What Do You Know About Germany's Role in WWII?

By: Torrance Grey
Image: Wiki commons

About This Quiz

In 1939, an expansionist Nazi regime invaded Poland - and the dominoes began to fall. The events of World War II didn't arise out of nowhere. Recent history, especially the outcome of the first world war, had a lot to do with the rise of Hitler. Understanding such things remains key to ensuring it never happens again.

What caused this European nation to follow a dangerous demagogue into a war and a genocide? Why were Germans so hungry for "lebensraum" that they attacked their neighbors unprovoked? What events of the preceding years helped shape the powder keg that was Europe in the 1930's? What were the name and terms of the punitive peace treaty signed after Germany lost WWI? What about the name of the failed coup that Adolf Hitler attempted in the 1920's, before his eventual rise to power?

Our quiz doesn't just cover the beginnings of WWII. It also covers Germany's actions throughout, to the bitter last days and the suicides of Nazi leaders, including Hitler. Was there, in fact, a resistance movement within Germany? What role did weather play in Hitler's decision to invade the USSR? And was Eva Braun, who died with Hitler in the bunker, his mistress or his wife?

There's a lot to dig into here. See how well you remember history class, with our quiz!

According to most historians, what was the root of German military aggression?

Though the causes of the Nazis' rise were complex, most historians agree that the loss of WWI, including territory loss and the levying of reparations, was the main reason the average German supported Hitler's military ambitions.

After WWI, peace terms between Germany and Allied nations were dictated by the Treaty of ________ .

The treaty, signed at the famous French palace, required Germany to make large reparation payments to nations like France and to drastically reduce its military. Hitler would violate the Treaty of Versailles when he introduced military conscription in Germany, which began to swell the size of the army beyond what the treaty allowed.

The Nazis believed in a master race that is commonly called the ______ race.

This term is not actually from the German language. It's based in Sanskrit, in which the Arya were a group of people speaking an early Indo-European language. The German word that Hitler used was "Herrenvolk."

What was Germany's Reichstag?

Hitler rose to power by increasingly bypassing the Reichstag's authority. In particular, the "Enabling Act of 1933" gave him power to pass laws without the Reichstag's approval.

What is the name of the small region adjacent to Czechoslovakia that Germany also annexed?

Sudetenland had a high number of ethnic German and German-speaking people. After the rest of Europe did not respond to Germany annexing the Sudetenland, Hitler felt empowered to invade Czechoslovakia, and did so.

Nazi leader, Adolf Hitler, was part of a failed coup attempt in 1923. What was it called?

This attempt to overthrow the government was named for a Munich beer hall, the "Burgerbraukeller." Hitler and about 600 followers converged there, interrupting a political speech and announcing that "the German Revolution has begun!" The announcement turned out to be a bit premature.

What did Hitler do with the time he served in prison for the coup attempt?

In a better world, being sent to prison would have taken the revolutionary zeal out of Hitler. But he used it to write "Mein Kampf," refining his ideas about race and politics.

The "Anschluss" refers to the German annexation of which country?

Perhaps "union" would be a better word for "annexation" here. The musical/movie, "The Sound of Music," has given people the idea that most Austrians objected to being part of a greater Germany. But many of them wanted to be part of a strong, united nation; Austria even had its own Nazi party.

Which nation did Germany invade in 1939, sparking WWII?

Germany had annexed Austria and other formerly German territories by this point, but the response from the rest of Europe was appeasement. That ended with the advance into Poland, which caused Britain and France to declare war.

Which nation did Germany overrun in May 1940?

The northern European nations were attempting to remain neutral -- like Norway, which had already fallen. But whenever Hitler saw a tactical advantage to capturing territory, he did so.

One key motivation behind Germany's invasions was gaining "lebensraum" for German people. What was "lebensraum"?

"Lebensraum" was one of Hitler's justifications for territorial expansion. Less romantically put, it was colonization.

The German non-aggression pact with the USSR was called the ______-Ribbentrop pact.

This non-aggression agreement was named after its two chief negotiators. The Nazis did not want to fight a war on two fronts, and so they played softball with the Soviets (at least in 1939). The two nations agreed to essentially divide up Eastern Europe and not interfere in each other's terrain.

Which of these is considered the creator of the concentration camp system?

Himmler was responsible for two of the most troubling developments in the Third Reich. In addition to the concentration camps (also called extermination camps or death camps), Himmler developed the Einsatzgruppen, or death squads, which committed brutal killings outside the confines of the camps.

Which of these nations was NOT a German ally?

China was never part of the Axis powers. It was Japan who invaded China, making the region of Manchuria into a puppet state, "Manchuko."

Other than Jews, which of these groups were sent to the camps?

Though the term "the Holocaust" is reserved for the murder of 6 million Jews, the Nazis sent gays, ethnic Slavs, prisoners of war, black people, trade unionists and more to the camps. Many were used as slave labor; some died there.

In what country were the infamous camps of Auschwitz and Treblinka?

One reason camps were located in Poland was because of the large number of Jews deported from the ghettos in that country. There were also camps in the occupied Soviet Union and in Hungary.

