to the camps.
Life in the ghettos was extremely difficult, and people were only allowed to take a few personal items with them. They were very crowded, and almost always lacked any sewers or electricity. Food as also not available, and the only way to get food was to accept a ration, which was given each day. However, the rations the Jews were given were often not enough for their families, so many starved. Those who attempted to bring food from other sources into the ghetto were often executed, and these were usually public, simply to set an example. Over time, starvation worsened, and many became very ill and even died.
Though there were terrible conditions in the ghettos, there was also a great sense of community. In fact, many risked their lives in the ghetto to provide things such as the education of their kids and the preservation of their religion. Artists and writers would create uplifting books and posters for children in the ghetto, and many risked their own lives to bring in supplies that the Nazis had denied them.
2The Nazis Created a Jewish Collection of Skeletons
The Nazis also created a collection of skeletons of Jewish people during World War II. Known as the Jewish Collection, this was done to show that the Germans were superior to the Jews.
Created by August Hirt, 115 people, including two Poles and four Soviets, were chosen for this collection. The people were invited to a laboratory for a physical examination, gassed immediately, and then sent to Hirt at the Strasbourg University Hospital in France. There, he defleshed the bodies, and prepared them for his skeleton collection.
The purpose of this experiment was to show that the “Master Race” was superior to Jews from the inside of the body, out. Essentially, Hirt wanted to show that everything from the bones to the skin of Jews was of lower quality than others. French troops caught on eventually, and ultimately discovered his collection. All of the corpses had their faces burned off, so no one could identify them.
1The Nazis Performed Horrible Experiments on the Jews in the Camps
The most disturbing fact about Nazi Germany during World War II is that they performed horrible experiments on the Jews in the prison camps. Thousands of prisoners were subject to these experiments, which fell into three different categories:
The first of these three were experiments that were done to ensure the survival of the Axis troops. One, for instance, as a high-altitude experiment where prisoners were placed in a low-pressure chamber in order to see how high a parachute trooper could fall from and remain alive before altitude affected them. There were also freezing experiments, where prisoners were essentially frozen alive in order to discover a treatment for hypothermia.
The second category was focused on experimenting with drugs, illness and injury treatments. In this case, prisoners were injected with diseases such as tuberculosis, yellow fever and malaria, and then drugs were tested on them to find one that worked. At some camps, prisoners were sprayed with mustard gas in order to test antidotes.
The third category was more focused on the Nazi worldview. These experiments had to do with testing on twins, and tests to show the physical and mental inferiority of the Jews when compared to other races, such as the Germans.
Other experiments that the Nazis did were so horrible they don’t even fall into these categories. These include forced sterilization, radiation exposure and starvation experimentation. Of course, most of the people who became part of these experiments died from the experience, and those who didn’t were often killed.
If you are reading this, you have made it through this chilling list. From 1933 to 1945, the people who lived in Germany and throughout Europe who did not fit into the ideal of the “Master Race” were put through horrible things. The Jews, however, were not the only people that had to endure this, though they were essentially the focus of many of the racial and cultural hatred. Gypsies, homosexuals, the disabled and Jehovah’s Witnesses were also targeted. Additionally, as the Nazi expanded their territory into neighboring countries, such as France, anyone who resisted the Nazi regime were also forced into the camps or killed on the spot. More than 11 million people were killed by the Nazis over the whole of the war, and 6 million of these were Jews.
In 1944, the Allies began advancing into Germany, and began taking over and liberating the camps, and in January 1945, the largest Nazi camp, Auschwitz, was liberated. This liberation is one of the major milestones of the end of the war.
By the end of the war and the removal of Hitler from his reign of terror, safe camps were set up for those who were displaced, and many of the Jews who escaped the camps immigrated to the U.S., Israel and Palestine. Those who could return to their homes, of course, did so, but their lives would never be the same. These safe camps served the community until 1957 when the last displaced Jewish prisoner was finally re-homed.