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Third Reich Day by Day

The rise of the Third Reich as it happened from its beginnings to the start of World War II in September 1939.

Weapons & Technology

Aircraft

Junkers Ju 52

Junkers Ju 52
Junkers Ju 52

The Tante Ju (“Auntie Ju”) was the main workhorse of the Luftwaffe transport units for the duration of the war. It was intended as a replacement for the highly successful W 33 and W 34 transports of 1927, and planned from that time as an enlarged version of the same basic design concept with the stressed, corrugated metal skin characteristic of Junkers aircraft. It first flew in prototype form during October 1930 with one 541kW (725hp) BMW VII Vee engine. The Ju 52a to Ju 52d initial production models for the civil market differed only in the type of engine used, but with the Ju 52/3m a three-engined powerplant was introduced for greater payload and performance. Most early Ju 52/3m versions were 15- to 17-seat passenger airliners which sold all over the world, at one time making up 75 per cent of the Lufthansa fleet.

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Artillery

Stug III 7.5cm

Stug III 7.5cm
Stug III 7.5cm

Otherwise known as the 7.5cm Sturmgeschütz III, the 7.5cm Sturmgeschütz 40 was produced in three SdKfz 142/1 versions as the definitive models of the assault gun series based on the chassis of the PzKpfw III medium tank. The first variants of this four-man vehicle were armed with the 7.5cm KwK L/24 short-barrel gun, and were the StuG III Ausf A that was produced in 1940, the StuG III Ausf B/D with chassis variations, and the StuG III Ausf E of 1942 with an additional armoured pannier on the right-hand side for radio equipment when used as a unit commander’s vehicle.

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Ships

Gneisenau

Gneisenau
Gneisenau

The battlecruiser Gneisenau was launched in December 1936 and completed in May 1938. She was upgraded in the following year and made her first Atlantic sortie, with her sister ship, Scharnhorst, in November 1939, sinking the British auxiliary cruiser Rawalpindi. She was damaged by gunfire from the British battlecruiser Renown off Norway on 9 April 1940, but on 8 June she and Scharnhorst sank the British aircraft carrier Glorious and her escorting destroyers Ardent and Acasta. On 20 June 1940 she was torpedoed by the Royal Navy submarine HMS Clyde off Trondheim. In January 1941, again with the Scharnhorst, she made another sortie into the Atlantic, the two sinking 22 merchant ships – a moderately successful action.

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Small Arms

Gewehr 43

Gewehr 43
Gewehr 43

When they evaluated the Tokarev semi-automatic rifle, of which they captured numerous examples in 1941 and 1942, the Germans quickly appreciated that the Soviet gas-operated system offered several advantages over the modified Bang system used in their Gewehr 41 weapons. It was seen that the Russian gas-operated mechanism had many advantages over the system used on the Gew 41. The Gew 41(W) was already in production, but the Germans now modified the action to a system modelled closely on that of the Soviet self-loading rifle to create the Gewehr 43 firing the German Army’s standard 7.92mm cartridge.

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Tracked Vehicles

Tiger II

Tiger II
Tiger II

The result of a German Army Weapons Office demand for a redesigned Tiger with thicker armour, sloped plates and a powerful gun, the Tiger Ausf B, or “King Tiger”, entered production in December 1943. Henschel was the sole manufacturer of the vehicle, though the first 50 Tiger IIs completed mounted the turret of the rival Porsche design (with a curved front mantlet and a bulged commander’s cupola). Suspension was similar to the Tiger I, but the wheels were overlapped rather than interleaved to simplify maintenance problems. LIke the Tiger I, the arrangement gave good cross-country performance despite the vehicle’s weight.

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Caption Competition

Hitler and Mackenesen
Hitler and Mackenesen

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Photo Galleries

Attaching an ammunition belt to the MG34

Attaching an ammunition belt to the MG34
Attaching an ammunition belt to the MG34

German infantry attaching a new belt of ammunition to the MG34. It is unclear whether this is a training photograph or taken during real action. Belts were supplied in a fixed length of 50 rounds, but could be linked up to make longer belts for sustained firing. A 250 round belt was also issued to machine guns installed in fixed emplacements such as bunkers. Ammunition boxes contained 250 rounds in five belts that were linked to make one continuous 100 round belt and one 150 round belt.

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Commanders

Commanders

Adolf Hitler

Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler

Hitler’s aim in the East was very clear: acquiring Lebensraum in the East up to the Ural Mountains. These lands were occupied by groups that Hitler and Nazism despised: Bolsheviks, Slavs and Jews. Under the New Order, these peoples would either become slaves under German overlords or would be exterminated. He was to state in 1942: “If we do not complete the conquest of the East utterly and irrevocably, each successive generation will have war on its hands”. For him the war in Russia was a racial conflict, in which the racially superior German Aryan race was locked in a struggle with the “sub-human” Slavs. This made retreat in the face of “inferior” peoples unimaginable, for the Führer could not conceive of the racially inferior Slavs being able to defeat a superior race. As he stated on the eve of Kursk: “Germany needs the conquered territories or she will not exist for long. She will win hegemony over the rest of Europe. Where we are - we stay.”

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