The death toll of the extermination camps might be as high as _____ million.

The low estimate tends to be about 11 million, but could be as high as 17 million. An exact figure will never be known, due to the chaos of war and destruction of records.

True or false: Was there a resistance movement within Germany?

Resistance efforts in Germany were less united than those in, for example, Yugoslavia (which had a strong anti-fascist resistance.) Instead, small groups of students, Communists, Catholics and others worked to hide Jews from capture, evade military service, and otherwise oppose the Nazi agenda.

What was the Tripartite Pact?

Germany, Italy and Japan were the three nations that made the Tripartite Pact and became the Axis powers. The agreement was signed in September, 1940.

Which of these was commander of Germany's Luftwaffe?

Goring had been a fighter pilot in WWI. As such, he was well-positioned to take command of the nation's air force.

The German tactic of "blitzkrieg" means what?

Blitzkrieg was a strategy of making quick, fierce attacks to break through an enemy's defenses. Historians suggest it wasn't unique to the German military, but an inevitable adaptation to the new military technology of the time.

Joseph Goebbels was in charge of what?

Goebbels was the Reich's Minister of Propaganda. He was rejected for military service due to a deformed foot, and walked with a limp all his life -- something which might have gotten him eliminated under the Third Reich, were he not so well-connected and useful.

Operation Sea Lion was Germany's code name for what?

After successfully taking France, Germany's next target was Britain. It failed, in part, because Germany underestimated England's capacity to hold off the Luftwaffe with its own air defenses.

Operation Margarethe was the German occupation of which nation?

The occupation of Hungary was nonviolent; its regent gave in and created a puppet government rather than fight the Germans and lose. However, for the Hungarian Jews, the capitulation was disastrous, as many were rounded up and sent to the camps.

In June 1941, Hitler made the risky decision to invade which country?

It wasn't coincidental that Hitler wanted to invade in June. No one wanted to fight the Russians on their own frozen territory in midwinter. Actually, as Germany would learn, fighting them at any time was no easy prospect.

The invasion of the Soviet Union was codenamed Operation ________.

The operation was named after Frederick Barbarossa, a German king who became a Roman emperor in the 12th century. Which shows you what can happen when military leaders are looking too much at history books and not enough at the challenging terrain ahead.

Who was in charge of Germany's North African campaign?

Italy, Germany's ally, had colonial interests in North Africa. After the Italian army proved unable to defend those interests, Rommel was dispatched to lead "Operation Sonnenblume" there.

What was Rommel's nickname?

Rommel earned this nickname in the North African theater. He initially led the small Afrika Korps, but with added troops, soon turned a defensive campaign into an outright offensive.

Why (mainly) was North Africa important to the Axis powers?

There were several reasons for colonial occupation of North African countries by European nations. But a main reason the region was important was access to the Suez Canal, which provided passage to the oil-rich Middle East.

What was the JU-87 Stuka?

The Stuka was outfitted with sirens on its wings. The banshee wail made by the diving planes served to intimidate Germany's enemies.

Where did Germany attack stranded Allied forces in 1940?

Dunkirk was on the north coast of France, where British and other Allied soldiers were surrounded by German forces. Despite an attack by the Luftwaffe, more than 330,000 were rescued by a valiant evacuation effort in the English Channel.

What was a German "U-boat"?

The full German name is "untersee boot." That was shortened to "U Boot" in German, or "U-Boat" in English.

Which island did Germany attack in May 1941?

When mainland Greece fell to a combined German-Italian assault, its forces retreated to this sizable Mediterranean island. Germany attacked using paratroopers, an uncommon move for the time, but a successful one.

What was the Kriegsmarine?

The Kriegsmarine was a key part of German warfare against Britain, which was protected by the English Channel. Winston Churchill later said that the thing that scared him most about the German military was the threat posed by its submarines.

What was Germany's carpet bombing of British cities called?

In the Blitz, Germany drew on its powerful Luftwaffe to intimidate the British people, as bombings didn't just destroy strategic targets but also homes, shops and churches. The fear factor wasn't as great as the Germans hoped, though. This was the period of British history which gave us the famous "Keep Calm and Carry On" sign.

What was Operation Valkyrie?

Operation Valkyrie, or the July 20 Plot, was an attempt chiefly by Claus von Stauffenberg to kill Hitler in 1944. Civilian and military leaders had grown alarmed by Hitler's oversized ambitions and apparently felt that nothing short of killing him would allow them to take back control of the nation.

Which of these immediately preceded Germany's surrender?

The Soviets had already captured other German cities, like Hamburg and Nuremberg, and they had Berlin surrounded. It was then that the Nazi High Command realized victory was no longer possible.

What was the name of the trials held for Nazi war criminals?

The Allies tried 24 Third Reich leaders in the German city of Nuremberg. It was the trials in Nuremberg that gave rise to the World Court now located in The Hague, in the Netherlands.

How did Adolf Hitler die?

Hitler and several other Nazi leaders, including Hans Krebs and Wilhelm Burgdorf, killed themselves in the bunker in Berlin. Eva Braun, whom Hitler had only just married, killed herself there as well.

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