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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 87

Junkers Ju 87
Junkers Ju 87

Newsreels of Ju 87 Stuka dive-bombers peeling off to begin their near vertical attacks are some of the most familiar images of the war. The Ju 87 was planned as a Stuka (short for Sturzkampfluzeug, or “dive-bomber”) a name that became synonymous with the type, to provide ‘flying artillery’ to support the armoured forces that would spearhead Germany’s Blitzkrieg (lightning war) tactics, and is forever associated with the success of that strategy early in the war. The aircraft first flew in 1935 with twin vertical tail surfaces and a British Rolls-Royce (RR) Kestrel engine, but was then developed into the Ju 87A initial production model (200 aircraft) with a single vertical surface, the 507kW (680hp) Junkers Jumo 210 inverted-Vee engine, trousered landing gear (to improve the aerodynamic efficiency of the no-retracting undercarriage) and a crutch to swing the bomb away from the fuselage before release.

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Artillery

Flakpanzer Wirbelwind

Flakpanzer Wirbelwind
Flakpanzer Wirbelwind

A tactically important weapon that entered service in December 1943 to provide German armoured forces with a high level of air defence against low-flying attack aircraft, the five-man Flakpanzer IV (2cm) mit PzFgst Panzer IV/3 Wirbelwind (whirlwind) was based on the chassis of the PzKpfw IV Ausf J medium tank.

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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

FG 42

FG 42
FG 42

The German paratroop arm was an element of the air force, and many of its weapons were therefore different from those of the army. Thus when the army issued its specification for an assault rifle, the air force decided not to adopt the 7.92mm kurz (short) intermediate-power round and therefore contracted with Rheinmetall-Borsig for an assault rifle suitable for airborne use and chambered for the original 7.92mm high-power round.

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Tracked Vehicles

Jagdpanther

Jagdpanther
Jagdpanther

An order to develop a heavy assault gun by mating the 88mm Pak L/71 gun to a Panther chassis was given on 2 October 1942, and a wooden mock-up was completed by October 1943. Hitler saw the prototype on 16 December 1943, and production began in January 1944.

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Caption Competition

Hitler and Mackenesen
Hitler and Mackenesen

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Photo Galleries

Paratrooper

Paratrooper
Paratrooper

The postcard shows a parachutist at the moment his ‘chute will unfold. On the reverse a caption states: “Jumping into Nothingness.” With their first jumps executed in 1936, the Parachute Troops (Fallschirmtruppen) took part in the occupation of the Sudetenland and Czechoslovakia, and later were initially very successful in special airborne missions, including the dramatic takeover by a small force of the seemingly impenetrable Belgian fortress of Eben Emael.

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Commanders

Commanders

Hermann Göring

Hermann Göring
Hermann Göring

Born in Rosenheim, Bavaria, to minor gentry, he joined an infantry regiment in World War I, but arthritis made him unfit for his duties. By pulling strings he became a fighter pilot and established himself as one of Germany’s aces with 22 victories.

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