The Third Reich represents the period of government of the National Socialist German Workers', or Nazi, party, led by Adolf Hitler. The name comes from their belief that they were the third empire after the Holy Roman Empire and German Empire.
Although democratically elected, with Hitler heading a coalition government, this rapidly changed with a series of measures that resulted in the creation of a dictatorship. The Nazis endorsed the concept of Grossdeutschland, or Greater Germany, and believed that the incorporation of the Germanic people into one nation was a vital step towards their national success. It was the Nazis' passionate support of the Volk concept of Greater Germany and the concept of Lebensraum (living space) that led to Germany's expansion.
This expansionist policy resulted in German annexation of surounding countries, including the Sudetenland and Czechoslovakia. The threat of Polish occupaton resulted in the declaration of war by the United Kingdom in 1939.
The Nazis' vision of an aryan race and the ethnic superiority of pure German blood resulted in the persecution and extermination of those it considered undesirables, which included Jews, Slavs, Romani, homosexuals and Jehovah Witnesses, as well as a euthanasia scheme that killed those with disabilities. Concentration camps were built in which millions of people were exterminated from 1933 until the end of the war in 1945.
The suicide of Hitler in 1945 and the surrender of Germany in 1945, saw the end of the Third Reich and a dark chapter in Germany's history.