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Consequences of German Nazism

This article chronicles the consequences that German Nazism, led by Adolf Hitler, left on the world.

The impact of Hitler's dictatorship has been felt on events in Europe and elsewhere ever since his death and the end of the Third Reich in 1945.

Table of contents
1 Impact on Germany
2 Impact on Jewry
3 Impact on Austria
4 Impact on Poland
5 Impact on Central Europe
6 Impact on the Soviet Union
7 Impact on Western Europe
8 Impact on world politics
9 Impact on Greece

Impact on Germany

In the short term, Germany itself was physically and economically devastated, its sovereignty abolished, its territory filled with millions of refugees expelled from the lost provinces in the east. Stalin took the opportunity to rewrite the map of eastern and central Europe, moving the German border to the Oder-Neisse line. A Communist regime, the German Democratic Republic, was established in the Soviet Zone of Occupation. West Germany (the German Federal Republic) recovered its (de facto) sovereignty in 1949, and the German economy was quickly rebuilt thanks to the absence of serious reparations from West Germany and the Marshall Plan.

It took 41 years before Germany was re-united, and economic and social divisions between the western and eastern regions still continue to plague the nation. On the other hand, a strict governmental policy against racism and prohibition of certain speech, books and political parties have made Germans sensitive to the troubles of extreme nationalism. They are today widely seen as a tolerant and modern society.

Impact on Jewry

Of the world's 15 million Jews in 1939, more than a third were killed. Of the 3 million Jews in Poland, the heartland of European Jewish culture, barely 350,000 survived. Most of the remaining Jews in eastern and central Europe were destitute refugees, unable and/or unwilling to return to countries which they felt had betrayed them to the Nazis. This gave a profound impetus for the pre-existing Zionist movement to press more radically for the creation of a Jewish state in the British Mandate of Palestine. This outraged many British and Arab residents, many of whom firmly opposed such a new state. After various acts of Jewish terrorism and illegal immigration (haa'pala) the British eventually withdrew in 1948, placing the region into the intense state of civil and ethnic unrest which continues until this day.

Impact on Austria

Austria, which had been annexed by the Third Reich in 1938 (Anschluss), was separated from Germany again and, just like Germany itself, divided up into four zones occupied by the four victorious nations. However, Austrian diplomacy succeeded in preventing the country from gradually being split into a "Western" and an "Eastern" state. Rather, Austria regained its full independence and sovereignty in 1955 with the signing of the Austrian State Treaty (Staatsvertrag).

Denazification as well as the restitution of Jewish property were carried out slowly and half-heartedly by the authorities. For decades to come, the Austrian people, supported by politicians of all major political parties, preferred seeing themselves as "Hitler's first victim" to taking responsibility for the crimes that had been committed by Austrian Nazis.

Similarly to Germany, the Austrian economy quickly recovered in the course of the 1950s.

Impact on Poland

The Polish border was moved westward in between the Curzon line and the Oder-Neisse line. Poland suffered the highest proportional population loss of any nation in Europe: 6 million citizens, including more then half of their intelligentsia. Some professions lost 20-50% of members, like priests of all religions, lawyers, and mens taylors or shopkeepers. Poland lost its 2 biggest cities, Warsaw (razed by Germans) and Lwow (annexed by Soviets), and became a Soviet satellite state.

Impact on Central Europe

The peoples of central Europe found themselves under Soviet military occupation at the end of the war, and the Soviets rapidly installed Communist puppet governments in all the countries they controlled, especially Poland, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, and what was then Czechoslovakia. Some of the radical reforms these regimes carried out were initially popular, but it soon became clear that this came at the price of a total loss of national sovereignty. It was to be more than 40 years before the Russians retreated from their gains of 1945.

Impact on the Soviet Union

Hitler's armies had killed more than 27 million Soviet citizens during the war, including some 11 million soldiers who fell in battle against Hitler's armies or died in POW camps. Millions of civilians also died from starvation, exposure, atrocities, and massacres, and a huge area of the Soviet Union from the suburbs of Moscow and the Volga River to the western border had been destroyed, depopulated, and reduced to rubble. The staggering mass death and destruction there badly damaged the Soviet economy, society, and national psyche. The mass destruction was a major reason why the Soviets retained satellite states in Central Europe; they hoped to use the countries as a buffer zone against any new invasions from the West, and to prevent such a catastrophe from ever happening again. This may have resulted in the bipolar world that was the setting for 45 years of struggle between the capitalist and Communist powers, the Cold War.

Impact on Western Europe

Britain and France were on the side of the victors, but they were exhausted and bankrupted by the war, and they never recovered their status as world powers. With Germany and Japan in ruins as well, the world was left with two dominant powers, the United States and the Soviet Union. Economic and political reality in Western Europe would soon force the dismantling of the European colonial empires, especially in Africa and Asia. The new states quickly found themselves unprepared for the realities of independence and faced the harsh reality of rapid population growth, social unrest, and political instability, all of which afflict many of these former colonies today.

The Communists emerged from the war sharing the vast prestige of the victorious Soviet armed forces, and for a while it looked as though they might take power in France, Italy and Greece. The West quickly acted to prevent this from happening, hence the Cold War.

Impact on world politics

The discrediting of the League of Nations led to the founding of the United Nations on October 24 1945. The principles enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations are a testament of the world's attitudes at the fall of the Third Reich.

Impact on Greece

In Greece the impact of German Nazism was an occupation of the country which destroyed its economy. Even today a special newspaper exists (Polemikos Typos) which writes about what happened during this occupation. After the occupation, the country had a civil war.