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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

Messerschmitt Me 262

Messerschmitt Me 262
Messerschmitt Me 262

The Messerschmitt Me 262 Schwalbe (‘swallow’) was the world’s first operational jet fighter and the fastest aircraft of World War II. Its development started back in the mid 1930s, when the German engineer Hans von Ohain began work on jet engines, but was not formalized into a specification for a twin-engined fighter until 1939. The aircraft had a difficult development period, partly because of the enormous complexity of realizing such a radical experimental design and partly because of skepticism among senior figures in the Luftwaffe. Despite slashed budgets and institutional indifference, work on the prototype progressed steadily, and on 18 July 1942 it made its first jet powered flight.

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Artillery

Flak 36/37

Flak 36/37
Flak 36/37

Production of Germany’s first modern light anti-aircraft gun, the FlaK 18, ended in 1936 to allow manufacture of an improved model, the 3.7cm FlaK 36, that was the FlaK 18 gun on a new mounting carried on a two-wheeled carriage and served by an eight-man detachment.

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Ships

Lützow

Lützow
Lützow

Originally named Deutschland, the Lützow was one of three armoured ships – the so-called “pocket battleships” – laid down between 1928 and 1931. Deutschland was the first of the class, being launched in May 1931 and completed in April 1933. She was originally used as a seagoing training ship, to familiarize crews with her new technology.

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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

StuG III Ausf B

StuG III Ausf B
StuG III Ausf B

The Sturmgeschütz (assault gun) - an armoured self-propelled gun to support infantry assaults - was first requested in 1936. The chassis of the Panzer III was selected for the assault gun, with the first gun being the 75mm StuK37 L/24. In the quest for a low silhouette an all-round traverse was abandoned. Fitted low in the hull front plate, the gun had a 12-degree traverse to the left and right, and an elevation of 10 degrees and a depression of 10 degrees.

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Free Media

Caption Competition

Hitler and Mackenesen
Hitler and Mackenesen

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Photo Galleries

Prinz Eugen Feb 1942 Channel dash

Prinz Eugen Feb 1942 Channel dash
Prinz Eugen Feb 1942 Channel dash

During the Channel Dash, Prinz Eugen came under fire from British coastal artillery, from Royal Navy motor torpedo boats, from RAF torpedo planes and finally from British destroyers. The latter were driven off in a short engagement by the heavier guns of Prinz Eugen, and the German cruiser managed to avoid the clusters of torpedoes launched by the Royal Navy vessels. By late February, Prinz Eugen had reached Norway.

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Commanders

Commanders

Hans von Seeckt

Hans von Seeckt
Hans von Seeckt

Infantry General Hans von Seeckt (left) was the commander in chief of the German Army from 1920 to 1926. As such he played a pivotal role in shaping the evolution of the interwar German military. Confronted with the reduction of German military capabilities imposed by the draconian Versailles settlement of 1919, Seeckt utilized his experience of mobile warfare on the Eastern Front during World War I to pursue his belief that an aggressive defense conducted by mobile forces could defeat a numerically and materially superior enemy. It was Seeckt, therefore, who initially pushed motorization in the interwar German Army as he sought to inculcate offensive spirit in German troops.

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