Germany in World War II Facts: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: David Wilson

David has taught college history and holds an MA in history.

In 1939, Germany invaded Poland. This lead to World War II, the greatest conflict in human history, in which millions of German soldiers and civilians would die. Learn about Germany's part in WWII in this lesson.

Winners and Losers

We've all had a bad day - maybe we lost a sports game to a better team, or maybe someone won a prize instead of you, or maybe your older brother got a cool present and you didn't get anything. When other people beat us, it's understandable that we want to get back at them. The same is true for entire nations as well.

After Germany lost World War I, it felt very unhappy with the peace terms. This unhappiness and anger led to the election of the radical National Socialist political party, better known as the Nazis. Under the command of Adolf Hitler, the Nazis brought Germany into World War II.

Propaganda poster of Adolf Hitler, leader of Germany during World War II
Poster of Hitler

Old Memories

By the 1930s, Germany was in a pretty bad position. The economy had fallen apart and the country had to pay money to the nations that had defeated it in World War I. Germans were humiliated by this and wanted an answer.

In 1932, they saw an answer in the Nazi Party, which promised a return to German greatness, and blamed the war's failure on Jews and communists. Hitler and the Nazis took control of the German government in 1933. That same year, they opened a concentration camp, meaning a giant prison, for political prisoners.

A Nazi rally in 1934
Nazi rally

Germany began to rebuild its military. The Nazis promised leibensraum, meaning living space, which would come at the expense of their neighbors. In 1938 and 1939, Germany annexed, or took over, Austria and Czechoslovakia, claiming that the Germans living in these countries deserved their protection. In September 1939, Hitler went a step further, invading Poland, which caused Britain and France to declare war, officially starting the conflict.

Rough Going

Germany didn't fight World War II alone. It had allies in Italy and Japan, but Japan was too far away to provide much help and Italy wasn't nearly as powerful. This meant that Germany had to deal with its biggest enemies in the war - France, Britain, the United States, and the Soviet Union - almost by itself. Hitler managed to knock France out of the war quickly, but the other enemies were much more difficult to fight.

German soldier in 1944
German soldier photo

German losses in World War II were particularly harsh, especially among those who fought in the Soviet Union. In total, about 5 million German soldiers died, and an estimated 2 or 3 million German civilians died as well.

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