This timeline chronicles the relationship between the professional military elite and the Nazi state. It pays specific attention to the military leaders’ acceptance of Nazi ideology and their role in perpetrating crimes against Jews, prisoners of war, and unarmed civilians in the name of that ideology.
Adolf Hitler was the undisputed leader of the National Socialist German Workers Party—known as Nazis—since 1921. In 1923, he was arrested and imprisoned for trying to overthrow the German government. His trial brought him fame and followers. He used the subsequent jail time to dictate his political ideas in a book, Mein Kampf—My Struggle. Hitler’s ideological goals included territorial expansion, consolidation of a racially pure state, and elimination of the European Jews and other perceived enemies of Germany.
Although the Nazis did not have an organized program to eliminate African Germans, many of them were persecuted, as were other people of African descent. Some Black people in Germany and German-occupied territories were isolated; an unknown number were sterilized, incarcerated or murdered.
Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel served as commander of all German armed forces during World War II. He was fully subservient to Hitler and allowed the latter to control all military strategy. In addition, he signed a series of criminal orders. He was tried and convicted at the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg for war crimes and crimes against humanity and sentenced to death.
In 1933, Nazi students at more than 30 German universities pillaged libraries in search of books they considered to be "un-German." Among the literary and political writings they threw into the flames were the works of Henri Barbusse.
In 1933, Nazi students at more than 30 German universities pillaged libraries in search of books they considered to be "un-German." Among the literary and political writings they threw into the flames were the works of Carl von Ossietzky.
As Allied troops moved across Europe in a series of offensives against Nazi Germany, they found tens of thousands of concentration camp prisoners in deplorable conditions. Malnutrition and disease were rampant, and corpses lay unburied. The soldiers reacted in shock and disbelief to the evidence of Nazi atrocities. In addition to burying the dead, the Allied forces attempted to help and comfort the survivors with food, clothing and medical assistance.
In 1985, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and the US Army's Center of Military History began a program to honor US Army divisions that took part in the liberation of Nazi camps. To date, 36 divisions, including the 86th Infantry Division, have been recognized as liberating units.
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