*Includes pictures *Includes online resources and a bibliography for further reading "I cannot remember in my entire life such a change in the attitude of a crowd in a few minutes, almost a few seconds ... Hitler had turned them inside out, as one turns a glove inside out, with a few sentences. It had almost something of hocus-pocus, or magic about it." - Dr. Karl Alexander von Mueller The early 1930s were a tumultuous period for German politics, even in comparison to the ongoing transition to the modern era that caused various forms of chaos throughout the rest of the world. In the United States, reliance on the outdated gold standard and an absurdly parsimonious monetary policy helped bring about the Great Depression. Meanwhile, the Empire of Japan began its ultimately fatal adventurism with the invasion of Manchuria, alienating the rest of the world with the atrocities it committed. Around the same time, Gandhi began his drive for the peaceful independence of India through nonviolent protests against the British. It was in Germany, however, that the strongest seeds of future tragedy were sown. The struggling Weimar Republic had become a breeding ground for extremist politics, including two opposed and powerful authoritarian entities: the right-wing National Socialists and the left-wing KPD Communist Party. As the 1930s dawned, these two totalitarian groups held one another in a temporary stalemate, enabling the fragile ghost of democracy to continue a largely illusory survival for a few more years. That stalemate was broken in dramatic fashion on a bitterly cold night in late February 1933, and it was the Nazis who emerged decisively as the victors. A single act of arson against the famous Reichstag building proved to be the catalyst that propelled Adolf Hitler to victory in the elections of March 1933, which set the German nation irrevocably on the path towards World War II. That war would plunge much of the planet into an existential battle that ultimately cost an estimated 60 million lives. Like other totalitarian regimes, the leader of the Nazis kept an iron grip on power in part by making sure nobody else could attain too much of it, leading to purges of high-ranking officials in the Nazi party. Of these purges, the most notorious was the Night of the Long Knives, a purge in the summer of 1934 that came about when Hitler ordered the surprise executions of several dozen leaders of the SA. This fanatically National Socialist paramilitary organization had been a key instrument in overthrowing democratic government in Germany and raising Hitler to dictatorial power in the first place. However, the SA was an arm of the Nazi phenomenon which had socialist leanings and which was the private army of Ernst Röhm, which was enough for Hitler to consider the organization dangerous. Röhm was a challenger to the Fuhrer's position with his mushrooming SA ranks, which were more loyal to him than to the nominal head of Nazi Germany. Europe's attempts to appease Hitler, most notably at Munich in 1938, failed, as Nazi Germany swallowed up Austria and Czechoslovakia by 1939. Italy was on the march as well, invading Albania in April of 1939. The straw that broke the camel's back, however, was Germany's invasion of Poland on September 1 of that year. Two days later, France and Great Britain declared war on Germany, and World War II had begun in earnest. In the wake of the war, the European continent was devastated, leaving the Soviet Union and the United States as uncontested superpowers. This ushered in over 45 years of the Cold War, and a political alignment of Western democracies against the Communist Soviet bloc that literally split Berlin in two. The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: The History and Legacy of Nazi Germany under Adolf Hitler chronicles the rise and fall of the Nazi regime.