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:
10. The 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.
9. The 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.
8. Heinrich 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.
7. Nazis 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.
6. The 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.